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Xerocon Australia 2014 Day 1

Xerocon has kicked off and it is huge. We have 1300 delegates gathered at the Dome in Sydney Olympic Park to hear the latest news about Xero and 82 exhibitors showing off their clever add-ons and services. Xero founder Rod Drury has come well prepared – he’s zipping around the conference on a skateboard.

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After a quick welcome from comedian James O’Loghlin – who earned cheers from the audience with the news that there are rides on the dodgem cars outside the hall – it was down to business.

Rod Drury – the journey to a connected platform

 

“It’s much less about doing the numbers - now you guys have a whole lot of opportunities.”  CEO Rod Drury

“It’s much less about doing the numbers – now you guys have a whole lot of opportunities.” CEO Rod Drury

 

“My there are a lot of you,” Rod said as he looked out over the 1300 delegates in the packed hall. “It wasn’t that long ago there were four people in a very smelly apartment in Wellington, and we had a Xero conference and there were only 25 people.”

Xero now has 900 staff and Rod praised their talents and enthusiasm. “I’m pretty sure if I applied for a job at Xero I wouldn’t get on – it’s very hard to get in,” he said.

Rod revealed Xero had added 50,000 customers in the past month. And with a total of 334,000 customers, we’re a third of the way through to a million customers.

He noted that Xero had the same sort of growth rates as some of the best companies in the world. It’s hit $100 million in revenue outside of the US, and this is because of its success in selling to small business, thanks to Xero’s relationships with accountants and bookkeepers. “Accounting software is the key to getting businesses onto all this advanced technology,” Rod said.

Rod said Xero is “very close to the end of the beginning on accounting” – by this he means Xero is close to being able to do everything that desktop accounting software can do, only better.

This will drive three outcomes:

1 – the Xero platform and add-ons become not just about accounting, but about the whole business operating system – its processes, how it’s run, how it’s organised.

2 – connected services. Xero will start connecting customer data with data other external, non-accounting sources, helping to drive efficiency and capability.

3- using the huge amounts of data that Xero captures about businesses to help individual businesses make better decisions about their strategy and operations.

Rod said Xero will be operating in four key areas: accounting, payroll, B2B payments and customer management.

As Xero is getting to scale, it’s starting to see the positive impacts it’s having at a local and global level, in terms of making small businesses more efficient, which in turns mean they can hire more people and pay more tax – all good for the economy and society.

 

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The Xero platform has been used to send 15 million invoices worth $33 billion – and the good news is it’s driven average days for the invoice to be paid from 43 days to just 31 days. “Online accounting is mandatory for your customers – they need that cash,” Rod said.

Xero has invested over $250 million in building its platform, with all the accounting tools, customer service and driving innovation.

While Rodd was excited about winning the top Forbes prize for innovation, he said what was really exciting was winning prizes for the new customer support model, where customers get callbacks instead of having to wait on the phone.

In partnership with its hosting company Rackspace, Xero has developed multi-site geographic redundancy for its cloud hosting, meaning customers’ data will be safe in the face of any disaster.

There are a couple of other innovations in the pipeline. Xero is working with Veda to expand its business verification service into seamless credit checking. And deeper data will help accelerate small business lending, and accountants could become part of the loan, using their customer relationship to drive down their risk profile, Rod said.

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Alex Malley – revolutionising brand and culture

Alex Malley, Chief Executive, CPA Australia, talked about the power of disruption.

“It really is about being who you are, daring to be different,” Malley said. “You have a power and freedom that most human beings should have but don’t take.”

Malley talked about the power of being positive. He shared a story about how he was the number 11 batsman in his school’s 14C cricket team, and decided he wanted to open the batting for the 14As. He did this by force of will, by getting to know the coach – and mimicking everything Ian Chappell did.

He also told how after taking over as chief executive of CPA Australia, he decided to do “something really different” to change perceptions of the organisation – so why not interview  astronaut Neil Armstrong? No matter that he’d never granted an interview before. Malley flew to Beaver Creek Ohio and asked him – and he agreed.

“He did it because I asked him … because I made the effort to get in front of him,” he said. “Armstrong for my staff was about telling them I have the courage to fail,and I’m telling you that because I want you to do the same.”

He finished with a final piece of advice for the appreciative audience: “It’s so important that in your own personal lives that you ask to question you want to ask. Ask the question, test it.”

“As the big nosed, beady-eyed, well-meaning, unattractive middle-aged man I say you guys can do a lot more than I think.”

And on that note, lunchtime- back in a mo

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And we’re back. Heading into the next session, Michael Ossipoff – Business as (un)usual

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Michael Ossipoff , Director of Capabilty & Innovation, Telstra, asked what is business as usual today and what will it look like it tomorrow?

“The types of things you’re doing into the future are going to evolve,” Michael told the audience. “I suspect that for many of you, you’ll become business advisors. Small businesses look to you as a trusted guide.”

As more customers move onto cloud-based accounting, accountants and bookkeepers will form deeper relationships with them and become more valuable. They can also bring insights to small businesses on how to leverage technology.

Michael said there are three important factors in consumers’ use of technology. People are connected – by 2016 everyone will have a smartphone; they are interconnected – with social media in online search; and finally they are intelligent and have high expectations.

He highlighted the potential of the cloud to enhance relationships with customers. “You transfer the power into the hands of the person you’re serving then all of a sudden you have a much more intimate relationship,” he said. “If you’re not using state of the art and someone else is that means you’re going to have a very unreasonable cost base.”

The cloud is a mechanism to unlock value in a business, because of spending money on infrastructure businesses can spend it on serving customers, he said.

Customer experience and empathy are key for businesses in the future. “You need to think constantly about ‘how can I serve people in a better way that works for them’,” he said.

Serving customers via the cloud also creates lasting value. It’s not about lowering the cost of service, it’s about proving new service.

Chris Riddell – Digital Disruption: embrace the opportunity

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“Digital is not about technology, it is not a department in your business – it is a culture that must run through every single one of your business to create great experiences for your customers”. Chris Riddell

He outlined how many of the world’s most innovative and successful companies have put customers at the heart of what they do: Apple with the App Store, Uber by letting customers book their own rides, and Netflix by providing video on demand, now when TV stations decide you can watch something.

Chris said businesses are being challenged by VUCA; Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity

There are three things businesses have to do to thrive and survive in this fast-changing environment:

1 – engage the crowd. Social networks will change the way consumers see your business

2 – share your knowledge. Businesses have so much intelligence and know how, the world wants to hear what you’ve got to say. Gen Y and Z want to know this.

3 – be a tech channel. As finance professionals, accountants and bookkeepers are the next technical channel. They have built up trust and can use their insights and analytics to guide customers through this new world.

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Back after the breakxerocon11

 


 

Xero Developer Day 2014

This year’s Australian Xerocon conference in Sydney was also the venue for the global Xero developer conference, breaking another record for attendance with over 300 in the room. Add-on partners and developers from around the world are in town, many of them exhibiting at Xerocon on Thursday and Friday.

The crowd lines up for Developer Day

It is really humbling to see the amazing following the Xero ecosystem has – we announced over 18,000 developer registrations at the conference, but nothing brings home the vibrancy of the ecosystem more than meeting developers in person who have come from far and wide for developer day and Xerocon. We have attendees from various parts of the US & UK here in Sydney, but the prize for furthest traveller goes to Dublin based Transfermate, a distance of 17,203km!

Chris Ridd – Xero in Australia

Chris Ridd on stage at Developer Day

“I’m so stoked to be standing here today kicking off Dev Day,”
Chris Ridd, Managing Director, Xero Australia

Chris outlined Xero’s rapid growth in Australia – from 7 staff when he joined the company in 2011 to 161 today – but adds that the company is building sustainable growth. Xero in Australia has facilitated $54 billion in transactions, and processed $1 billion worth of payroll in July alone.

He told add-on partners & developers that Xero remains committed to having an open platform, and is forming great partnerships with developers and with accountants.

Cloud is still the most effective delivery model for software. The company is investing more in the cloud integrator channel – there are currently 27 cloud integrators – because a lot of accountants don’t have the skills to implement some of the Xero add-ons. Small businesses also need to be reassured about the safety and utility of the cloud.

Chris announced that an improved new add-ons directory will allow searching not only by function, but also by industry – news that was met with cheers from some of the developers in the room.

The company has 35 developers in Melbourne alone and has already released the first product developed there. That capability will only grow as Xero builds a facility for developers at the Melbourne head office and hires more developers.
Continue reading ›

 

Award-winning customer experience team

Bronze Stevie® Award for Xero's Global Customer Experience teamIt’s awards season! Alongside the recent announcement that our Design team are finalists in NZ’s Best Awards, our Global Customer Experience team won a Bronze Stevie® Award in the 2014 International Business Awards™. The award is in the Customer Service Department of the Year Category – Computer Services and Computer Software.

We always feel the love from our customers, but it’s still great to get the recognition across our peers and to put an official stamp on what we do. We set out to be different and we take massive pride in helping our customers get the most out of Xero. We also take pride in having real Xeroes looking after our customers and it completely validates how Xero support just works.

The theme of our entry was on keeping Customer Support ahead of the game in the fast-paced environment we operate in. The way we train our very own Xero superstars on all things Xero and how important it is to deliver fantastic and timely service to our customers. Continue reading ›

 

General ledger integration and other updates to Australian payroll

As usage continues to grow rapidly we’ve released updates to Australian payroll today. We hope you’ll find them helpful.

Seamless accounting and Australian payroll

Since Australian payroll was released you’ve had to deal with the manual process of creating a draft bill to update the general ledger with payroll information. This introduces costly mistakes and makes the process confusing and overly manual. So we’ve fixed it!

From today, transactions from payroll will seamlessly flow through to and impact the general ledger immediately – the way it should be with payroll transactions represented as journals. This impacts the Profit & Loss and Balance Sheet, reflecting the impact of the approved payroll immediately.

We’ve added a new Wages Payable Account field within payroll settings to record the net wages payable amount of each pay run within the journal. This provides you the benefit of keeping your wages payable transactions separate from accounts payable.

Another frequently requested feature is the payroll expense journal. It contains the same transaction information you’re used to seeing within the draft bill. The net wages are not recorded against Accounts Payable but the new Wages Payable account. Reconciling your net wages will now require you to allocate the spent transaction to your wages payable account, instead of a payroll bill.

To assist you in learning the new process, we’ve created a short video demonstrating the change. Continue reading ›

 

Employee notes and other updates to US Payroll

Today we’ve released updates in US Payroll with a focus on the employee. This follows on from our recent release of the API for US Payroll.

Employee Notes

A frequent request in Community has been a place to store comments or notes against employees. We give you ‘Notes’.

US Payroll – Employee Notes

Notes allows you to store information against an employee. It could be used for emergency details, to record important conversations or literally whatever you need to store.  All notes are time and date stamped and only accessible to payroll administrators. We’ll be connecting this area to Files in the future so you can store important documents as well.

Employee setup

To process payroll for an employee there’s a minimum level of information we need to capture. We’ve introduced a quick setup guide to outline the three screens that need to be completed at a minimum. As each screen is successfully saved it will update and disappear once complete. Entering employees tax information results in a more accurate calculation of tax withholdings. If you have their information handy we suggest filling it in right away. If not come back to it later. Continue reading ›

 

Xero a finalist in NZ’s Best Awards

The Xero design team is excited and humbled to be on the shortlist of 2014 Best Awards finalists. These are the top design awards in New Zealand – the calibre of finalists each year is truly awe inspiring. Do yourself a favor and spend some time looking at past entries and winners. This is the first time we’ve submitted entries – normally we’re too overwhelmed with work to put together submissions. This year we made sure to set aside the time, so we’re especially pleased to have seven projects in the running!

Admittedly, we have mixed feelings about awards. Winning awards is not our focus and we don’t want it to distract us. We pour our hearts and souls into every project with our total focus on creating a better experience for the millions of people who visit our web site every day and work with our software every day. Empathy drives us to constantly push for better experiences and ultimately help small businesses enjoy building and running their business. This involves increasing our understanding of our audience and their needs, always challenging ourselves to do work that makes a difference and has impact – work that makes people smile – and constantly testing our solutions with real people. We’re always learning how to create better experiences and having heaps of fun along the way. It’s a thrill to look back on this work with pride, but also to realize that our best work is still to come.

Some of Xero's beautiful designs made the shortlist of 2014 Best Awards finalists

 

RBS and NatWest Direct Feeds – An Update

single-ledger-EDM-1Two days ago we announced that customers with business current accounts with RBS or NatWest would be migrated to direct feeds, and that although this would be free for twelve months for people with existing Yodlee feeds, that ultimately there would be a £3.50 per month charge per RBS or NatWest business current account.

We believe that direct feeds provide better reliability, and that having a direct relationship with RBS and NatWest will give customers more assurance that the feed will continue to be available long-term. However we have been listening and we have taken on board the feedback and agree that you should have the choice between the feeds provided by Yodlee, and the premium feeds that are available directly from RBS and NatWest.

If you are happy to continue with the Yodlee feeds for your RBS or NatWest business current accounts, you do not need to do a thing, your feeds will continue as normal. If, however you would like to switch to the additional assurance of a premium feed, please review the instructions for NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland in our Help Centre to begin the process of putting the more reliable feeds in place.

Whether you’re a new customer or a customer who already has a feed, we will offer the two alternatives in parallel so that you can make your own decision as to which feed you would like to use. With the direct RBS and NatWest feeds, your statement transactions come direct to us from the Bank, authorised by your signed authority placed with the Bank. There is no third party involved, and you do not need to provide your RBS / NatWest online banking security credentials to set up the feed.

Thank you for all your feedback over the last few days. It is essential that Xero provides customers with the best service possible and although we believe that feeds provided directly by the bank are more reliable and that there is a great deal of value in that, we accept that for some, cost is a consideration so we are pleased to give our customers the choice of source for the data feeds. We really do appreciate all your comments and thoughts. Your passion has made all the difference.

 

Using Google’s Chromebox for Meetings at Xero

Here at Xero we are rolling out Google’s Chromebox for Meetings globally – and for the first time in a long time I am actually excited about meeting room A/V.

Global collaboration is crucial for Xero. Unlike a lot of global corporations that run fairly independently in each country they are based in, we have many teams that have members spread across various locations around the world. For the Xero Internal IT team it has been a huge challenge for us to facilitate the process of these teams working together.

Pre-Chromebox frustration

Prior to the Google move we had multiple methods of communication. This led to confusion and frustration between people and teams – “What do I use to talk to person X in the San Fran office?”. There were many options available and nobody was exactly sure what the correct method was. Adding to this confusion, many of our meeting rooms offered multiple connection methods (room PC, local HDMI/VGA, projector, etc) which more often than not could be difficult to set up. Delays in meetings were frequent. As Xero grew larger the problem also increased and productivity was starting to suffer.Chromebox being used at Xero Continue reading ›

 

US Payroll API live with first integration

We’re pleased to announce the general availability of the API for US payroll. This extends the reach of the payroll API to Australia and seven states in the US that covers approximately 40% of the US population.

US Payroll API

The US Payroll API covers the main use cases including employee information, creating and updating timesheets, and processing pay runs. This is the first release of the US Payroll API and there are extra end points that we’ll address in future releases including time off and holidays. Developers will be familiar with the same pattern being used as the other Xero and payroll API endpoints. The same OAuth process is utilised, but with the addition of granular permissions.

US Payroll API Continue reading ›

 

Bringing you the most reliable bank feed experience

single-ledger-EDM-1We’re taking another step towards a more reliable bank feed experience – by migrating all RBS/NatWest business accounts to direct feeds.

We launched our first direct bank feed in the UK with HSBC in 2009. None of the other UK banks were ready for direct feeds at this point, so this was a significant step forward for customers using HSBC accounts – having a direct feed into Xero brings a whole raft of efficiencies, so we’ve always planned to bring more direct feeds into the mix when it became possible to do so.

In 2010, Xero was the first online accounting provider to implement third-party Yodlee feeds for customers using other UK banks. So we’ve always been at the cutting edge of linking our customers’ accounting software with their business accounts. And now, with RBS and Natwest we’ve gone a step further.

Why are we changing to direct feeds?

In 2014, the good news is the UK banks are beginning to get their own data services up and running. And from a reliability and friction perspective, direct feeds are becoming more competitive with Yodlee feeds. So we’re very keen, as always, to bring you the most efficient bank feeds we can.

While the RBS/NatWest Yodlee feeds are among the most reliable, we’re confident we’ll see even more reliability with a direct feed and that has to be welcomed. Yodlee is still a great solution so we won’t be switching off Yodlee feeds for any RBS/NatWest account types that can’t be catered for by direct feeds.

How do I know if my account is a business current account?

The change applies only to RBS/NatWest business accounts, not to personal accounts. If you need to check which type of account you’re currently using, just speak to your bank and they’ll be able to confirm the type.

Alternatively, you can visit the RBS or Natwest pages in our Help Centre, download and complete an application form and we’ll let you know whether your account is a business account or not.

Is there a charge?

While the direct feeds do incur a charge per account (as they have done with HSBC since 2009), the cost is marginal compared with the benefit of reliable daily feeds. In time, and as more banks come on stream, we expect the forces of competition to drive down the cost. And Silicon Valley Bank direct feeds, that are coming online next month, are in fact free. So, that’s already starting to happen.

When will the change to direct feeds begin?

The change will start from today. Yodlee feeds will remain active for a while, but the sooner you move your business accounts to the new feed platform the better.

  • To make the transition as smooth as possible, Xero is absorbing the cost of all Yodlee to direct converted feeds until August 2015. So you won’t pay anything for the first year if you’re already using RBS/NatWest Yodlee feeds.
  • You can stay on the free feed until 1 August 2015 – but as the feed is being offered free to anyone with an existing feed, there’s no cost benefit to staying on the Yodlee feed.
  • From today, all new accounts on direct feeds will pay £3.50 for each account.

Where can I find out more information?

We realise that you’ll probably have some deeper technical questions about the move to direct feeds. So with this in mind, we’ve put together RBS and Natwest help pages to answer those questions.

You can also contact our UK bank feeds team on bankfeeds@xero.com if you have a specific query about the change.

Once you’re ready to move across to direct feeds, just fill out the online application form on the  RBS or Natwest pages in our Help Centre and send it through to us. Then we’ll do the rest.

We’re looking forward to moving to direct feeds and bringing you the most reliable bank feed experience we possibly can.

UPDATE – 14 August 2014

Please see today’s post for an update on RBS and NatWest direct feeds.