Xero targets big data for small businesses

SaaS accounting software company Xero has unveiled a benchmarking dashboard created from its customer transaction data.

Cloud accounting software company Xero unveiled a slew of upgrades on Thursday at its Xerocon conference in Auckland, but said its major strategic focus is to begin delivering big data through a new business performance dashboard.

Xero chief technology officer Craig Walker demonstrated the new dashboard, showing an array of benchmarking metrics generated from anonymised transaction data within the Xero ecosystem.

Once they are live in the next few weeks, the dashboards on display will include key business performance indicators such as accounts receivable days, debt to equity ratio, return on investment, current ratio, and return on capital employed.

Xero CEO Rod Drury addresses Xerocon

Walker said that underneath Xero's transaction engine now lies an analytical engine generating the metrics.

The dashboard allows users to favourite a metric for it to appear on their home dashboard when they log in. Users can also drill down into the KPIs to see their deeper workings and what exactly is generating the numbers.

They can also press an "ask my advisor" button to generate a query with their accountant for any items of concern. The business performance dashboard is also integrated with Microsoft's Office suite.

Earlier, chief executive Rod Drury said Xero is targeting "rapid platform development beyond accounting". He spoke of a "financial web" allowing direct connections not just between accountants and small businesses, but also between small businesses and their banks and large enterprise customers.

Such connections, which he described as "EDI at scale", could deliver large cost savings for enterprises and improved customer relationships.

Xero's home, New Zealand, was a perfect test lab for the developments, Drury said, because over 20 percent of small businesses use Xero and it has an advanced banking system that will allow direct, secure connections in real time.

It could become the "poster child" for electronic business and business to government connectivity, he said.

For that cause, Xero and payments industry company Paymark announced that they were teaming up to eliminate paper receipts in New Zealand. The Paymark EFTPOS network processes more than 75 percent of all electronic transactions in the New Zealand retail market.

Xero and Paymark have been working on mechanisms to allow e-receipts to flow directly into the accounting software, and expect to launch during 2015.

"Wouldn't it be great if, as you leave a taxi, you could simply wave your bank card or phone over the EFTPOS terminal to complete the transaction, and leave knowing that your eReceipt is instantly expensed in Xero?" Paymark CEO Mark Rushworth said.