It’s the end of accounting software, Xero CEO Rody Drury proclaimed at Xerocon Austin on Dec. 6.
He was referring to how cloud accounting software, like Xero, is now moving away from just automating back office accounting functions to building a seamless front office. This means that business users can and will be able to use the software without an accounting education, which is made possible by how machine learning and artificial intelligence has effectively, according to Drury, because of the large amount of structured data it can generate, “given us code-free accounting.”
Xero’s tagline is “beautiful accounting.” For the first time in years, that tagline wasn’t even mentioned — or just mentioned minimally — during the opening keynotes at the company's user conference. Instead, Drury focused on explaining what that phrase means in practical terms — i.e., usable access to great accounting for everyone.
Xero has its eye on the U.S. in a big way. The company reports it has almost 38 percent of businesses in its native New Zealand on the platform. That is a lofty goal for the United States, which is geographically large, far more populous, and has far more regions without access to broadband internet.
“We need to have growth strategies not just to get our small businesses to grow, but to get them connected and talking to other people on these platforms,” Drury said. Citing his giant competitor in the accounting software space, Intuit, which makes QuickBooks, Drury said the biggest difference between the two companies is how Xero has embraced an open API concept from the start. It’s not that Intuit hasn’t embraced partnering through API — in fact, at its recent QuickBooks Connect event in San Jose, Intuit’s Rich Preece said the vast majority of problems will be solved “by other people — on our platform.”
Still, though, 90 percent of business users on Xero have the software connected to an accountant or bookkeeper, and the focus on professionals remains important to the software company. Keri Gohman, president of Xero Americas, pushed the idea of accountants using Xero HQ, the dashboard platform, to “pull their whole practice online.” Xero HQ is a prime example of the open APIs Drury mentioned, as it offers deep integrations with several major accounting-related apps. But it’s also a fairly robust practice management system, and Xero remains serious about promoting the accounting industry as a whole to small businesses.
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