Xero accounting adds purchase orders, plans payroll service

Fueled by $150 million in new funding intended for U.S. expansion, the company is using its cloud-centric approach to challenge market leader Intuit.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Upstart cloud accounting software vendor Xero has updated its service with several new features, including support for purchase orders. The developer is also showing off a payroll service that is "coming soon."

Here's what customers get right away:

  • A Files feature that lets small companies store financial-related documents including invoices, contracts or expensive reports within the Xero service. This allows them to be associated with relevant ledger entries or customers.
  • A Purchase Order function, which allows owners or managers to create customized bills that can be sent to suppliers. It is structured much like the existing Invoicing capabilities, and is managed through a specific dashboard.

The new features can all be accessed via the updated Xero mobile application (Xero Touch). 

Xero is also demonstrating a new payroll service that it says will support payroll calculations, including reporting for tax returns. The information can be synchronized with the accounting application, cutting back on the need for manual data entry. There's no official information on a release date.

In October, Xero launched a conversion service focused on migrating existing QuickBooks users over to its cloud service with fewer headaches.

The company is aggressively pursuing small-business owners who might be still using desktop or network versions of accounting software -- and in October 2013, it received $150 million in venture finance to help fund its U.S. expanion. Xero's approach (like the Intuit QuickBooks online offering) emphasizes the flexibility that the cloud provides, especially when it comes to accessing accounting information with a mobile device.

How's it doing so far? For the six months ended Sept. 30, 2013, Xero Ltd. reported approximately $2.8 million in revenue from the United States and all other markets outside New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. That represents an increase of 115 percent over the year-earlier period. 

In its commentary, the company notes:

In the past year, incumbent competitors have delivered competing online accounting products or major new versions. Xerox believes these offerings demonstrate how difficult it is to move from a desktop-centric approach to world-class online softwre.

Time will tell whether or not its confidence is justified. Xero paid plans start at $19 per month.

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