A funny thing happened on the way to the Xero roadshow in Melbourne. The Kiwi startup began acting and talking like an incumbent – a week after MYOB, in exactly the same venue, had adopted the tone of the challenger.
Almost in counterpoint to the traditional world of accounting, the tumultuous world of accounting software never ceases to amaze.
Xero divided attendees into two streams, first-timers and loyal partners. Australia MD Chris Ridd gave the latter a review of achievements for 2014 and said its global and local recognition recognised its position as the leader in online accounting software.
Xero presents last year’s award for world’s most innovative fast growth company by the Forbes media group as an affirmation of its mission to turn accounting software into an operating for small business.
Xero’s second item of proof is its customer acquisition rate. It claims to be adding 300 new paying businesses every business day and is fast closing on 200,000 customers in Australia, Ridd told the crowd.
(Less than 20 percent of those subscriptions were ledgers or cashbooks, Ridd said. He also gave an interesting breakdown of those 300 new customers. Roughly 40 percent were first-time users of accounting software, 35 percent were migrating from MYOB and 25 percent from other accounting software including Reckon, Saasu, etc.)
A lot of people go to roadshows to find out what’s happening in the product roadmap. Xero product manager Laura Cardinal gave a wrap-up of what to expect in the next 90 days.
Xero made a big announcement at the roadshow that the upcoming Xero Tax will be available as standalone app. Previously it was intended to be part of Xero Practice Manager and reinforce the benefits of moving to a 100% Xero practice (clients and firm).
This is a big strategic shift. Xero has long held an expectation that accountants should move all clients to their platform. A standalone Xero Tax recognises two things: That no firm will ditch their practice management without a lot of convincing, and that firms will continue to use more than one business accounting program.
Xero Tax will be designed to work with accounting software from competitors and is due out in May. It will be free to Silver partners and have a soft limit of 1,000 lodgements a month and include import tools to move data from its main competitors.
Xero Practice Manager
Xero is revamping its practice management tools including the “Green” Xero customer list, Xero Practice Manager (ex-Workflow Max), and Xero Workpapers.
However, the company is taking a totally new tack on the standard product updates after an internal review. Practice management will be designed around workflows and released piecemeal so that a firm can shift to the Xero way gradually.
Don’t expect anything substantial under the new thinking for several months. In the meantime, Xero is aggressively courting accounting partners with free Xero Ledgers, free BankLink conversions to Xero Cashbook and free conversions to Xero Practice Manager. All the above offers expire on 30 June.
As previously covered, Xero’s recently released Quotes will receive a major update with Online Quotes in the next 90 days. Just like sales invoices, a quote sent from Xero will include a link to the online version. The online quote can be accepted or declined, with comments and actions updating in the history and notes section within the quote itself.
Xero will finally add global search. A user can search their entire Xero file from the top right search bar or specify results from contacts, bills, invoices, purchase orders or bank transactions.
Another long-awaited feature, Xero will add a light inventory module. It will include fields such as average cost, quantity on hand, stock committed to quotes and stock on order. A set of reports for inventory will be customisable. This is unlikely to challenge dedicated apps such as Unleashed or Dear Inventory for depth but it will bring Xero to par with Intuit QuickBooks Online.
Xero will also add the ability to set and display business KPIs. These customisable widgets will appear on the Xero dashboard users see at login. They will also have their own set of reports.
Find and Recode
This received probably the biggest cheer. Find and Recode lets you search for transactions by a number of parameters including date, account, amount and so on. The search and replace function has a full audit trail so you can see a list of the changes made and who made them. This should make it a lot easier to get problem clients back in shape.
Green Xero Updates
More productivity boosts than features, but still very handy to Xero accountants and bookkeepers. Xero Workpapers will soon no longer require a separate login; a user just needs to log into Green Xero. Green Xero also gets a better search tool that can sort clients by the number of unreconciled lines. For smaller operators this should help sort out priority clients quickly.