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#XeroSpeed: delivering beautiful new experiences at pace & scale

This week has been our biggest ever release week here at Xero. We’ve released updates across our entire portfolio of products, delivering new capabilities to both small businesses and their advisors.

I’m Angus Norton, Chief Product Officer at Xero. I recently joined the company after 18 years at Microsoft, 16 of which were spent in their US headquarters. I held a number of roles across various product groups. From the Enterprise Server businesses and Bing Search, through to Developer tools and gaming. Most recently I was General Manager and Vice President of Microsoft’s Office Division. There I ran the Office 365 business and helped transition millions of Office customers to the cloud.

Xero was born in the cloud. I had been following Xero’s journey from afar for many years. Now I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to move back to my homeland of New Zealand and roll my sleeves up and join the journey myself! I joined Xero excited about the impact it has had on small businesses, and the potential for the company in the future. This week’s releases have shown the value we can provide our customers, and the pace at which we’re working. My team has worked incredibly hard to get these products into your hands. We really hope you enjoy the results of their hard work.

Our wave of innovation this week

For those of you who haven’t been able to keep up with our announcements this week, we’ve released the following:

  • Inventory – Providing simple inventory that makes it easy for all kinds of small businesses to track the quantity and value of their stock.
  • Practice Reports – Designed for our advisors, these beautiful reports reduce the time it takes for compliance and management reporting. They also allow standardised reports that can be customised quickly and easily. It’s initially available in New Zealand, but rolling out to other regions over time.
  • Online Quotes – Helping small businesses accelerate their cashflow. With Online Quotes, a small business can send a customer a quote and, in real-time, that customer can review, approve/deny and ask questions. Ultimately leading to more work.
  • Side by Side Files Side by Side Files makes it easy to enter the details of bills, expenses and transactions. Documents are uploaded to Xero and users can view the files on-screen alongside the record they want to create.
  • Workpapers – Workpapers is our compliance and workflow solution for advisors. It has received a significant update, with a refreshed user interface, new query portal and single sign-on with Xero.
  • Practice Manager and Tax – As of April 1, all of our NZ partners using Practice Manager and Tax will have the 2015 tax forms ready for use. We also made some big improvements to the tax preparation workflow based on customer feedback.

Delivery at #XeroSpeed

We’re delivering innovation at #XeroSpeed – but we’re not stopping there. This is only the beginning. In building Xero, we’ve invested in the development and design of our product. But – just as important – we’ve invested in an incredibly diverse team of men and women from all over the world. And we’ve continued to ensure our underlying infrastructure is tuned to deliver a reliable, agile and beautiful experience just for you

Our ‘born in the cloud’ agility combined with these investments have put us in a position to relentlessly focus on you, our customers. It’s this relentless focus that has enabled us to deliver what we believe no other software company has done. We’re delivering innovations at an extreme pace and scale. No other software company producing software for small businesses, let alone the many enterprise software companies, even comes close.

Last year we delivered more than 400 updates across all of our small business and advisor products. If you are curious about this history of innovation and feature delivery, you can check out our Feature Timeline.

How have we done this?  All of this is enabled by the fundamental proposition that Xero offers. Xero is designed for the cloud. We’ve been able to design and develop our offerings to take full advantage of this model, not encumbered by an older software architecture.

Beyond that, though, we have worked hard to build scale into our product management, design and development capabilities, which has helped us evolve and grow without losing our feisty “anything is possible” startup culture. Some important aspects of this approach, include:

  • Clear vision and strategy  We’re focused on building software that helps small businesses be successful. We have a consistent, clear and aligned vision, across all our offerings, that helps us prioritise what we work on.
  • Geographically distributed teams  We’ve have an “Act local, think global” culture within our development teams. We believe in investing locally where we need to, in order to ensure we are delivering innovation that is truly global, but locally relevant. A great example of this is our San Francisco-based U.S. payroll team, and our Canberra-based Australian tax and payroll teams. All up, our development teams have tripled in size over the last two years.
  • Agile development – Our development teams operate as self-managing “pods.” These pods are small teams that are comprised of members with complementary skills and specialisations. These teams own all aspects of a piece of work from design to development. They each deliver their key part of our products, and with multiple pods working at the same time we can easily scale.
  • Team communications  Communication is critical for any company, particularly when the teams are distributed across the globe. We’ve invested in tools, processes and people that help our teams communicate. This helps the wider organisation understand priorities and the broader roadmap, while also managing those tasks that need to be done every hour, every day.

All of this couldn’t be done without a supportive company culture. At Xero, one of our values is #Ownership. Each and every one of us feels a distinct level of ownership and pride in the growth of all our customers’ businesses too! We know that our role is to deliver seamless, invisible accounting that gives you the time to do what you do best, run your business. We also value all the feedback we get from each and everyone of you, so bring it on!

So what’s next? Over the next few months we’re running Xerocon, our premiere event for our partners, in New Zealand, the United States and Australia. Iif you haven’t already signed up, then you might want to consider it.

On the product front, there’s an incredibly exciting period ahead. You can expect to see us complete delivery of our payroll offering across every state in America. You can also expect more momentum towards our ‘Xero Everywhere’ vision of delivering business insights, collaboration and connectivity, no matter where you are and on any device.

We will continue to push the envelope of what’s expected from core accounting software solutions. And unlike our competitors, we are delivering on our customers’ needs at a pace that only a ‘born in the cloud’ SaaS company like Xero can.

Thanks to everyone for their feedback this week. We’ve collected some of your comments below.

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New Zealand tax return enhancements for 2015

Today we launched a significant release of New Zealand tax return features for Xero Practice Manager. As well as having the 2015 tax forms ready for you to use from 1 April, we are making some big improvements in your workflow. These updates will mean you can:

  • quickly navigate between the parts of a New Zealand tax return
  • see the additional sections at a glance from anywhere in a return
  • print from anywhere
  • save your progress without having to return to the overview
  • automatically calculate the limits for any overseas tax credit claims.

This extends the time-saving work we have shipped for you in previous releases. Particularly the ability to create an IR10 and update it from Xero all in one action, and carrying forward data from the previous year’s return.

If you’d like to learn more about Practice Manager and tax in New Zealand, check out our Introducing Practice Manager and tax webinar on Xero U.

 

Benchpress: Beautiful accounting software the #1 choice for UK creative industry

Today’s guest post is written by Paul Bulpitt, small business customer and co-founder of Xero accounting partner Wow Company.

The Wow Company’s annual Benchpress survey, released this week, has shown that more independently-owned UK creative agencies than ever have chosen beautiful accounting software to manage their businesses.

The industry’s adoption of Xero has increased dramatically from 19% in 2013 to 49% in 2015, making Xero the number one choice of accounting software for creative agencies.

Benchpress, Creatives use Xero

The mass migration to Xero is also reflected in the increased uptake of Xero-integrated applications for Project Management, such as Streamtime, Harvest and WorkflowMax.

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The new Xero Workpapers

When you log in to Workpapers today you’ll notice the changes to our look-and-feel that we told you about last week.

You can now log in with your Xero username and password and switch instantly to Xero. Your customers will also see a new and improved client query portal.

Although there are lots of visual updates, the most important changes are all under the hood. We’ve made these changes so we can accelerate the integration of Workpapers, Practice Manager, Tax (in NZ and Australia) and Xero. The Practice Studio team is focused on building an even more seamless experience from bank reconciliation through to the financial statements and the tax return.

Practice Manager and Tax will be joining us on Xero single-sign-on in the coming quarter, and the partner edition of My Xero — where you manage your Xero clients — also has some exciting changes coming.

 

Introducing new and improved Inventory

Today we’re thrilled to announce enhanced Inventory to easily track the quantity and value of the products you buy and sell. We’ve had simple inventory in Xero for a while now and it’s always been handy for speeding up your quoting and invoicing. This week’s release upgrades Inventory so it provides complete inventory tracking and accounting for you.

If you have a business that sells finished products, you can now use Xero to easily keep track of the items you have on hand while ensuring your accounting records are always up to date.

Before we delve into the detail of how Inventory can work for you and how you can get started, check out this video to get a quick overview of the benefits:

Always know how much product you have in stock

Whether you’re in your office or out and about, Xero lets you know how much product you have on hand each time you enter a transaction. You can immediately identify when your inventory is running low and if you need to reorder. And if you use our Xero Touch app for Google Android you’ll see your inventory quantities are tracked there now, too.

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Accelerating cashflow with Online Quotes

When we released Quotes in January, we let you know that we were going to continue to add to this feature. The initial release was the start of a journey, not the end.

Over the past few months we’ve continued to monitor your feedback in our Community and have added new features to Quotes in each release. With this week’s release, we’re pleased to give you Online Quotes.

Why Online Quotes?

We released Online Invoices back in 2012, knowing that this would make it easier for businesses to invoice their customers and improve their cashflow.

Last year, we reported that businesses using Online Invoices get paid faster than those that use traditional methods, such as invoices as PDF attachments. Our data indicated a significant improvement for those using Online Invoices. The time it took to get paid reduced from 43 days to 31.

With Online Quotes, you can now convert prospects into customers faster than ever before. This drives faster decision-making and, ultimately, reduces the time between quoting for a new piece of work and getting paid for it. To find out more, watch this video.

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Introducing Side-by-Side Files

With this week’s release of Side-by-Side Files we’re making the process of entering data into Xero even easier.

We delivered Files 18 months ago. This was the evolution of our single-ledger strategy. It allows you to collect all the source documents you need, and store them inside Xero next to the transactions they relate to. This changed how our many of our customers managed the documents associated with their business. In fact, we recently reported that more than 26 million files have been stored in Xero, adding more than 900,000 files each week.

By storing your documents inside Xero, and alongside your financial transactions, it makes them much easier to find. It also ensures your records are in one place, making it easier to collaborate with your advisor.

Soon after we released Files, we released the ability to email in Files into an inbox. You can do this from your mobile phone, via auto-forwarding in Gmail or even from a scanner. Once the documents are in the inbox, you can create new financial transactions on the fly, auto-attaching the document as you go. This saves you time by allowing you to forward all your relevant documents into your Xero inbox, and then process those documents when you’re ready.

Extending Files further

With this week’s release we’re making the last bit of that process even easier. Once a file is in your Files inbox, you can create a transaction from the file, and view it side by side as you’re entering the details. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve emailed it in there, or dragged and dropped it into the inbox.

This gives you the opportunity to be even more efficient in the way that you work. You can select a file in your inbox, then create a new bill, purchase order, expense receipt, or a spend/receive money transaction. Continue reading ›

 

Continual innovation at pace

In the desktop world that we are rapidly leaving behind, updates are infrequent and painful. If there was something you didn’t like or didn’t quite work in your accounting software it could be years before you got a fix for it. Frustrations became workarounds, which in turn became inefficient business processes. Software vendors were disconnected from small business owners, and it would be fair to say traditionally the relationship hasn’t been good.

Compare that to cloud software and the power of social media. Every customer has a voice and cloud vendors have a direct connection to all of their customers and their needs.

As we look back over the last year, we are delighted to have released over 400 updates. That’s more than one a day. Xero is constantly being tuned and updated to deliver a mass of new features to make lives easier for small business owners. Most of these updates are completely silent and take no effort on the part of our customers. Developing Xero is like flying a passenger jet and changing the engines midflight. Lots of complexity, but it’s done so seamlessly you don’t even notice – except that everything just gets better. That’s continuous innovation.

Reaching a milestone

This week is a milestone for us. While there is always more to do, we believe the software we’re shipping this week matches most of the functionality of desktop accounting software. But ours has the benefits of a better-designed experience in the cloud. Most businesses can now be better off with Xero. Continue reading ›

 

Next generation client reporting is here

Bringing small business accounting to the cloud has revolutionized the accounting industry. Accountants and bookkeepers can now give advice to their clients in real-time by looking at the most up-to-date data.

The real power of cloud accounting is having the accountant and their client on the same page at the same time; a single source of truth. This is a concept we call the single ledger. We are always working to create new ways for accountants and bookkeepers to get the most out of Xero’s single ledger.

This got us thinking – how can we reimagine management and compliance reporting with the single ledger.

Report Packs

In the desktop-based, disconnected world, an accountant could enforce a common chart. In a connected world where the client and accountant see the same data, this doesn’t hold true. Usually to overcome this you would have to create a custom report for each client which could take hours. It also makes practice-wide reporting standards hard to enforce, and there isn’t much room for efficiency.

So five years ago we introduced the concept of report codes. A single list of codes that partners can map client charts of accounts to. This enabled practices in Australia and New Zealand to create practice-wide templates. These report packs could be applied to their entire Xero client base.

Practices using Xero report packs saw productivity improvements immediately. Non-value adding activities like requesting files, transferring data to desktop software, and creating and posting alignment journals for clients were a thing of the past. Report standards could also be applied easily across an entire client base. But there were some features available in desktop software that accountants missed. The benefits of cloud reporting outweighed the cost, but we knew we could do better.

Enter the next generation of reporting on the single ledger: Practice Reports.

Practice Reports

Practice Reports are practice-wide report templates that give you the flexibility to create reports the way you want them. We have designed Practice Reports to be intuitive and approachable, without sacrificing the features. This means partners can harness the power of practice-wide templates, while still retaining the ability to customize the reporting outcome to the needs of the client.

We believe bringing practice reporting and the single ledger together is the most significant revolution in accounting since we started at Xero. Our partners are reducing the time spent at year end by up to 90% – in a practice this is a revolution.

After report packs launched we listened to what our accounting and bookkeeping partners wanted from reporting. Creating a best in class reporting engine was a massive project, we almost bit off more than we could chew. Now that we have delivered this first stage, we have a world class solution for final accounts production. This is our foundation and we can now extend it to include features that will move towards management focused reports.

We have now shifted the focus from compliance reporting to reporting that enables accountants to add value. They can use these reports as the conversation starter.

We’re rolling this out in New Zealand in March for the 2015 year end. Australia will see it before the end of June, and we plan to deliver this to the other regions in the coming months.

Our New Zealand partners can learn about using the new Practice Reports on Xero U. We have webinars and self-paced video courses available 24/7 on Creating Practice Reports and Preparing Accounts using Practice Reports.

 

Xero Roadshow UK – evolve your practice with a deep dive into all that is Xero

We’re kicking off the new financial year with a bang and we can’t wait to share it with the UK’s accounting and bookkeeping community.

At Xerocon London, we made a lot of announcements about our investment in Xero, with a tonne of new features. This year we’ve already released Payroll, Quotes, Notifications and our iPad app. Next you’ll be seeing Online Quotes, Inventory and Side by Side Bills, followed by Find & Recode, Global Search, Improvements to Reporting, Big Data for Small Business, Enhancements to Practice Studio and new Partner Bank Feeds.

focus on your practice

We get it. There’s a lot to take in! That’s why we’re committed to taking you through it all step by step, showing you and your team how your practice can use Xero to its full potential. Learn how you can use Xero to add real value to your practice and your clients.

Come along to the Xero Roadshow – in a city near you this April and May

Throughout April and May, we’ll be touring across the UK with the Xero Roadshow. We’ll take your whole practice on a practical deep dive journey into Xero. We’ll show you the key features and benefits ideal for accountants and bookkeepers. And we’ll share with you the processes that will help your business to fully evolve into the world of the cloud.

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