Horizon Planning at Intuit

What is horizon planning?

At Intuit, we aspire to deliver best-we-can-be results in the current period for employees, customers and shareholders, while building the foundation for a stronger future – a concept we call “True North.” Horizon planning is a key set of principles we employ to balance our short- and long-term investments.

Our horizon planning principles are based on Geoffrey Moore’s Harvard Business Review article, “To Succeed in the Long Term, Focus on the Middle Term.” We use these principles to divide our offering portfolio into three stages:
  • Horizon 1 – Our established offerings that deliver most of our current revenue, such as like QuickBooks and TurboTax.
  • Horizon 2 – Our fast-growing emerging offerings, such as like Intuit Online Payroll and GoPayment.
  • Horizon 3 – Our experiments that form our pipeline of potential new businesses. Visit Intuit Labs to check out some of our latest experiments).

Measuring Offering Performance

A common mistake companies make is measuring the progress of all their offerings using standard business metrics – like revenue, profit and customer acquisition – no matter what stage those offerings are in. Horizon planning helps us avoid that mistake by providing guidance on what our expectations should be from offerings at each stage in their maturity.

H1 offerings aspire to deliver delightful shareholder results – top- and bottom-line growth – while continuing to innovate and create efficiencies that are reinvested to accelerate customer and revenue growth.

H2 offerings aspire to deliver delightful market results – gaining market share and growing customer and revenue growth much faster than our company’s average growth. H2 offerings focus on scaling up the business with a trajectory towards profitability.

H3 offerings aspire to deliver delightful “love metrics” – a validation that the H3 team has found an important problem and has created an offering that delightfully solves it. Our love metrics include delivering a measurable customer benefit, gaining active use and positive word-of-mouth (typically a high Net Promoter Score). H3 teams start their journey by delivering love metrics from one anchor customer and eventually expanding to a cohort of customers. Scaling the business doesn’t start until the offering graduates to H2.

H3 teams are also tasked with developing a compelling business model hypothesis and validating that the offering provides enough value that some customer, which may or may not be the user, is willing to pay for it.

Assigning Leaders to Offerings

We also know that offerings require different leadership skills based on their life stage. Horizon planning helps Intuit be more thoughtful in whom we assign to different teams.

H3s are for leaders who thrive on ambiguity and enjoy the frequent pivoting that’s part of the exploration. H3 teams are typically very small – no bigger than two pizzas can feed – and team members frequently wear multiple hats.

H2s are for leaders who can manage what is often chaotic meteoric growth while focusing on a critical few growth levers among the many options that are available. The H2 team is larger than the H3 team, and team members play more specialized roles.

H1s are for leaders who excel at managing large organizations with well-run processes. H1 offerings typically consist of several two-pizza teams, each playing a specialized role that must be coordinated with the rest of the organization to deliver a consistently great customer experience.

By setting the right expectations of our offerings and the people who lead them, we’ve been able to nurture a culture of innovation while still delivering the bottom-line results needed to fuel the company.