I don’t blog often over here on Diversity any more – CloudAve takes much of my attention these days. Diversity is more about an opportunity for me to be opinionated or to tell stories of Kiwi success stories – I try and do that over on CloudAve too but for some reason some US readers get sick of my parochialism 😉 .

A few weeks ago at the Web09 conference in Auckland I finally had a chance to meet CEO of SmartPayroll, Asantha Wijeyeratne – we immediately found much in common, especially regarding our views of what the real barriers to growth are for small businesses and the potential of connected applications to drive efficiency and productivity gains for SMEs (excuse the volley of buzzwords there).

Anyway, Wijeyeratne just pinged me to tell me that SmartPayroll has just completed it’s integration with Xero. SmartPayroll is the largest of the IRD registered payroll intermediaries through their relationship with Datacom and they’re obviously looking to augment this offering with the addition of a software plus services offering. As part of this integration, Xero have nominated SmartPayroll as their Premium Payroll Partner in NZ.

With another twist in this story, for $83 per month customers can get SmartXero – so what is SmartXero? It is Xero bundled with a high level service and integration offering. Despite all the Web 2.0 tools in the world, as a SaaS vendor grows to scale it simply cannot continue to offer high levels of individual service – as an example Xero provides email support, but no phone support – that’s fine for those of us prepared to either wait or to tinker, but arguably doesn’t address the needs of those who want help from a real person – and now.

So that’s where SmartXero jumps in. I questioned Wijeyeratne about the difference between the monthly subscription to Xero and the offering they are providing – his response? “We will set up the chart of accounts, set up the Bank feeds etc and the general set up. We will then send a trainer to sit with the customer while they do the first month. So all that eliminates the fear of the changeover. Then we back that up with 0800 24×7 telephone support backed up with on-site support if required.”

Of course the biggest gain to be made is by users who use both SmartXero and SmartPayroll – they’re then leveraging both a technology integration and a high level services offering. Asantha indicated the potential to provide a reduced bundle price for those using both products.

While it’d be nice to think that SaaS requires no third party help – the reality is that SMEs need handholding – SmartXero is providing a valuable service for those businesses.

Update – SmartXero has had a name change! It’s now known as SmartBooks Plus

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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