Six months ago Xero (see disclosure statement) announced that they’d be building a personal finance application to go with their business one. I was pleased at the time, in part because I believe the personal/business divide is an artificial one (see post here). This morning Xero flicked the switch on its long awaited personal edition – I’ve been using it already for a little while so I thought it timely to give my impressions.

Firstly a caveat – this is very much a first edition of the application (actually that’s not quite correct, the release this morning both put the app into the wild and also rolled out an update for Xero personal) so any criticisms will no doubt be dealt with in future releases – one of the benefits of SaaS is, after all, continual iteration of a product.

I see two specific user classes for this application – firstly existing users of Xero for business who also want to manage their personal finance and their business related expenses made on personal credit cards. The second group being Bank customers who just want to manage their finances. Let’s look at how it works for those two groups.

Businesses

One of the issues that we all hoped Xero personal would address was where a business makes expenditure on a personal credit card. In fact Xero wrote a blog post before the release of this app showing how Personal would help with this use case. Unfortunately, in this iteration, the functionality is almost useless. Let’s look at what I need to do to make it work”

Using the bank feeds in Xero personal, categorize transactions as business related and send them to the relevant entity

personalexpenses_1

In Xero business for that entity I need to click on every expense individually and complete the information about it (input account, tax rate and then record it)

pers2

In effect this functionality is actually more time consuming to use than just manually entering expenses directly into Xero from paper statements. What we’d need to make this work nicely would be that transactions from Xero personal would be brought into Business in a similar coding screen to those for bank statements – details could then be added and Xero would “learn” and quickly be able to automatically post the account detail and tax rate based on prior activity.

Individuals

Xero for business was a step change for accounting software – it simplified and automated things making bookkeeping fun. For six months Xero business users have been awaiting a similar step change. Unfortunately what they seem to have got is very similar in functionality to other offerings from Mint, Pocketsmith and Heaps.

I mean Xero personal is just fine… but it’s nothing more than what a bunch of other applications already do – many commentators really expected to see something groundbreaking from the team at Xero – and this, unfortunately, isn’t it.

In Xero’s defense and as I said before – this is very much a first attempt. But bear in mind this is a company with tens of millions of dollars in the bank, some of the smartest designers and developers on the planet and a stated ambition of being the “accounting engine for the web”. Personal needs to step up if it wants to get there.

It seems I’m not the only one a tad disappointed – some other’s feelings:

stu

gr

pesa

glen

Xero absolutely has the resource, ability and smarts to do this right – and I’m sure they’ll do so. It’ll be interesting to see what the next few iterations bring…

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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