WorkFlow Max to Microsoft integration the missing link.
IT services company HubOne was selling the “modern practice portal” bundle with document management and email provided by Office 365, Microsoft Office desktop software, PC break-fix support by national services company Gizmo and software updating tool Microsoft Intune for $88 per user per month.
The modern practice portal had an interface customised for accounting firms as well as document storage, integrated scanning, automatic filing, version control and search. HubOne charged a minimum $1600 fee or $100 per user to implement and configure the software.
A key step in creating the portal was connecting Xero’s practice management software, WorkFlow Max, to Office 365’s document management platform, SharePoint Online.
“Accountants need to work with documents by client, contact, company and financial year,” HubOne managing director Nick Beaugeard said. “All this (labelling of documents) already happens in WorkFlow Max so we imported the lists to SharePoint.”
The concept was first touted by Xero CEO Rod Drury in 2010 but it has taken two years to become reality. Xero has defined the modern practice to include an accounting program (Xero), practice management (Workflow Max), document management and email (Microsoft Office 365), and CRM and marketing (e360).
The missing step to the modern practice formula was fine tuning Office 365 as a cloud-based document management platform for accountants. Xero’s first attempt with another IT services company, Online Services Corporation, was unsuccessful and the two parted ways late last year.
Five key Xero accounting firms have been testing HubOne’s modern practice portal for several months and helped customise the platform to match the workflow of accounting firms. HubOne has installed the portal with another 15 firms, and they have started referring it to their professional services clients.
The modern practice concept was intended to match the all-in-one approach of mainstream desktop software vendors MYOB and Reckon, the Australasian distributor of QuickBooks. Most accounting firms and bookkeepers run their practices with MYOB Accountants Office or Reckon APS.
Xero wanted to attack the incumbents on two fronts, Drury has said. A cloud-based solution meant accounting firms would not have to keep buying expensive servers with maintenance contracts. Xero also wanted to make the software required to run an accounting firm as cheap as possible by giving away the components which it owned.
WorkFlow Max, acquired by Xero in February, was free for accounting firms that signed 20 customers to Xero. The accountant version of Xero was free to accountants and bookkeepers.
This approach would also hedge against potential competitors such as Acclipse, seller of cloud-based practice management software iFirm. Acclipse announced in March that it would release a online accounting program that cost $5 a month to compete against Xero.