Xero’s profile continues to soar. Road shows throughout Australia in February have drawn more than 5000 attendees across 20 cities, and the recent Xerocon in New Zealand drew more than 900 accountants and bookkeepers. (Reckon and MYOB must be truly envious.)
The company has obviously got something right to continue to excite and interest people from one of the professions perceived to be amongst the most staid (read boring) and conservative.
With 250,000+ customers globally, 630 staff, with $200 million cash in the bank the company could do almost anything.
So what is it doing?
Xero delivers new releases every three weeks, many of which are small tweaks while some deliver substantial functionality such as the long awaited addition of Purchase Orders last November. At the recent Australian road shows product manager Tim Wright gave an overview of what to expect from Xero over the next few months.
In March we can expect to see the start of the new reporting engine being rolled out which will deliver customisation flexibility to the end user, including the ability to sort on columns, change column order and width, etc. First to be released will be Aging Reports in which users will also be able to nominate their aging periods. All pretty neat stuff and certainly welcome especially those who have been used to that level of functionality in Reckon Accounts (formerly QuickBooks).
In April there will be more functionality added to online document storage Xero Files and the ability to lodge employee payment summaries directly to the Australian Taxation Office using the Auskey log-in – R.I.P the Empdupe file. Again very exciting and will save some major administrative hassles at the end of the financial year.
There is also work being done on the Fixed Asset module to enhance the functionality already provided – again excellent work and will enable Xero to deliver a fully functioning module that is not present in other entry level cloud accounting software solutions. (Both MYOB and Reckon Accounts use expensive add ons for Fixed Assets.)
However, the biggest disappointment was the complete absence of dates for delivery of Sales Quotes, Inventory and a fix to the super clunky Payroll to General Ledger integration that has existed ever since PayCycle (a Xero acquisition) was integrated into Xero.
Inventory and Sales Quotes particularly have been on the drawing board for a long time. I realise that developing a full-blown inventory system is a huge task if it is to be both robust and feature-rich, but patience is wearing thin as the ‘coming soon’ refrain is rolled out at each event.
Now it could be that Xero doesn’t want to commit to a date it might miss but at the same time it would be nice to have some idea of when these basic features will arrive. I was sorely disappointed with this omission.
Although it is relatively easy to run Xero with a third-party inventory application, many small businesses baulk at the extra cost and effort involved and often select alternative software such as QuickBooks Online which includes inventory. By adding its own inventory solution Xero will definitely increase its suitability and attract a wider range of small businesses.
It was nearly six months ago when I wrote a post about Xero’s annual Australian conference. CEO Rod Drury then said that Sales and Purchase Orders and Inventory would complete the accounting engine and that it would be “the end of the beginning”.
Looks like we still have some time to wait.