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November 10, 2016

The power of customising Xero to fit your business


Xero online accounting software is a brilliant foundation for your accounting and bookkeeping needs. And, as we pointed out back in August, it’s also a superbly flexible and customisable reporting tool as well.

By integrating Xero with your choice of Xero apps and cloud tools, you can customise your processes and get an improved view of your reporting into the bargain. By getting access to the KPIs that matter most to you and your management team, you put yourself in complete control of your destiny – and as a business owner, that’s an extremely commanding position to be in.

Measure what matters to the business

The key to great Xero data is knowing which numbers and KPIs are the most important to the current and future success of your business.

For a start, you must know what you’re trying to measure – are your monthly sales forecasts the most important measure at present? Or are your overheads on production a more fundamental focus at the moment?

Be clear about what numbers matter to the business. When you know your top priorities, you can start customising Xero to track, measure and report on those particular elements of the business. Xero is great at tracking historical data and flagging up trends, patterns and potential hiccups – all of which helps to forecast the future path of the business.

Adding power with Xero apps and cloud solutions

Xero, as a standalone platform, has many features that help you get the control you need over your numbers.

For example, having live bank feeds in your Xero Dashboard enables you to keep on top of your cash and your bank statements – keeping you on top of your balances and meaning there are no nasty surprises from a cash perspective.

Automation of your online invoicing and bank reconciliation helps to streamline your processes, as well as keeping your numbers up to date and providing real-time reporting. And you’ve also got access to a range of reporting function that is built in as standard, from simple balance sheets and profit and loss (P&L) reports to full-blown business performance dashboard.

But where Xero really starts to sing is when you start integrating it with the 500+ Xero apps in the Xero ecosystem. There are a huge number of different software tools and cloud solutions in this marketplace – and they seamlessly connect with Xero to build out a reporting dashboard that’s tailored, relevant and focused on your business.

For example, if you’re running a retail business, you can add in a point of sale (POS) app that links with your eCommerce pages on your website and pulls all your sales transactional data straight through into Xero. There’s no manual posting needed and you have an instant, real-time view of those sales and revenue numbers in your dashboard.

The choice of apps and plug-in tools is huge, but let’s look at a few that have a truly transformational impact on the reporting and KPIs you can pull from Xero.

Futrli: a deeper view of your numbers

Futrli is cloud-based reporting and forecasting solution that gives you a superb view of your business information.

Using different dashboard views (‘boards’ in Futrli-speak), you can set up a variety of data sets to help you with your forecasting and core KPIs. And these boards can be tailored to show this information in a variety of ways, from basic spreadsheet views to full-on colour data visualisations, graphs and charts.

You choose the numbers you need to see, and your boards will display those KPIs, pulling the data through from Xero. And those numbers can be anything from your main financial figures to non-financial data like your website traffic, or social media activity. For example, these are just a few of the KPIs you could track:

  • Utilisation rates (billable v non-billable hours) for professional services.
  • Stock figures and tracking of your most popular products.
  • Turnaround numbers and how long certain lines are sat on a shelf.
  • Performance analysis and comparisons of different business lines.

Whatever element of your business you want to measure, Futrli creates a relevant board, keeping all these important numbers in one place. That’s a huge bonus when you’re scenario-planning and looking at different strategic ideas.

By plugging in the numbers and different assumptions, you can very quickly see the impact of your decisions, both graphically and in number tables. You choose your time periods and the data that you’re going to analyse and get a projected view of each scenario – and that ‘crystal ball’ is invaluable as part of your planning.

GoCardless: your modern Direct Debit solution

Getting your payment and cash collection in order is another way to improve your view of your numbers – and improve your cash flow along the way. And Direct Debit is now a brilliant way to do this.

Direct Debits are no longer cumbersome and process-heavy. GoCardless is an online solution that has completely streamlined the Direct Debit process. Your customers sign up online, and you collect their payment at an agreed time direct from their bank account. Not only does it speed up your payment process and reduce your aged debtor times, it also links straight into Xero, so you can reconcile those payments, as well as reporting within the GoCardless app.

GoCardless works beautifully for recurring payments, but the real beauty of their approach to Direct Debit is that payment terms can be varied, so you can collect payments on the times you set and take ad-hoc payments for any additional sales or project work.

Receipt Bank: a better way to manage your transactions

Receipt Bank is a mixture of smart-scanning app and data management tool, that helps you to scan in your receipts and paperwork and pull all the data straight through into Xero – without any time-consuming data entry.

And it doesn’t just remove the data-entry element. Receipt Bank also helps you to analyse your transactions. By looking at your reporting, you can see how much you spend with your various suppliers and where your costs are going. That puts you in a strong position to discuss getting better rates on volume purchases, allowing you to cut your costs and improve margins.

It also helps to speed up the productivity of your sales team as they don’t have to spend an afternoon each month logging their expenses – they just download the Receipt Bank mobile app, snap their expenses and travel receipts on the move and submit them straight to Xero.

Get in real control of your business

Being able to customise Xero, while building up a suite of helpful Xero apps, is what puts you in control of your business.

You streamline your business processes, while also tracking and reporting on the numbers and KPIs that are most relevant to the future success of the business. It’s all about having control and ownership and being able to see the data that matters to you and the management team.

Your numbers are no longer passive – they’re up to date, in real-time and can enable you to make important real-time decisions.

If you’ve got any questions about customising Xero and expanding your Xero app systems, please do get in touch for a chat.

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