SaaS is quite the thing nowadays you know. Geez, Ben even seems to have dedicated most of his blog to it. As an early customer of Xero, Ben kindly asked me to post my experiences with what must be New Zealand’s best known SaaS application.

Why We Chose Xero

Our business, YouDo, had just been formed and we were looking for an accounting package to help with the books. As we are in the web space, we’d heard about Xero, and I had been lucky enough to have been given a sneek preview by Rod. After a bit of blogging I was lucky enough to be given a beta customer account.

Reasons, we were keen? 50 bucks a month, no tie-in, no software outlay, no hardware outlay, no security and maintenance woes (believe me I’ve been there and it’s hard work)… Hey, we were also backing the Kiwi and making a stand against the run-of-the-mill “corporate” but-its-a-safe-bet package solutions.

I’ll get straight to the point, Xero is a no-brainer for us. Here’s five key reasons:

  • No servers. No software. No setup. OK, here’s the good part about SaaS. All you need is a computer with internet access. Never mind about the servers, the rackspace, the airconditioning, UPS, security and backups. That stuff costs a small fortune. And it’s probably not your core business. Oh – there’s no software that needs installing and configuring too. Just logon. Big timesaver.
  • Simple to use. Quite simply, Xero is the easiest system out there to use. I’m not an accountant, I have had no training, I was up and running in a matter of seconds. Recurring, and often brain numbing tasks, are made simple – the best example of that being the bank reconciliation functionality. It’s so simple you ask yourself why no-one did it this well before. There’s obviously been a lot of thought go into the design.
  • Automatic Bank Feeds. This saves a lot of time. Ask yourself how much time you spend checking your business bank account, downloading the transactions, firing up your accounting platform, and importing them. How long does this take you each day? 5 minutes? If you run your business properly you’ll be doing this every day (or you should be). So in 10 days, you’ve saved yourself the Xero monthly cost. Utter no-brainer.
  • Accessible Anywhere to Whom You Choose. I’ve been doing a bit a travel this year (thankfully not all work) but as a business owner, you still need to keep tracks on your “baby”. So being able to see the accounts from afar is a big big plus. Assuming you’re in the black! Give your accountant a logon too. No more “downloading and emailing reports”. And they can see the latest figures before they spiral out of control.
  • It’s Cheap. $50 per month. Tot up the savings I’ve mentioned above. What’s your cost of lost opportunity? Do the maths.

However..

And there’s always a “however”.

As a fledgling startup IT business, we were in the lucky position that a) we had a relatively simple set of accounting requirements and b) we didn’t have a legacy accounting system. This meant there was no “behavioural” change required from switching from one system to another, which can often result in fundamental process changes to fit the tool. It also meant we had no painful conversion or migrations woes.

In a wider sense, these are two pitfalls that can kneecap a lot of SaaS propositions.

It’s also important to note that Xero is aiming at small to medium businesses with relatively simple accounting requirements. It’s not an ERP. It’s not a stock control system. It’s not a requisition system. It’s just a simple accounting platform.

For larger users speed may become a key issue as well. I’ve seen accountants at some companies that are data entry legends – they can enter and query information faster than Neo can punch out his commands in the Matrix!! You simply can’t get that level of speed in a web app. I doubt we ever will. But, then again, how many SMEs need super quick line item entry?

There’s still many people out there really scared to “handover” their data, too. Just not having control within their four walls really does make some people shy away from SaaS. It’s a real issue.

Summary

Keeping it short and sweet, Xero is a real no-brainer for us. It meets our relatively simple requirements to a tee and it saves us a lot of time.It’s more than just an accounting SaaS application. It’s a very well designed, thought out, and well-implemented SaaS application.

This is why, as a Xero shareholder (that’s the obligatory disclaimer), I’m backing it. It’s not just the SaaS element that does the trick – it’s what they’ve done with SaaS that’s made the difference.

So what will YouDo with Xero?

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