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Xero unveils biggest ever wave of new products

5th Oct 17 10:07 am

Highlights of new products announced at Xerocon London

Xero has announced its biggest ever wave of new products as it evolves from online accounting software to a global small business platform to help grow millions of businesses around the world. Xero today kicked off Xerocon, its annual UK conference in London attended by over 2,000 accountants, bookkeepers and ecosystem partners, representing 24 countries.

Highlights of the new products demonstrated at Xerocon, include:

  • Xero HQ open practice platform, providing real-time visibility and insights for accountants and bookkeepers, Xero HQ connects directly to other Xero tools and a suite of curated third-party practice apps
  • Xero HQ Ask, drives meaningful engagement between advisors and clients by reducing the time accountants spend asking clients for information and waiting for a response
  • Xero Expenses, mobile-first expense management with Open APIs for banks to connect to the millions of employees in small business
  • Xero Discuss, allows users and their advisors to communicate within the Xero platform
  • Xero Projects, time and job costing for small businesses in professional services 
  • Construction Industry Scheme (CIS), features help contractors and subcontractors manage their CIS obligations faster and more easily
  • Xero Lifelong Learning Platform, an online learning tool aimed at students and the reskilling of the workforce, which will be delivered by educational institutions.  

“We are early in the journey of using artificial intelligence to simplify accounting to make it easier for small businesses,” said Rod Drury, Xero founder and CEO.

“We are proud to deliver a new generation of smart tools to drive further productivity. In parallel, our focus is to create opportunities for our community of accountants and bookkeepers to take advantage of our global platform to help grow small businesses and create new jobs.”

New products announced at Xerocon include:

Xero HQ Ask
Launching this month, Ask in Xero HQ reduces the time accountants spend asking clients for information and waiting for them to respond. Feedback from accountants has highlighted the enormous amount of time spent chasing down clients to collect information they need or waiting on clients to complete a job, adding time and cost. Some have remarked it can take up to eight weeks to collect missing paperwork from the more disorganised clients in order to start and complete the task, or get answers back to questions about payroll or asset purchases, outstanding debts and more.

Using Ask, accountants can compose and initiate information requests directly from within Xero HQ. These requests are emailed to their client who then securely logs into Xero to respond and attach any pertinent documents. Within Xero HQ the advisor can view responses, send reminders and monitor the progress of their requests all within one dashboard. Because it’s part of Xero HQ, Ask is available to all practice users and is directly connected to the Xero HQ client list.

Xero Expenses

Xero Expenses gives small businesses and their accounting and bookkeeping advisors powerful insights and control over how money is spent in the business.  

“We’ve revitalised our employee expenses and reimbursement product redesigning it for the front office, taking advantage of AI and machine learning to make the entire expense process easier and more automated than ever, ensuring employees file their expenses more frequently and directly into Xero,” Drury said.

Expense Analytics allows small business owners and their accountant or bookkeeper to see expense patterns by category, accounts and employees, and set permissions to ensure expenses are filed by the right person. Small businesses know which expenses still need to be reimbursed to their employees, and get informed in real time through push notifications, eliminating inefficiencies caused by missed phone calls and unread emails.

Advisors can help small business make better spending decisions, using powerful analytics and integrated accounting in a centralised platform. The Expenses API will allow banks to link transactional and purchasing services to the millions of employees of small businesses using Xero. Xero Expenses is integrated across Xero and will be available for accountants and bookkeepers to trial with their customers this week.

Xero Discuss

Available to Xero subscribers in the coming months, Xero Discuss enables accountants and bookkeepers to discuss financial details about a client’s business directly with the client from within Xero, removing the need for lengthy email chains or potential miscommunication about their data.

Xero Discuss makes it easier for accounting partners to answer questions and avoid potential mistakes in Xero, improving the reliability and accuracy of financial information and making business decisions right the first time.

Small businesses can ask questions about a specific contact, bill, invoice, purchase order or bank transaction, and get help from their accountant or bookkeeper quickly, where and when they need it most.

Xero Projects
Xero Projects is a major milestone in Xero’s transition to a global platform for small businesses, helping small businesses in service industries monitor active projects to maximise revenue and profits. With 64 percent of invoices in the UK paid late, Xero Projects helps solve cash flow issues many small business owners face, by making it easier than ever to keep track of their time and job costing.

“Over 40 percent of our customers are Professional Service firms. Xero Projects now gives those customers a beautiful way to manage their staff and projects with seamless integration to accounting. Uniquely we’ll be going to market alongside our accounting and bookkeeping partners as Xero Projects grows to suit the many vertical industries they work with,” Drury said.

“Xero Projects transforms the way businesses track their time and expenses, directly from Xero or on their phone, giving business owners and solo operators the right tools to grow their profits and their business,” Drury said.

Available today for Xero accounting partners and their clients, Xero Projects connects seamlessly to other features in Xero, including invoicing, contacts, bills and reporting, allowing users to handle key aspects of their business in a single platform.

Launch of Xero HQ curated apps for accountants and bookkeepers

The next iteration of the Xero HQ open practice platform provides a curated ecosystem of nine integrated practice apps, to provide accountants and bookkeepers the best tools to drive efficiency within their own practice, build closer relationships with clients, and build additional advisory services.

Designed to connect more than 100,000 Xero advisors globally to the best cloud tools tailored to their practice, Xero HQ revolutionises the way accountants and bookkeepers work by providing real-time visibility and insights across all clients, with timely alerts about a client’s most urgent needs. Xero HQ connects directly into other Xero tools and third-party practice apps.

On stage at Xerocon, Anna Curzon, Xero Chief Partner Officer said: “This is the golden age of accounting. It is creating opportunities for the growth of accounting and bookkeeping practices and it’s increasing their capacity to be the advisors small businesses need to succeed. We know that by helping accountants and bookkeepers fully embrace technology with a digital switchover of their practices, we can help them grow their own business.”

“As accountants and bookkeepers move to the cloud, we’re seeing that by the time they reach 100 clients or more they are growing revenue 80 percent faster and creating 70 percen
t more jobs relative to non-Xero partners. These practices are adding more capacity and resources in additional services and those practices providing IT and app advice are growing 60 percent faster. The efficiency gains these practices are gaining bring them closer to their customers as a true advisor,” Curzon said.

This announcement follows the news about the latest iteration of Xero HQ, a curated set of third-party apps for accounting and bookkeeping practices. With a select number of app partners, Xero HQ will offer accountants and bookkeepers the tools to build a growing digital practice. Xero HQ and the nine integrated apps launched today will give practices a helping hand to build a sustainable practice in a digital business environment to drive efficiency within their own practice, build closer relationships with clients and build the services to provide targeted expertise and advice.

The first app partners to join Xero HQ include:

  • Boma for self-drive marketing
  • Expensify automating every step of the expense reporting process
  • Datamolino capturing all the key data from invoices, bills and receipts into Xero
  • Fathom to efficiently create custom management reports
  • FUTRLI to provide future insights for a business
  • Practice Ignitionto assist with client onboarding
  • Receipt Bank for more efficient bookkeeping
  • SuiteFiles to bring all client data and files into one place
  • Spotlight Reporting to enable accountants and bookkeepers to see how clients are performing in a single view

“Feedback has told us that accounting and bookkeeping partners want to know which technology they should be working with to create their ultimate practice experience. That’s why we have curated a thoughtful group of third-party applications integrated into Xero HQ, which provide solutions to help our partners take advantage of technology to automate the mundane tasks, and focus on providing superior service to their clients,” Curzon added.

“Historically practice management solutions have been monolithic, providing a defined suite of tools within one application. Xero HQ instead encourages accounting and bookkeeping practices to access a suite of tools to help them build a successful digital practice.”

Comments from app partners

Anna Lawrence, Boma said, “Boma is a marketing tool that’s built especially for accounting and bookkeeping practices. By sharing your up-to-date and accurate client list from Xero HQ, Boma creates and distributes relevant content to clients unlocking a library of purpose-built marketing content, designed and supplied by Xero, to support your practice’s marketing and communication activity.”

Amy Harris, FUTRLI said, “It was important that FUTRLI was integrated into the heart of Xero HQ. Businesses and advisors run on FUTRLI and Xero and we need to be where they want us, when they want us to deliver the best experience. We’ll have some very happy customers now we’ve teamed up to make this happen.”

Guy Pearson, Practice Ignition said, “Having Practice Ignition integrated into Xero HQ allows Xero partners to keep their fingers on the pulse. They can see what is going on with all of their proposals and kept in the loop when something goes wrong with a failed payment or an expiring credit card. Practice Ignition pushes all of these notifications into Xero HQ, giving Xero partners full view of what is happening at any point in time.”

David Watson, Fathom said, “Our aim with this integration is to streamline advisory workflows. Reports designed in Fathom can now be scheduled for issue at any point in time. When published, links to these reports are automatically surfaced in the Xero HQ activity feed. Upon seeing a notification, advisers can quickly access and review a report. Any activity on a report will also trigger an alert in Xero HQ, enabling both the client and advisor to collaborate with greater ease.”

Helena Wood, Receipt Bank said, “Accountants and bookkeepers can’t work without the right data from their clients. Xero HQ makes sure partners are on top of their bookkeeping at all times, with Receipt Bank alerts to monitor every part of the process efficiently and effectively.”

Andrew Sims, SuiteFiles said, “The Xero HQ integration offers both existing and new SuiteFiles users the ability to bring document management into their day-to-day practice management.”

Stephen Corbett, Spotlight Reporting said, “Spotlight Reporting gives accountants the tools to become trusted advisors, earn new fee streams and do engaging work. Alerts in Xero HQ will help remind accountants to work on Spotlight reports or provide helpful product information. This will help ensure reports are started and completed, as not starting or not completing reports is lost revenue for practices as well as a negative client experience.”

Andrej Glezl, Datamolino, said, “Xero HQ should be the first screen an advisor opens each morning. Having Datamolino as part of the activity feed in Xero HQ helps to keep the bookkeeping up to date. And you can do all sorts of magic if your data is up to date – helping your clients with reporting, forecasting, getting a loan and keeping your finger on the pulse of a company to measure and improve their performance.”

Ryan Schaffer, Expensify, said, “We see integrating with Xero HQ as absolutely critical. Bookkeepers and accountants are spending an unspeakable amount of time chasing clients for receipts manually, typing in expense information manually and rekeying that information into Xero manually. Expensify takes processes that normally take days and cuts that time down to minutes.”

Xero Construction Industry Scheme (CIS)
Approximately a million construction contractors and subcontractors in the UK need to comply with special tax rules and regulations called the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). Xero aims to provide contractors, subcontractors and accountants with the capability to manage their CIS compliance. Deductions will be automatically calculated from subcontractor invoices, and in the future customers will be able to submit returns to HMRC. Available in beta for some customers, features include adding supplier contractor and subcontractor information into Xero, automatically calculating CIS deductions before making payments and producing contractor monthly CIS Returns, and creating subcontractor payment and deduction statements.

Xero Lifelong Learning Platform
Xero today also unveiled the Xero Lifelong Learning Platform, providing access to the latest learning resources for financial and business skills relevant in today’s connected, global economy.  Xero is working closely with education experts and institutions to create and deliver courses available online globally in 2018.

“The globalisation of technology has not only reshaped the way we work but also the need for lifelong learning to stay relevant with the pace of change in the workforce,” Curzon said.

“Handling finances, both personal and business, is a necessity for everyone, from school-age students to retirees. Yet many neglect this important life skill. Xero Lifelong Learning Platform allows students to grow their financial literacy to help prepare them for the real world.

“The Xero Lifelong Learning Platform paves the way for education to be accessible to everyone, from anywhere, at any time, democratising education for all,” Cur
zon said. “Best of all, it’s always up to date. Students and people reskilling will always be working on the latest version of the tools used in business, not the out of date desktop technology still taught across the world.”

Xero Lifelong Learning Platform will lift the financial and business literacy of students in secondary and tertiary institutions, training organisations, and learners at all stages of their career. The new open learning platform will help accelerate the growth and performance of small and medium businesses by giving their employees the multiple skills and capabilities that accounting and advisory partners are desperate to hire.

“Technology has significantly changed the way many industries operate and it’s vital that education keeps up with the pace of change,” said Sharon Rice, Executive Director of Major Projects, Swinburne University. “Greater collaboration between industry and higher education is critical to producing high-quality, job-ready graduates and we’re proud to be working with Xero to spearhead this initiative to improve accessibility of financial and business acumen for the next generation of accountants, and everyone.”

The roadmap ahead for the Xero Lifelong Learning Platform will deliver features to automate grading and assessment, provide business scenarios and simulations for teaching advanced financial analysis, and integration with popular learning management and courseware systems. The Xero Lifelong Learning Platform enables educators to quickly provide classes of learners with working Xero applications populated with example data for any scenario. A student using Xero Lifelong Learning Platform is guided through exercises within Xero, and can use all of Xero’s regular functionality.

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