Cloud payroll like iPhone to desktop accounting Nokia

For a three-person marketing company, adopting an online accounting platform has opened up a new world of connecting data and at-a-glance business intelligence.

Adam Wallace, digital marketing strategist with Brisbane, Australia marketing company Content First, took progressive steps when it came to moving to the cloud. Starting in 2012, Wallace moved his accounting system from the desktop version of MYOB to Saasu and then to Xero. Since then he's found the cloud is all about process integration and the potential for powerful business intelligence capabilities.

Adam Wallace,digital marketing strategist at Content First

When Wallace contacted service provider Anise Consulting for help moving to a new accounting platform, he wanted their recommendations for a solution with the ability to integrate with a wide range of applications, but he'd been waiting for one more piece to fall into place.

"Xero didn't support payroll when Content First started investigating online solutions so their options were limited," Wallace remembers. "Once the payroll feature arrived the decision to move to Xero was easy."

Many of the tools used by Content First, from phone systems to file storage, are now run online through web apps integrator Zapier which connects financials to other apps, future proofing business processes and allowing for even more integration.

"One integration we're trialing right now is pushing new invoices to a shared Google Calendar so the team can see front and center when invoices are due for specific clients," Wallace adds.

Xero offers Content First a host of solutions that make life easier, like smart bank feed rules, file attachments, exporting reports to Google Docs, a mobile app, and tracking key accounts on the dashboard, to name a few.

Wallace also says staff are discovering a lot more as they get better at integrating financials into core processes every day. When asked if the cloud has made managing his business easier, he states: "Thinking back to the days of battling with MYOB and file imports, Xero is like an iPhone compared to an old Nokia. It [MYOB] did the job but once you've experienced the ease of use Xero provides, you'd never go back."

The most obvious thing Wallace says a SMB must do to prepare for cloud computing is make sure you have the bandwidth. In Content First's case, he says a $119 router and $39 per month 4G mobile data USB device provided the required connectivity.

"One of the key benefits of cloud solutions is the ability to make applications 'talk' to each other," he says. "It can be challenging to predict the features you'll need down the track so to help safeguard your business, check you can connect with other apps to get the job done. A tool like Zapier lets you check whether an app is easy to connect with."