Migrating a construction business from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online

Adam Eagle
Last updated
April 2, 2024

For years, QuickBooks Desktop Contractor Edition has been the go-to accounting software for construction, offering robust reporting, customization options, and tailored features. However, with Intuit's upcoming discontinuation of QuickBooks Desktop, many in our industry are facing the challenge of transitioning to QuickBooks Online (QBO).

How to Migrate to QBO from Quickbooks Desktop

  1. Watch this video for a tutorial on migrating your Quickbooks Desktop company file to QBO.
  2. Skim through this webinar to understand how to migrate payroll to QBO from Desktop.
  3. Consult with your bookkeeper or work with a Quickbooks Online expert like PBS Accounting and Tax.
  4. Align on a schedule for transitioning to QBO.

QuickBooks Desktop’s Contractor Edition was purpose-built for construction, offering features like job costing, estimates vs. actuals, advanced reporting, and project management tools that cater to the unique requirements of our industry.

QBO misses features that are crucial to construction businesses. While QBO offers some benefits, there are certain areas where it doesn’t measure up to its desktop predecessor.

QBO vs. Desktop Product Comparison for Construction Companies

Feature QuickBooks Online QuickBooks Desktop
Construction-specific version No Yes
Job Costing Limited job costing features for construction. Some construction-specific job costing & markup capabilities available through QBO Plus and QBO Advanced plans. QBO can’t track and update estimates vs. actuals for client estimates or deal with discount payment terms on bills. Yes. Robust job costing capabilities included in all Desktop plans.
Change order management Estimates and purchase orders can’t be updated using a change order—the concept doesn’t exist in QBO. Yes. Change orders can be recorded in Quickbooks Desktop Contractor edition.
Progress invoicing Estimates can be partially invoiced with advanced configuration. If you want a construction friendly format, you’ll need to develop a Custom Form Style. It’s difficult to handle change orders (see above) and payment schedules. Yes. Progress invoicing is a standard feature that can be abled from the “Jobs & Estimates” settings page.
Time Tracking Offered through QBO Plus and QBO Advanced. Users cannot tie time tracking entries to specific services or clients. 3rd party time tracking solutions likely needed. Yes. Included in all Desktop plans.

What should contractors transitioning to QuickBooks Online do to replace critical functionalities lost in Desktop’s discontinuation?

Contractors need to adopt project management & construction-focused payment solutions that integrate with Quickbooks Online and combine QBO’s convenience and accessibility with industry-specific software that enables you to grow.

Features contractors should look for in software to layer on top of Quickbooks Online:

  1. Consolidation: You need a software solution that integrates directly with QuickBooks Online, and acts as a comprehensive layer on top of QBO’s limited functionality to seamlessly run your financial operations. From tracking profitability and project performance to managing subcontractor relationships and compliance documentation, contractors need a software solution that gleans valuable insights into the operations & growth of their business.
  2. Customization: Any new software needs to be flexible. Payments and project management software should customize to your workflows, expense tracking, invoicing and bill pay. Whether it's customizing invoices, estimates, or project budgets, software layered on top of QBO needs to empower you to tailor your accounting processes without having to rely on QBO’s limited functionality.
  3. Purpose-built for construction: New software needs to understand the intricacies of the construction industry and offer specialized features to address inefficiencies that drag down your back office.

While the discontinuation of QuickBooks Desktop may present a challenge for residential construction contractors, the transition to QuickBooks Online can be made seamless with the right tools and solutions in place.

Beam serves as a layer on top of QuickBooks Online, providing the customization capabilities and specialized features that QuickBooks Desktop users have come to rely on.

When creating an estimate in Beam, you’re automatically creating a budget, meaning job costing is automated at the estimate level. Further, anytime you pay a bill or expense, your budget gets updated automatically. Beam ties money movement to job costing, automating both in the process.

From comprehensive estimating tools to streamlined invoicing and online bill payment, Beam's platform is built to help construction companies operate efficiently and scale their business.

By leveraging Beam's all-in-one payment platform for construction, contractors can ensure they maintain the reporting, customization, and purpose-built financial features they need to thrive in today's competitive landscape.

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