​Xero partners with Microsoft to enable big data collection

Australian-listed Xero has announced an integration between its cloud accounting software and Microsoft Power BI to give small businesses a way to collect and collate big data.

Cloud accounting firm Xero has teamed up with Microsoft to provide an avenue for its customers to collect and collate its own big data across Xero's software and other integrated business applications, via Microsoft Power BI.

Xero said the integration will visualise data from 25 of the most commonly tracked small business metrics, including cash position, revenue versus expenses, profit loss trend, debtor days, and return on investment.

Additionally, the company said the platform will enable small businesses to analyse data with greater speed, efficiency, and understanding.

"Business tools today are smarter and more connected than ever and finally available to the small business sector," Xero CEO Rod Drury said. "The accounting industry runs on Microsoft Office and we're delighted to further integrate with Microsoft's Power BI to give our users easier ways to access and analyse information from Xero and other sources to make smart, informed decisions."

Xero said it is deeply invested in the potential of big data for small business, saying it understands that the true value of data lies in the ability to extract insights and the story it paints around the health of their business.

"Technology exists for us to transform and change what we can do," James Phillips, Microsoft corporate vice president and general manager of Microsoft's Business Applications, Platform and Intelligence organisation, said.

"Microsoft's integration work with Xero brings together each of our strengths in cloud, productivity, and business intelligence so our customers can more easily analyse and visualise their business data, share insights from anywhere within Office 365, and work with each other to get more done."

Available in March, Microsoft Power BI will be accessed via the financial system of record in Xero and integrated with data from other advanced inventory systems.

At the start of the year, Xero announced it appointed Trent Innes to its Australian managing director role, following the resignation of Chris Ridd, who is expected to step down at the end of March but will remain as an adviser for the next 12 months.

For the three months ending December 31, 2015, Xero reported a negative net operating cash flow of NZ$6.5 million.

At the time, Xero said the result was reflective of cash it spent on operating and investing activities, including staff costs, advertising and marketing, and other working capital.

Also on Wednesday, rival accounting firm MYOB announced a partnership with American Express that will see an extension in the number of bank feeds available for small businesses and partners using MYOB.

As the first accounting software firm in Australia to receive bank feeds directly from American Express, MYOB partners and clients who transact with American Express using a proprietary personal or small business card will see their transactions directly fed into MYOB's cloud accounting software as well as BankLink Practice.

"We are really excited to partner with MYOB on this front," Martin Seward, vice president of American Express Small Business Services, said.

"They have a great track record of providing quality bank feeds that businesses and accountants can rely on and like us, they are constantly looking for ways to innovate to make life easier for small businesses.

"Most importantly the integration means that our customers will be able to have their transactions delivered automatically into their accounting software, saving them significant time."

Last week, MYOB announced plans to merge its three core business components -- transaction processing, compliance, and advisory -- together onto a single platform, in a vision it has dubbed the "Connected Practice" in a bid to break down existing silos.

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