Johnny and Alex on why Xero does expenses better with Expend
What does a rock concert, a room full of accountants and maximum efficiency all have in common?
You guessed it… Xerocon!
Xerocon is on the horizon and Expend is going to be attending as a part of their marketplace because – drum roll please – our integration has not only met, but exceeded their partner standards, and we couldn’t be more proud.
During this exciting time, we wanted to get Johnny Vowles (left), our Founder & CEO's take on Xero, Xerocon, and our newly established integration with them. Also joining us in the chat is one of our super talented software engineers, Alex Burbidge (right), to add some technical expertise to the mix.
Erin: Hey Johnny, hey Alex! So with Xerocon this week and our integration with Xero having just been finalised, I wanted to catch up with you to talk all things Xero.
Johnny: Perfect timing as we’ve been working towards these goals for quite some time now!
E: OK, let’s kick things off with an easy one: how has Xero revolutionised accounting practices?
J: Where to start… As many people know, Xero started in New Zealand and has had a massive impact, especially in the UK, for accountants. Accounting is often complex but Xero has made huge strides to simplify it. They provide all the accounting functionality you need (invoicing, payroll, financial reports, pension – it's all covered by their system and can be tailored to your company). At Expend, we use it as our own accounting software.
Xero is a valuable tool for accountants, making it easier for them to work on behalf of their clients by keeping everything in one central place. And coupled with the Expend card, much of the expenses process can suddenly be automated
But importantly, Xero’s support system is majorly people-powered and I think that gives them a huge competitive advantage. They have lots of support forums and a huge community of users ready to answer any and all questions and requests, no matter how obscure. All this information feeds back into Xero and helps them build a better product. They also provide guides for getting started and helping you along your accounting journey. I think this aspect of their company is a valuable part of why they are so successful.
E: Interesting... So what does it mean for Expend now that you’re able to integrate into Xero’s software?
J: Well, it means we can make more people happier as we’ve had a LOT of requests from customers, accountants, and businesses asking when are we able going to support Xero! We’ve been working on this integration from the start of the year, and put real effort into creating not just a bare bones integration but a thorough and very useful one.
There is a real advantage to Expend’s support of Xero including, importantly, a real-time transfer of data into Xero. This means that your expenses go straight into Xero without you having to do anything, and it allows companies to see an up-to-date snapshot of their financial situation. We’re also really excited about the reconciliation functionality we’ve been working on.
Alex: Yeah, the real-time integration is really exciting… and quite tricky to build, because things can happen at any point with the movement of money, an example being fluctuations in foreign exchange. Our software is robust enough to handle all of that. If the integration isn’t built up to that standard, it can turn into quite a mess for the user.
E: Tell me more about that.
A: Having real-time transactions means that every time a transaction happens, we send that data to Xero, and then automatically categorise it as best we can with all attachments and notes included. All of this happens in a matter of seconds, and it also means that users are able to see the true value of their balance in real time.
This is a key difference between a real-time integration, such as ours, and other implementations. Others have what we call a 'simple solution, where you have to manually select a date from which you want to input your data onto Xero, and your data is only pushed when you request it to be. That means that you don't get an accurate reading of your spending throughout the month.
E: How easily does Expend integrate into Xero’s accounting system?
J: Expend integrates as easily as can be expected! We’ve seen that each accountant tends to do things slightly differently, so we’ve tried to offer flexibility where we think there are going to be differences or discrepancies, and then kept the commonplace (expected) features as simple to use. So we build for what people what, and then give the option to customise where they need it. But most importantly, through many iterations, we’ve tried to make everything as straightforward as possible and remove anything unnecessary.
We also offer live support on the configuration page and in the app, which means that even though we’ve built Expend to be intuitive, we’re always there to help with live support. To parallel this, we’ve also created a series of thorough help guides and a video guide to help you along the way.
E: How will users benefit from using Expend with Xero?
J: Well we'll save them a lot of work! No misplacing receipts, incorrect scanning of receipts, or mismatching dates., Xero is instantly notified as soon as a transaction has taken place, the user gets a notification and can choose to attach a photo (which is essentially a supplement to the info we already have) and all this is then filed nicely into Xero. Another benefit, which you think would be a given but often is overlooked, is that the data going into Xero is accurate and instant with Expend.
We power the payment and as it is an end-to-end expenses solution, we know the key elements of the transaction data are correct. As soon as you use the card, the information is automatically placed in Xero, but if the user wants, they can also review and update the data (amend, add notes, etc.) to their liking.
Also, although this is not such an obvious benefit, we believe in tech-to-tech, from Expend straight into Xero. Interestingly, many people don’t realise, that many receipt scanning solutions often send your receipts abroad and people manually record your information, so your data may not be where you think it is. Of course, manual input (and to an extent optical character recognition) is prone to errors.
In summary, the benefits of using Expend are time savings, reliability, accuracy of data, reconciliation with Xero, better control over company spending, and knowing where money is coming from and going to, in real time.
A: Yeah that last point goes back to what I mentioned before about the ‘simple solution’ we’ve seen others build. We do all of the hard work so the user, whether it’s an individual or an accountant, doesn’t have to go back, dig through reports, find information from various sources, cross reference and reconcile based on a pile of untidy information.
We don’t just sync the transaction, we also sync the money loaded so you always have the true balance reflected in Xero, which can be seen as a small detail, but really, it's a super powerful way to stay on top of your money management. If we didn’t build the software this way, we wouldn’t save users nearly as much time to spend doing other things!
E: So on to Xerocon, the biggest accounting event of the year in London. What is Expend hoping to gain from exhibiting at such an event?
J: Aside from exposure to potential new customers, we want to build relationships with the people that could benefit greatly from our software: accountants. We’ve been talking with quite a few and their feedback has been really helpful in driving the various feature iterations Expend has been working on.
It’s very important to us to understand what they need so that we can build it, but just as importantly, listen to what they don’t like so we can improve it. This two-way communication is essential to building a well-honed and robust product that people actually want to use.
Also, by building relationships with accountants and developing an understanding of what they’re looking for, we’re also creating a better product for their clients. They can be sure that all of their expenses are taken care of in a way that isn’t hairsplitting for them.
— Expend (@expend) October 2, 2017
E: What updates or releases are Expend excited to share at the event?
J: We’re always looking to improve upon features, fix bugs, and increase efficiency gains, so we have a few of these to share… But our core update is that we’ll be releasing the new Android app plus an improved online dashboard. We will be choosing a select few to be part of our beta group and are hoping to meet some of them at Xerocon.
The dashboard is something we’re very proud of. It has full team support with the ability to monitor all of a company's expenses across teams, creating a central, easy to use hub for expense management. We've been building it for most of this year using some very powerful technology, and we can’t wait to release it to the masses as it’ll be a super powerful tool for accountants and companies everywhere.
E: Final thoughts?
J: This process This process of integrating with Xero and becoming a Xero partner has been interesting and one that we’re all incredibly excited to have gone through. Xero have been very helpful along the way; they provide guidelines and we tried to hit or surpass as many of them as possible.
We’ll continue to do this. As they release more features and roll out more products, we want to follow suit and build additional functionality to match so that we support more of their products. It’s not our intention to build an integration once and then never touch it.
People expect that once you support Xero, that’s it, you’re done, which sadly could not be further from the truth. There are so many different levels of functionality and our aim is to bring our customers, and the Xero community, the highest levels of functionality.
And as excited as we are with the whole host of features in our integration with Xero, as a starting point, it’s really a matter of what our customers tell us. Our customers are the ones who drive our development and help us prioritise our focus. New customers and Xerocon attendees have a unique opportunity to help shape our class-leading expense solution.
Expend proudly offers a real-time integration with Xero. Come and see us at Xerocon, stand N8, near demo stage 1 and speak to Johnny, Alex or other members of the team. Want to book a time to chat with our team? You can do that too. here. Even if you’re not attending, get in touch and we’ll help you love expenses as much as we love Xero.
Don’t use Xero? Don’t worry, we love other accounting platforms too. Get in touch and tell us more about what you need.