Direct feeds from our partner institutions such as ASB are some of the most beloved features of Xero. Data comes in daily, you can finish your reconciliation in a few minutes, and your financial reports are all up-to-date. It’s a beautiful thing.
If there’s been a drawback to direct feeds, it’s been the requirement to complete a paper application form to get a direct feed in place. Whether you used a competitor product or Xero – this has been part of the process of getting things up and running.
Not any more. Recently ASB and other financial institutions have worked with Xero to create a new process for setting up bank accounts to deliver data to Xero.
Now, once you have set up your bank accounts in Xero, you can log into ASB’s FastNet Business online banking service, and under ‘Administration/Client/Accounting Set up’ go through a quick process where you’ll select your accounts and then be redirected to Xero to connect your chosen bank account feeds. No waiting – no fuss. Your first feeds will arrive the next morning. And if you have historical data you want to bring through, you can do that too. More information is available on ASB’s blog.
As a Product Training Manager at Xero, and an accountant/lawyer/manager type with no previous personal entrepreneurial experience, I decided to push myself by attending the Xero sponsored Auckland Startup Weekend event last weekend.
Startup Weekend is all about learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It has been undertaken in over 200 cities around the world. The weekend starts with any attendee welcome to pitch their startup idea. Teams then form organically around the most popular ideas. What follows is a 54 hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation.
The weekend culminates with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders, with another opportunity for critical feedback. I found it to be a fantastic experience and if you have even just an inkling of entrepreneurial spirit in you, then read on.
Our idea and team
Not having an idea prior to the event didn’t deter me from giving an initial pitch, as one popped into my head very soon after soaking up the entrepreneurial buzz on arrival. I didn’t expect my ‘throwaway’ idea to get traction, but for whatever reason it became one of the 12 ideas (from 35 pitched) which people clustered around to form teams. And then the fun and madness started…
Luckily for me, our team was a diverse bunch, including a developer, as well as business and design minded people. So when the team’s enthusiasm (including my own) for my initial idea quickly faltered, we were able and willing to shift to something new. Our idea changed massively and frequently. So, it wasn’t until Saturday evening that we drew a line under what we all agreed was something we could take forward, which turned out to look nothing like the original idea:
“A self installation wireless sensor-based system for elderly/vulnerable people living alone, which monitored and interpreted unusual activity and then relayed suspected medical trends/emergencies back to a mobile application (held by friends, family, other relevant/concerned parties etc).”
Being an unproven entrepreneur, as with most/all of the attendees I suspect, I had a lot to learn going into the weekend. While some things like identifying your target market/s and size, creating a business model etc came more naturally for me – other things felt far more foreign.
What did I learn?
I learnt that while it is easy to obsess over how great a solution/idea looks/feels (i.e. the sexy part), the real grunt work and focus first needs to be on identifying whether there is even a real underlying problem. No existing problem – then your solution would be lost on people, regardless of how many bells and whistles you wrapped around it.
LinkedIn has been the winner in the business social network for many years. But over the last few years it’s gone from an asset to a major pain. I have to spend more and more time every few days dealing with LinkedIn messages and requests to connect.
LinkedIn is still the first place I go to see who people are, and because of its dominance most professionals seek to maintain a profile there.
I know that ‘if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product being sold’, but if I am the product being mined I think LinkedIn could create more value for its shareholders by looking after its users as well. To be blunt, its network management tools suck.
Rather that dwell on the problems, here is a list of improvements I’d love LinkedIn to make. In order that the right people see this list I’m going to mention Deep Nishar, Senior Vice President, Products and User Experience at LinkedIn. Hopefully this will pop up in his Google alerts and maybe he’ll even respond. Hi Deep *waves*.
Establish a new circle of ‘People I don’t know, but should meet some day’
I get a lot of people wanting to connect to me. If I connect then people assume I do actually know them and the referral network is broken. There should be a circle of people I actually know, and a circle of people I should know but haven’t actually met yet.
If I can protect the circle of people I actually know then my referral is much more powerful.
In his keynote at Xerocon Sydney, our Australian Managing Director Chris Ridd announced we’re expanding our partner program in Australia to include financial planners and advisors, and that a Senior Account Manager (me) had been appointed to work with advisors full time.
This new complementary channel – built around using Xero Cashbook for budgeting and money management – has really started to take off and since August more than 250 professional advice firms have applied to become Xero partners. Check out this video of Steve Crawford of Experience Wealth – 100% of their clients use Xero and he talks about the advantages of becoming a financial planning partner.
More than 1500 accountants, bookkeepers and advisors Australia wide attended the financial advisor session of the October Partner Roadshow. Attendees had an opportunity to find out more about our Partner Program; hear success stories from advisors themselves; meet a few relevant Add-on partners; and see Cashbook in action – with a little help from my “typical”, newly married Gen Y couple William and Kate Windsor.
Read more about Accountants
Allowing business to work smarter and faster has been a key goal of Xero from the very start. An exciting and valuable part of this has been the Xero API launched in 2008, which lets other applications (Add-ons) connect to our platform. This new way of procuring and plugging together software means that integration is done vendor-to-vendor, eliminating integration headaches for the customer. This opens up huge opportunities for efficiencies in how businesses work and how they manage their core business and IT functions.
Last week Chris Ridd, Managing Director of Xero Australia joined Jackson Hewett, Editor of Business Spectator on a webcast where they discussed what apps can work for you and took questions on how to use them effectively.
Find out the top business apps and categories that Chris rated as the most compelling for small business. He also talks about views about how Add-on partners are not just changing the software landscape in Australia, but taking the world stage as Xero’s business goes global.
There are over 300 applications that can be integrated with Xero through Add-ons. There are over 21,000 Add-on installs – with 15% of all Australian orgs using at least one Xero add-on.
We think of industry awards as a bit of fun showbiz recognition for the team, and it’s always a good coping strategy to not take them too seriously because you’ll only get depressed when you don’t win.
So, in that level headed spirit we’re super-crazy chuffed that Xero won the Best Client Software category in the British Accountancy Awards at the Tower of London last night, the biggest awards in the UK accounting industry’s calendar.
It was particularly gratifying to read the comment from the judging panel that “Xero is a poster child for the new breed of online accounting systems.”
Read more about Company News
A new expectation is being established by today’s employees that their workplace will enable them to work away from the office, particularly from home. In Australia, 51% of employees now use the Internet to work away from the office, according to Australian Government research. So if your business isn’t equipped for telework, you are already falling behind. But keeping up with your competition is not the only reason to do it.
Research has shown that telework achieves lasting productivity gains when well-matched to the teleworker, their role and their manager. Several key decisions need to be made to achieve this, however the reward is worth the effort. In a recent Stanford study [pdf] on work from home, the productivity of workers who chose to telework increased by 22%. In another more recent study, the Trans-Tasman Telework Survey Report, 71% of employees said teleworking has a favourable influence on their attitude towards the job.
Telework can save employers money
There are costs to be saved as well. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that home-based work that is part-time could save employers over $10,000 per employee per year. This is the result of increased productivity, reduced facility costs, lowered absenteeism, and reduced turnover. Increasingly many businesses are turning to work from home to reduce office costs such as leasing, utilities and parking costs. Meanwhile, employee turnover costs are higher than many organisations realise.
Last year we profiled Zac Zavos of Conversant Media, Using Xero and other cloud products like Skype and Gmail, Zac is able to work with staff in Sydney, writers around the world and his brother and co-founder in Austin, Texas, while Zac works from Newcastle. So worth having a look again at how teleworking and working in the cloud has changed Zac’s life:
Not only are the business rewards great but a business that enables telework is achieving both social and environmental good. When telework is managed well, it can considerably reduce employees’ stress. Employees value flexibility highly because it enables them to balance competing work and life demands and for employees who belong to a disadvantaged group, flexibility is even more important. Employees inspired with this opportunity are often inclined to contribute above and beyond. In addition, many employees appreciate not having to make the daily commute, and while they work from home their cars sit in the garage.
Copper project management software makes project management easy by letting you quickly create project plans, add people and get things started.
It has a comprehensive set of features like time tracking, tasks, files, team, supplier and client management.
The calendar feature is great way to get a personalized view of tasks and work coming up.
Who is Copper for?
Anyone that needs to organise tasks, projects or track time will find Copper worth checking out. Current clients include agencies, marketers, consultants and according to the video below, rocket makers…
[Update: The session with Mark Mader went really well. He gave some history of the company, the early years before it started its triple digit growth, then he did a product demo of some of the key features that differentiate Smartsheet from spreadsheets like Excel and Google's, like hierarchal rows, emailing of sections, and cell histories.
Mark emphasized the need for SaaS companies to focus on keeping the product easy to learn and delivering value. There's also the integration with other online software including Google Apps and the importance of working with the tools that your customers use. He doesn't shy from using Excel himself, although it getting less over time. All in all it was a well spent evening hearing Mark's experiences and chatting over a drink and nibbles with him and everyone else who came along.]
Smartsheet is a popular collaborative project and work management tool and has been a very welcome addition to the suite of tools we use here at Xero. There are many teams across our business using it everyday to track and collaborate on a variety of work projects and processes.
It is great to see not just one, but two Xero Add-on partners in the news today.
Unleashed closes funding round
Not to be outdone, inventory management Add-on partner Unleashed Software today announced they have secured NZ $4m in new funding to continue their expansion into Australian and US markets. More on this at NZHerald.co.nz.