How to Implement an Integrated Xero Ecosystem Successfully?
With over 1 million users, Xero has rapidly become the software of choice for many entrepreneurs. One of the drivers of its success is its extensive market place. Boasting over 500 third party software products known as “apps”, entrepreneurs can harness the power of a traditional, bespoke ERP at a fraction of the cost.
Whether operating a retail outlet, a café, an e-commerce site or running the subsidiary of an MNC, there are best in class apps available that can be seamlessly integrated with Xero to help you manage, automate and optimize every aspect of your business.
So how can you successfully implement an integrated Xero ecosystem?
1. Evaluate how easy it will be to migrate from your current system
When considering a move to the Xero ecosystem, you need to consider what data you can extract and export from your current system. Moreover, you also need to consider in what format the data can be exported.
Ideally, if you can extract your data in CSV. or Microsoft Excel formats, this will greatly increase the speed at which you can migrate your data. In addition, if you can extract your data as line items, you will not only be able to have all your carry forward balances in your new software but may also be able to import some historical data.
2. Analyse your current process workflows
Before selecting your software, it is important to take a step back and analyse your workflow step-by-step. A simple example would be Purchase Order (PO) processing:
Most teams will capture the above, which is a common scenario. However, they may often forget to map out the exceptions such as the one seen below.
Some software might not allow all your current processes to continue. In such circumstances, either a business process will have to be changed, or if deemed critical, an alternative app might be required (not all apps allow a rejected PO to be resubmitted). Questions like “are users able to close the PO or partially bill the PO” should also be considered. This would bring me to my next tip.
3. Create a list of all your needs and wants
It is important to clearly define your needs and wants for your new Xero ecosystem. The more that is expected, the more customization the various apps chosen will need to have. In general, software is developed to fulfill the needs of the majority; it is not just catered to the needs of one business. Therefore, there will likely be some compromises. To ease the change and to maximise the success of the project, it is best to fully understand the business requirements upfront, research on the best apps to meet those needs and identify where compromises will be required and whether they are acceptable.
Some of the questions you may consider are as follows:
- Who are the stakeholders for such a project?
- Who will challenge the stakeholders’ requirements to ensure that they don’t just blindly copy and paste?
- Who will ensure that the focus would be on the "needs" instead of "wants"?
- What are the important data that must be captured by the software?
- What type of reports can be generated?
- Is the software able to slice and dice the data in the way you require? If not, are you able to easily export the data in a format in which you can customize for reporting or analysis?
- If there are compromises being made, how will these be communicated to manage expectations early in the project?
4. Test the functionality of the apps
There is nothing like some hands-on testing to ensure that your chosen apps can deliver what you need. Almost all apps allow for a limited period free trial. You should take advantage of these to test the apps for yourself. It’s also advisable to consider the ratings and read the reviews of other users. You can check out some of the apps we recommend for a Xero ecosystem here.
Some factors you might consider when evaluating an app are:
- What functions or processes are you looking to improve? (E.g. Inventory, PO management, Automation, CRM, POS, Time management, Invoice OCR, Approval management, AP management, etc.)
- Does the app have user-friendly interface and a good user experience?
- Are you able to segregate user roles and hide sensitive information for different users/departments?
- How it’s priced – per user, per entity?
5. Regular engagement with your key users throughout the implementation
Even with the best plans, new questions and issues will arise as you go through the implementation. To maximise the buy-in for the project, it’s important to on-board key stakeholders in the project throughout its duration. Have regular meetings to make decisions and communicate progress. Engaging users in app testing will also support the level of engagement and support for the project.
6. Consider working with a Xero integration partner
Depending upon your internal capabilities and time constraints, you may wish to appoint a Cloud integrations partner to select the most suitable apps and to manage the creation, testing and successful transition to your Xero ecosystem.
The Cloud integrations partner will also work with you to ensure that no data is lost in the transition process and will remain on hand to answer your queries throughout the transition and in the weeks to follow.