Xero continues to actively promote its profile and brand awareness with both above and below the line marketing. Street level advertisements are starting to pop up and roadshows throughout Australia in February have drawn more than 5000 attendees across 20 cities. The recent Xerocon in New Zealand drew more than 900 accountants and bookkeepers. Xero is the only accounting software supplier that has managed to attract such large numbers of business professionals year on year, (Reckon and MYOB must be truly envious). The company has obviously got something right to continue to excite and interest people from one of the professions perceived to be amongst the most staid (read boring) and conservative to keep on coming back.
And the numbers behind the attendees support this – at Xerocon in New Zealand Rod Drury announced that Xero now has 250,000+ customers globally, having gained 115,000 in 2013 alone, that staff numbers had risen to more than 630 and, with $200m cash in the bank, following a big capital raise last year the company could do almost anything.
So what are they doing?
Xero delivers new releases every three weeks, often many of the features are small tweaks that excite some but don’t cause any major levels of excitement, but some releases deliver substantial functionality such as the long awaited release last November of Purchase Orders. At the recent Australian Roadshows, Product Manager, Tim Wright gave us an overview of what we can expect from Xero over the next few months, following are the highlights.
In March we can expect to see the start of the new reporting engine being rolled out which will deliver customisation flexibility to the end user, including the ability to sort on columns, change column order and width etc. First to be released will be the Aging Reports where in addition to the features above, users will also be able to nominate their aging periods – all pretty neat stuff and certainly welcome especially those who have been used to that level of functionality in Reckon Accounts (formerly QuickBooks).
In April there will be more functionality added to Files and the ability to lodge employee Payment Summaries directly to the Australian Taxation Office via the Auskey – R.I.P the Empdupe file – again very exciting and will save some major administrative hassles at the end of the financial year.
There is also work being done on the Fixed Asset module to enhance the functionality already provided – again excellent work and will enable Xero to deliver a fully functioning module that is not present in other entry level cloud accounting software solutions. (Both MYOB and Reckon Accounts use expensive add ons for Fixed Assets)
However the biggest disappointment in the announcements was the complete absence of dates for delivery of Sales Quotes, Inventory and the fix to the super clunky Payroll to General Ledger integration that has existed ever since PayCycle was integrated into Xero. Inventory and Sales Quotes particularly have been on the wishlist and then drawing board for a long time. I realise that developing a full-blown inventory system is a huge task if it is to be both robust and feature-rich but patience is wearing thin as the ‘coming soon’ refrain is rolled out at each event. Now it could be that Xero doesn’t want to announce so it doesn’t disappoint but at the same time it would be nice to have some definite expectation of when delivery potentially could occur. I for one was sorely disappointed with this omission.
However, I am hopeful that when it does arrive, it will meet and possibly exceed expectations, that it may even come before the end of the financial year in Australia and that it will be greatly appreciated by both existing and future Xero customers. Although it is relatively easy to run Xero with a third party integrated inventory application, many small businesses baulk at the extra cost and effort involved and often select alternative software such as QuickBooks Online (QBO) where inventory is included. Having its own inventory solution will definitely increase Xero’s suitability and attraction to a wider range of small businesses.
It was nearly six months ago that I wrote a blog on the exciting developments presented by Xero at the Australia Xerocon where Rod Drury said that delivery of Sales and Purchase Orders and Inventory would complete the accounting engine of the software and this will be ‘the end of the beginning’. Looks like we still have some time to wait for that beginning.