When you’re in the business of technological innovation, fast-paced future-thinking comes with the territory. As we move over to the AWS platform and welcome its boundless computing power, that excitement shifts up a gear — it moves from conceptual ideas to endless, achievable opportunities.
Once the move is finalized in the next few weeks, the upside is immense. We are doing this groundwork to ensure we are best positioned to set the pace for the future, we look back to the innovations we have already developed over the last year — because they are just the start of what’s to come.
Machine learning makes accounting magical
From using our phones to estimate our arrival time through traffic, to receiving news tailored to our preferences, machine learning has become an intrinsic part of modern life — and we understood that the available upside is huge for the accounting space.
Last year, $1 trillion worth of transactional data was processed in Xero. The smart application of machine learning technology enables us to leverage this data and do something powerful: automate core accounting functionalities and enable business owners to work more efficiently.
Natural Language – a new way to interact with your accounting data
Hey Xero, introduced at Xerocon, is a prime example of this ability packaged up for real-life use. The chatbot, which integrates directly with Facebook Messenger, was built on Amazon Web Services and delivers data-led learning into the hands of small businesses and their advisors. In the future it will enable advisors and small businesses to ask for insights into their financial standing, for example who owes them money, when their next bill is due or how much money is in their bank account. Initially, the bot will connect to the Xero Advisor Directory, and recommend a suitable local accountant or bookkeeper, and will also help discover new apps in the Xero ecosystem.
From a customer perspective, Xero appears to be a small group of web applications. Under the hood, we actually have an increasing number of services that work together to deliver a customer experience. A key driver of our decision to move to AWS was to move technology decisions down into the hands of small autonomous groups of developers, and to allow greater experimentation with technology, allowing Xero to solve customer problems faster.
Xero can leverage the considerable investment of AWS in platform services to build and deploy software with shorter delivery timeframes. By using the on-demand computing power of AWS, we can release new software more rapidly, and experiment with these features in ways that were not possible on our older platform.
Scaling to match customer demand
It’s not enough for Xero to be available within our service level objectives, it’s important for us to know that our apps can scale to meet customer demand, even on the busiest days of the month. It’s probably not that surprising that our systems are busiest on the 1st, 20th and in the days leading up to Tax filing deadlines. The elasticity available to us within AWS allows us to scale out our servers to meet those times of high user demand, delivering more consistent performance to our customers, even during the busiest times of the day.
Of course, the most important innovations don’t just speed up our business opportunities – they protect them too. Xero has implemented a number of new systems on AWS that make it easier for customers to protect their account, like two-step Authentication (2SA) and User Login History. Our systems on AWS will now actively identify strange login behaviours, and notify the customer directly.
We know that the faster we can deliver true innovation to our community of small businesses, accountants and bookkeepers, the more deeply they can feel the impact as it grows and integrates itself into everyday life. This ability has been supercharged with the move to AWS, and we can’t wait for the 12 months ahead.