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Why is Xero not building the feature I want?

Posted 2 years ago in Xero news by Brittany Hoare
Posted by Brittany Hoare

As a Community Manager, this is one of the most common questions we’re asked. I want to explain what I’ve learned about the seemingly impossible task of deciding what to develop for over 700,000 subscribers, and the factors that feed into this process. Read ‘til the end of this post and, while it may not change your desire for a particular feature, I hope it’ll shed some light on why we can’t build everything for everyone. In no particular order:

Community feature requests

The sheer number of requests shows us just how much our customers want Xero to be an important part of running their businesses. They’re willing to take the time to write up what they need, comment details about their situation, and then add their vote. All these requests and changes have added up — especially when you consider how many different business types, sizes and industries use Xero!

Community feedback is important to the team, with hundreds of requests completed so far. However, it’s not the only factor considered. Despite popular belief, there’s also no countdown to development when a request is added — some things take time, and everything has to be prioritized.

Emails to Support

Not only do these allow us to track the number of feature requests, but we’re able to see question trends. If we’re getting a lot of questions on a topic, it could mean that part of Xero could be improved, so it’s easier to use. Recent updates to Banking have all been fed from this thinking.

Regional requirements

Legislation changes regularly — especially when we now have a regionalized product for six countries. We have to keep up with this.

Conversations with real people

Sometimes there’s a difference between what people say they want, and potentially what they need. We need to work backwards to come up with solutions to problems — and they may be a bit different to what was originally requested! Building cars, instead of faster horses as a cliched example. We also speak to industry experts to get a balanced view on what should be done — is the world actually ready for flying cars!

Accountants, Bookkeepers, and App Partners

Our Partners have built whole businesses around Xero and our ecosystem, which is incredible. We need to listen to those that have invested their time and resources so heavily. If we create features that save them time, and allow for better integration, it means better business for everyone.

Social media & professional networks

Almost every tweet, Facebook post, blog mention/comment, LinkedIn, or discussion board comment is logged and passed on to the team. Although we generally need to keep a poker face, internally social media commentary gets a lot of attention. Praise leads directly to smiles and high-fives, but we actually pay more attention to criticism. You might not hear about it, but it generally leads to a lot of work for someone on the product team.


Sometimes we take risks and do what no one else has done before, like: Files, Bank Rec, and Assurance Dashboard. This isn’t always what our customers have specifically asked for, but it means we push the status quo, and ourselves! It’s not for the sake of building ‘something technically innovative’, but based on a deep understanding of how customers run their businesses.

New vs Old

We have loyal customers who’ve been with us since the very beginning — sticking with us even when our feature set wasn’t nearly as large as it is now. That feature set doesn’t suit everyone though, and as we grow we need to keep filling the gaps for potential new customers. Solving the needs of both is difficult. We strive to maintain a balance, but this means you’ll probably see us developing features or working on areas that you may not care about at all. We promise, someone else does!

No two businesses are the same

This is a biggie. Does a plumbing business, run by husband and wife, need complete granular user control for every screen in Xero? Does an accounting practice, with set fees for each customer, need a credit limit alert? You get the idea. One thing we’re discovering is how different businesses use the same features. This also changes how we develop. We need to think about developing functionality that helps a large number of people, but is also flexible enough to be used by a whole range of businesses. One example of that is Purchase Orders. Farmers can create RCTIs using Purchase Orders — which isn’t specifically what they were intended for, but a use case that was definitely considered when POs were built.

Xero Business considerations

What is happening in the online accounting space? What are our competitors, and verticals doing? We wouldn’t stay in business long if we didn’t pay attention. In New Zealand, in particular, we spend time with government to advocate better ways of bureaucracy to help small businesses. This has resulted in things like Signals, Offshore data approval, e-GST Returns, and Business Connect.

Scalability and our platform

Not only do we want to develop beautiful software, but it has to run effectively too. Developing a platform that easily supports features for a large number of people is important. So is reducing technical debt that comes with software of a certain age. Xero is now 10 years old, and what worked great in 2006 for 100 users, doesn’t necessarily work so well for more than 700,000 subscribers in 2016. Incredibly important to us too, is protecting you and your data – we’ve teams dedicated to making Xero as secure as possible.

What can we realistically do

Xero is a big company (and still growing), but we still have a finite number of developers and there are only so many hours in a day. Teams need to take all of the above into consideration, think about how much work it’s going to be, and then what they can achieve. To add some perspective, right now we have 400 people in the Product team, and 700k+ customers. That’s a lot of people to keep happy and equates to one dev for roughly 2000 people. Throwing more people at a problem isn’t always a solution so some challenging decisions need to be made.

Phew – long list of things to think about. If you’ve made it to the end of this, thank you! I hope this helps paint a clearer picture of the reasoning why we do or don’t build some things.

Sometimes we can’t develop what everyone wants, but that’s not for lack of trying! This is tough, but we work really hard to make Xero better for you. So please keep the conversation going – speak to your account manager, visit us at XeroCon, send emails to Support, and keep chatting to us in Community and social media.


Peter McCarroll
August 9, 2016 at 7.08 am

Nice summary Brittany. The Xero team does a fabulous job of delivering an innovative and growing product. It is no easy feat to keep up with everyone’s demands. As a 6+ year user there are many things that I wish were there (some requested years ago) and many fixes that I feel *must* be made but haven’t. But these are all on the fringe of the product! One product can’t serve all customers, or it gets overwhelming.

Can I say something to the yellers out there: please don’t shoot the messengers! Brittany and Kelly (and Matt and Catherine before them) are your advocates – they spend hours talking to the product team and giving your feedback and promoting your desires. They also have the difficult task of telling us what we don’t want to hear.

Also, there is no conspiracy between Xero and add-on partners to force you to go out and pay more to an add-on partner. Xero have released features that put add-on partners at risk and cause them to innovate further and faster. Just because Xero has decided not to implement your “must have” feature doesn’t mean that they are conspiring to give business to their “partners” – it just means that they have higher priorities!

Keep up the good work Brittany and team!

Catherine in reply to Peter McCarroll Xero
August 9, 2016 at 9.33 am

Thanks for the support Peter, much appreciated – you’re all over the community almost as much as we are 🙂 (^OG)

Brittany Hoare in reply to Peter McCarroll
August 9, 2016 at 8.44 pm

Thanks, Peter – such lovely words! For sure there’s a lot we can do, just have to pick our battles – which we do daily. So satisfying to see the features in Xero that have been directly fed from Community though; 449 and counting 🙂

Cassandra Scott
August 9, 2016 at 5.38 pm

I second the comments made by Peter above. It has been impressive the scale of development and enhancement that we have seen Xero roll out. I’m one of those 6+ year users as well, and echo Peter’s sentiments. We will never have everything we may want, but Xero goes a hell of a way to providing what we absolutely need. Having worked with many other accounting products, there are gaps in all of them. I’ve not seen a software company respond as well as Xero have in addressing what they can.

Brittany Hoare in reply to Cassandra Scott
August 9, 2016 at 8.46 pm

Thank you, Cassandra 🙂

Heather Smith
August 9, 2016 at 6.01 pm

I echo the sentiments of Cassandra and Peter.

Brittany you and (Catherine, Matt, Natalie, Laura, Nicole, Luis, Lindsay, Fatheha the rest of the support team are really doing a fabulous job in communicating with the community.

I don’t understand development and code writing and can’t understand why I can’t have a blue star beside my payroll reports!

Thank-you for the explanations.

I am planning to take all my feature requests (I think I have 67!) and try and talk to developers at Xerocon – so they can understand what I want and why I want it. I’ve never done this before – but seen other people do it – so figure it is a good use of my time at the conference.

Hey Brittany – maybe you could use your special powers and add a zero to the end of the number of votes Peter, Cassandra and I get 🙂 as a prize for being first three to respond ?

Thank-you and hope to see you at Xerocon,

Brittany Hoare in reply to Heather Smith
August 9, 2016 at 8.56 pm

The blue star is coming! See the section on ‘Scalability and Platform’ 😉 This role has definitely taught me a lot about development, and just how many factors come into play… it’s definitely not as simple as adding buttons or columns like a lot of people expect!

Next year you can expect a bit more than more votes, perhaps fancy badges – watch this space.

Ed Henry
August 11, 2016 at 11.32 am

I also have to agree with the comments from Peter, Cassandra and Heather. Having worked with a certain desktop software for 25 years before going 100% Xero 3 years ago it is brilliant to know that all our comments both critical and hopeful are listened to, worked on and brought to fruition.
This was an excellent summary by Brittany and explains where some of those amazing left field features have come from.
For my money the fact that the long term vision of Xero is so advanced allows our community managers and development teams that wonderful space in which to be so creative. In turn that gives us as partners a platform to build creative businesses for ourselves and offer creative answers for our clients.
Thank you to the Xero team for all your support.

Brittany Hoare in reply to Ed Henry
August 12, 2016 at 8.56 pm

Thanks, Ed! Glad it explained a bit – a lot is in the works so do continue to join in on Community 🙂

Michael Tan
August 12, 2016 at 5.36 am

I am the biggest fan of Xero and have been for many years.

Love the rollout of improved reporting. Keep the features coming!

Love from Canada

Brittany Hoare in reply to Michael Tan
August 12, 2016 at 8.56 pm

Cheers, Michael <3

dipti mehta
November 8, 2016 at 5.47 am

Thanks all
Agree Xero is really very good and excellent at reporting.
I think the budgeting needs improvement but hey! I am sure they will come

Tracy Mawson
November 12, 2016 at 9.29 am

Great summary of why and excellent comments above. It’s frustrating to know all that you guys consider when adding features and making changes, then to see “I’ve been a developer and it’s not that hard to make this change” plus the abuse you sometimes get from users. Keep fighting for us and our wants and developing this awesome product Brittany and the team. We certainly appreciate it!

Mary Canale
November 29, 2016 at 10.46 pm

Thank you for this summary. May I suggest that for the benefit of your users who are feeling very frustrated and ignored, that you publish a report of the features that are being developed to show how they are prioritised.
I would like to ask who Xero see as their consumer. Where do SME’s rank after accountants? The two basic feature requests that I desperately need to run my business are of no importance to my accountant when he generates my year end accounts.

Brittany Hoare in reply to Mary Canale
November 30, 2016 at 12.39 am

Hiya Mary – part of the trouble is that we do have to balance the needs of many different people! You and your accountant will use differently, but so will you and other types of businesses. Everyone’s important so we don’t rank them; we take into consideration a whole range of factors – as what I’ve described in the post. You can take a look at what we have developed on our Feature Timeline and what we’re currently working by filtering Community Feature Requests by Started 🙂


Jeff Nutbeem
January 11, 2017 at 2.26 am

“The sheer number of requests shows us just how much our customers want Xero to be an important part of running their businesses. ”

No, not quite. Changing the company accounts system is a massive undertaking for most businesses, large or small. I’ve been with Xero since 2011 now, and would like to get away from it. However we have a lot of data on it now, and, as is the way of the world, other priorities take precedence. That isn’t to say i am particularly happy with it or agree with the statement above.

The fact that Xero has to publish a blog post like this and have a few friends express undying loyalty in the comments only indicates that there are many, many disaffected customers who, like it or not, effectively have not other choice but to continue to live with it and request fixes.

March 8, 2017 at 7.47 pm

Jeff, I am with you on this.

I looked forward to moving everything over to Xero as it is a simple approach to reporting and ensuring that you can access your information anywhere in the world. I moved over from Sage Pastel – which was giving me no problems at all and I had access to everything I needed ( I trialed Xero for a day and signed up the next day!)

Now I sit with a program that does not generate Delivery Notes – which do not need to link up to any other report. I am now forced to use the packing slip as the response I got from Xero support is ” As you probably know from the thread this can be achieved using a custom template in Xero ( and in the short term we’re not offering anything more than this”

This thread has been going on for over 2 and 1/2 years with members asking or complaining about Delivery Notes.

In my mind its like Xero renting you a car but you cannot use the boot/trunk because its not a priority and you can store your goods on the back seat.

Xero (I know your reading this), It is a simple programming method to create a delivery note (as I said above, it does not need to link to another report) but allows us to generate a note using the same format that we all fell in love with.

How many members need to sign a petition for this to happen?

I don’t like being frustrated with a new program but I feel like I need to leave before I am in the same boat as Jeff above.

If anything – please give us a valid reason as to why you refuse a delivery note for the last 28 months?

Rant over.

Greg Claessens
September 2, 2017 at 7.01 am

I am in the too invested to leave too but deeply unsatisfied with the service, group. All of the time that went into explaining why they can’t be responsive to customer needs, should have been put into meeting customers needs.

Its really interesting how glowing these comments (and reviews of Xero elsewhere) are compared to the actual user forums. I don’t think anyone expects Xero to develop every request, but the overwhelming impression I get reviewing frustrated user comments in the forums is that the Xero position is, “This is what we are doing, accept it”. There are so many responsive posts from Xero that express something to the effect of, “We are sorry for your frustration your feedback is important to us” with no action behind those words.

I think that they know switching accounting software is so difficult that few will actually do it. I think the emphasis is on signing up as many new customers as possible. Once your in, you are probably going to have to stay. For all the talk of priorities I do not feel like Xero sees existing customer’s needs as a priority. Look, I don’t think they are out to get us, but really where is there more profit? Signing new customers or fixing the contacts layout and returning date stamps to forum posts? If I was responsible for Xero’s profitability I know what I would prioritize.

Also it is really discouraging how many related articles there are below this post promoting the “brand” of Xero. Checkout The article details all of the efforts that Xero goes into making their employee’s feel valued and to make the company a different type of tech company to work for. That’s great! Absolutely great. I love a company that loves its employees. But if you are a customer frustrated with this company, read that article. Do you feel that the same effort that goes into making Xero a great place to work with is also put into making Xero a great company to be a customer of? I don’t.

As a final example of the frustration that customer’s feel that Xero seems to ignore, consider the customer service process. When I have actually gotten to a human they have been great. But the process getting ther is terrible. You have to send an email describing your problem, then you get an automated message, then you get what I think is an email from a human but it almost always just includes links to the help articles you have already read and did not resolve your problem. Then you have to work with the service person’s schedule and sometimes they miss the call window. (about 1/4 the time in my experience). As a customer if you need help you probably b dead in the water with Xero for at least three days until you get talk to someone.

Please start prioritizing existing customers. I love recommending the tools I use to my peers and this only one I don’t recommend, I really really really want that to change. It will if Xero stops offering excuses and platitudes to criticism/requests and starts being honestly responsive with customers.

December 16, 2017 at 11.58 pm

Hi Greg,
I totally agree with you, some of the problems encountered are a simply fix but Xero chooses not to assist. I think the overall problems are too big and to fast for them and the Company is not structured well enough to deal with development. I too would leave if a similar product came along with proper management. Xero promises a lot and does not deliver.

September 14, 2017 at 3.59 pm

But there is still basic functionality that most serious users of an accounting/bookkeeping platform might expect, which have been asked for since 2012, 2013 or so and are still considered “too hard”.
Mail logging (or at least alerts when outgoing mail fails).
Re-editing of timesheets submitted by employees (ever had to hold up a whole pay run for the company because there’s an update that needs to be made a second time on someone’s timesheet?)
Altering the bank account on a transaction that was incorrectly allocated in a payment (maybe two accounts pop down in the dropdown list when you type the first letter).
Ease of using the keyboard for entry (often tabbing through fails after dropdown list items are selected – or if you tab too rapidly – leaving power users having to reach for that pesky mouse yet again)
Carrying tracking all the way through payroll, rather than stopping at timesheets.
Removing timestamps on useful posts in the feature request forum.

I have five different entities in Xero, and spend hours a day using it. Some of those hours are time wasted because Xero didn’t think through at the design stage, or has half-developed something.
I see the invitation above for XeroCon, and would have loved to speak face to face with someone, but I doubt it would make any difference. For all of the reasons you’ve put up in the original post here.

Jethro Selby
October 30, 2017 at 1.21 pm

“Praise leads directly to smiles and high-fives, but we actually pay more attention to criticism.”
Which is obviously why someone from Xero has responded to all the praise posts at the start of this thread, but when it gets down to the last 4 post which aren’t praise, there’s no response. I guess that means Xero are working on solutions now rather than soaking up warm fuzzies, hmmm?
I’m a fence sitter. I’ve been with Xero for 3 months now on advice from our accountant, but there are some very critical features missing. I love the concept and the product, but if these key features aren’t addressed I can revert back to our old system and hey, 3 month’s worth of transactions is not a huge deal to re-enter. I certainly don’t want it dragging into a long list of transactions like Jeff probably has!

December 16, 2017 at 11.50 pm


First of all can you make the search facility in the community help center more intuitive. I wanted to see if there are any other requests for Holiday Report. I got 8270 Community results for ‘Holiday Report’. A total waste of time. This poor search facility has resulted in users creating a huge amount support requests as users cant search or won’t sift through all the results and simply add a new request, which may or may not have been dealt with already.

Perhaps have the search so you can filter the results. Or better still have it process results that only contain all the words in the search criteria. If you don’t sort this out your help center will continue to BECOME UNWIELDY and become less useful than it already is. THIS IS SUCH A SIMPLE FIX, LETS MAKE ALL OUR LIVES SIMPLER. FILTER THE RESULTS PROPERLY AND USERS WILL GET THE RESULTS THEY NEED.

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