At Xero we want to make life better for people in small business, their advisors and communities around the world, because running a small business should be about doing what you love. As Chief Product Officer, I often get asked how we prioritise what features or updates we build first. I know it’s frustrating if you’ve put in a request and haven’t seen it built yet.
I wanted to share some of the key factors my team considers when deciding how to create an innovative and beautiful Xero experience for you, and shed some light on how we prioritise improvements and feature requests.
Readying our platform for growth and scale
We are constantly evaluating Xero’s capabilities and altering the experience based on the changing needs of our customers. We want to build products that will stand the test of time but also support our future growth. So we’re constantly balancing solving problems for today with building products and features that will allow our broad customer base to benefit well into the future. Sometimes, these don’t appear to be the most exciting innovations, and are often behind the scenes work. However, they are essential to future-proofing a strong product experience for everyone.
In our deeply connected world every interaction produces data and data-driven innovation will only accelerate in the years to come, and that’s why we are acutely focusing our product efforts in this area. Through our global platform, we can create deep connections with millions of small businesses and their advisors. We can leverage the collective power of these connections to open up opportunities to small businesses, which have in the past only been available to large businesses. By putting this data to work we can deliver tangible benefits to small businesses. We’re building secure, fast and accurate data solutions so things like capturing bills and receipts will become a thing of the past.
Providing deeper insights
We are focusing our product innovation on providing fast and accurate data, streamlined workflows and deeper insights to help our customers not only understand their current data but move into a new era where we can predict what will happen in the future. Xero’s first innovation curve was providing real-time data. Now, I truly believe we are moving into a new innovation curve where we are beginning to look into the future. Our recent acquisition of Hubdoc allows us to add data capture capability to Xero, removing manual tasks and creating more accurate data for deeper insights. Another example of our focus on insights is the cash-flow forecasting pilot we launched, which will predict cash-flow 30-days in advance.
We want to help small businesses make better business decisions with these stronger insights, and for their advisors to focus their efforts on making sense of a small business’ financial data – not collecting it.
Conversations with you
We are committed to delivering a positive customer experience every step of the way; meaning we’re putting our customers at the heart of what we do every day.
One of the key initiatives that we run are co-design workshops with our customers. These workshops are designed to partner with you to include our customer’s perspectives in idea generation and product developments.
We also have partner advisory councils (XPAC) in regions throughout the world. They provide critical insights and feedback to Xero on behalf of the partner community and small businesses they serve that influences our product development.
Xero believes that our customers are the experts of their own experiences, therefore, it’s essential we bring you in early to help us create a beautiful product for you.
Community feature requests
We love how active our community is and that our customers value Xero to be an important part of running their business.
We get thousands of requests and changes to fit the needs of many different business types, sizes and industries who use Xero. Community feedback is important to the Xero team, and those requests are read carefully by our product teams and do play an important role in our strategies.
For example, a portion of our Payroll team solely focus on addressing some of the top customer feedback items across all of our regions, in addition to those building major features. Recently thanks to customer input, our Australian, New Zealand and UK Payroll teams have made improvements to the way our product handles errors in the filing workflow. It is now simpler to input the right data — giving you greater context when things go awry and so that the resolution is closer than ever before.
However, requests can’t be the only factor considered. We have the important task of not only looking at the immediate but anticipating what hasn’t yet been asked for that will be crucial to innovate in the future. Though we can’t promise that a countdown to development begins when a request is added – we can promise your requests are heard and we want to continue to partner with you to co-create new innovative features.
Legislation changes regularly — especially when we now have regionalised products for many countries around the world. Governments are implementing a vast range of changes to digital regulation. From e-invoicing in Singapore, Single Touch Payroll in Australia, Payday Filing in New Zealand, Making Tax Digital in the United Kingdom, and open banking trends globally. The small business landscape is transforming rapidly. As governments introduce new digital compliance requirements, we often don’t have control over delivery deadlines. Therefore we must prioritise and redeploy resources to meet the legislative changes to ensure your business is compliant.
We know that these changes are accelerating the digitisation of small businesses around the world helping them to be more efficient and successful , and we want to work hand-in-hand with governments to make these experiences seamless for our customers.
What can we realistically do
Xero is a big company (and growing fast). Scaling our business at a rapid pace requires us to continuously re-imagine solutions to our customers’ problems and challenge the status quo. We are actively trying to recruit more product and technology talent so we can build more quickly. However, with a talent shortage in the tech industry and the scale at which we are growing, we often must work at the pace our current teams can maintain with the hours we have in the day.
We need to take all of the above into consideration, think about how much work is required, and what can be achieved.
We wake up every morning incredibly grateful for our customers and partners, and don’t take anything for granted. I hope this helps paint a clearer picture of the product prioritisation process that takes place here at Xero. We love hearing your feedback and look forward to working together with you to help small business do beautiful business. Keep an eye on our Xero Blog for all future product updates.