I have been using Xero now for approximately five months, and believe this application to be the perfect solution for SME businesses.

BLOG: Using Xero – Accounting Solutions For SME Businesses

Offered as a service to small business, this means you pay as you go (SaaS) which is online, in the clouds, a web-based accounting application. Flavours come in three price ranges i.e. Small Business $29 (ideal for freelancers and small property investors); Medium $49 (great for most small-medium sized businesses; and Large $69 (essential for businesses who bank and transact in foreign currencies).

The same features and functionality are offered as “off the shelf software packages”, but with a reduced price range. Inclusive in the cost of Xero, offering hosted service, backup, storage and regular updates. Users are notified of product releases, changes and enhanced features the moment they log on.

With many SME businesses, in particular tradesmen and service type industries, the trend for opting for mobile with software applications becoming more freely available on most mobile devices such as iPhone, Blackberry etc., the added appeal of online accounting has become more cost effective and viable.

Another neat application only recently added to the Xero suite, which I believe is going to be a huge hit with busy tradesmen and service type industries, and that is SimPro Mobile Digi Pen and Service Pad. The technician simply replaces the common pen with their simPro Digital Pen and uses a specially designed service pad. Fill out Service Report ticking “start” relevant information pertinent to job, complete by ticking “Send” on Service Report. The information is stored in the pen and then transmitted via bluetooth to mobile phone then onto office for checking prior to synchronising to Xero. The invoices once synchronised to Xero, and approved are then emailed to client. I have watched SimPro demonstrate this technology at a few trade shows and product presentations in Brisbane. To find out more about Simpro’s products and services, visit their website at. www.simpro.com.au

Xero offer hosted websites where clients, bookkeepers and accountants can log onto the company records via the web, using your email and password this saves having individual software licenses for each user and dramatically reduced costs. The accounts are available anytime, anywhere in the world, as long as the user has access and connectivity to the internet.

Process from anywhere in the World: Case study #1. User has booked a few days holiday/business trip, their regular in-house bookkeeper takes sick during the same period, no problem, simply organize to have employee time sheets sent via email, Drop Box, Google Docs or whichever method preferred for quick access of source docs, process pays using one of the online payroll application/vendors partnering with Xero, can be found on Xero’s website. The synchronization process once payroll completed integrates to Xero within minutes.

Check for payment of an outstanding account: Case study #2. Simply log onto Xero check the Bank Feeds to see if this transaction has been processed. Note: Bank feed requests can be easily set up, using one of the 4 major Australian banks or if preferred use PayPal. This is a free service to Xero users. User is advised via email when Bank Feeds commence, in the meantime they may if wish, import transactions thru their online bank account. Bank Feeds Using Bank Rules: Case study #3. With bank rules you define the conditions for each rule to match with your imported statement lines; Receipt payments simultaneously whilst performing bank reconciliations, this function alone saves the user precious time.

A further benefit of hosted accounting software, especially for the SME, is access to the latest and most up to date releases, without the need to continually purchase costly upgrades.

Offsite storage is included in the cost when using Xero; this avoids having to purchase external backup systems.

In Australia, a large number of SME businesses outsource their accounting to bookkeepers/consultants and accounting firms. By using Xero and access to one file this eliminates the problem of files floating around unaccountable for in a number of locations, cd’s, backup files, e.g. someone forgot to upload the latest file when bookkeeper/accountant processed year end. Just some of these examples pointed out, have seen far too many times and all too often no one is prepared to be accountable for lost information, sometimes the error is only detected months down the track and is a costly exercise to correct, these ongoing problems arise when the SME is too busy doing what they do well and is not totally conversant with their software application. The onus falls back on the client to ensure correct procedures are in place. By using Xero all these factors will be eliminated – One File, One location, Multiple Access. Xero is not a difficult product to learn, developers have specifically designed the app. as a “user friendly experience” with comprehensive help, support notes and videos easily accessible.

The physical data is stored on a third part server, and not on the users computers, therefore if a company falls victim of theft, all the financial data is safely stored and can still be accessed by the business.

Australia is known for floods and bushfires especially amongst small home offices, the ability to retrieve from backup is critical to the small business owner.

Another factor is streamlining accounting queries and “frown lines” accounting firms can pin point queries and problems before the end of their quarterly reviews, information can be accessed, identified and rectified.

Consultants will become proactive and boost their productivity, by saving on travel time. Wow their clients by solving problems fast and easy using this effective technology. Implement new ways in which to bill clients by providing a “value added service” rather than using hourly rates. Wayne Schmidt, Xero GM, Australia talks to bookkeepers at Institute of Certifiedf Bookkeepers National Conference in Brisbane last week, discusses how consultants/bookkeepers can improve their service by using this method. Xero co founder and Chartered Accountant, Hamish Edwards, touring Australia talks about why Accounting belongs to the Accountant.

Log onto Xero’s website and enjoy the journey - a huge vault of product knowledge videos available on “how to do”s, plus regular training events running in Australia & New Zealand via webinar and hands on classroom training. Browse thru the fantastic collection of blogs posted regularly from Xero users and @Team Xero who keep readers up to date with product knowledge, updates and interesting events. To find out more visit Xero’s website www.xero.com

Gillian Rossouw