There is no doubt we are facing big challenges due to COVID-19 so I hope you, and those you care about, are safe, healthy, and doing as well as you can at this difficult time.
The environment has evolved quickly over the past couple of months and is being felt in every aspect of our lives. This is particularly the case for you, our small business customers, bookkeepers, accountants and ecosystem partners, who are facing significant pressure to adapt the way you operate.
In addition to making sure our people are safe and effectively working from home, our focus continues to be on maintaining the quality and continuity of our cloud-based products and services so you have access to your data anytime on any device.
We have quickly shifted our priorities and implemented several initiatives and changes in the way we deliver information, product features and capabilities on the Xero platform to help. We created a dedicated Business Continuity Hub, bringing together crucial information from governments around business stimulus packages in many of the regions we operate. We also assembled a dedicated 24/7 Customer Response Team, available through Xero Central, to provide guidance on government support packages and Xero subscription options.
Xero has become a trusted source of advice and insights for the government and remains a key advocate for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. We have also committed to paying our small business suppliers within ten days, because we know how important cash flow is to many right now.
Behind the scenes, our teams are building and delivering the products and features that help small businesses and advisors with their immediate needs. You can take a closer look at the work underway on the next page.
With current restrictions on travel and large-scale in-person events, we recently made the tough decision to cancel our annual Xerocon event, planned for September in Sydney. While we are all disappointed not to be coming together this year, we’ll be back in person in Sydney in 2021 and are planning on bringing you news and product updates in new and innovative ways throughout the year.
I’m proud of the effort that Xero people have made over these past few months, working around the clock to help our customers and partners. I am also very appreciative of the broader Xero community that inspires us with their resilience and determination to respond and get through these challenging times.
I’m looking forward to meeting and speaking with many of you again in person in the near future.
Steve Vamos, May 2020
New ways to show business owners and advisors the way forward
Cash flow is always important, especially so for small businesses who may not know when their next invoice will be paid. To help, we accelerated the development and global availability of several tools and pilots that do just that.
We first announced the Business Snapshot pilot at Xerocon London last year and are now making the pilot available for free to Xero Business Edition customers until August. The pilot tool provides a visual dashboard of key financial metrics including profit and loss, revenue, expenses and cash balances, so advisors can help their small business clients understand crucial health metrics quickly and discuss business performance, possible risks or opportunities. We are also accelerating availability of a Short-Term Cash Flow pilot tool, so businesses can project their bank balances 30 days ahead, showing the impact of existing bills and invoices if they’re paid on time.
Accountants and bookkeepers using Xero HQ can also quickly download a monthly revenue export of client organisations to get a high-level view of the health of their clients. The report shows year-on-year revenue changes, current cash balances and their primary banking relationships, giving advisors oversight on which clients are impacted most, potential eligibility for banking support packages.
Making government stimulus and support measures easier to adopt
Governments around the world are working hard to help support small businesses and their employees through stimulus and support packages. We have prioritised our work in tax and payroll in recent months to give eligible businesses the greatest chance of accessing these packages.
In Australia, we’ve made it easier for businesses to work out if they might be eligible for JobKeeper payments, by building a GST turnover calculator within Xero. For those who apply, and are accepted, Xero Payroll now helps businesses process JobKeeper payments made to employees by automatically creating a pay item so they can accurately report these payments to the ATO. We also provide a way to process the JobKeeper payment and report it to the ATO. Most of this happens seamlessly in the background when filing Single Touch Payroll obligations.
In the United Kingdom, we’ve streamlined the process for creating termination pay items, so businesses can easily pay and report on Class 1A National Insurance Contribution (NIC) on termination payments above £30,000 to HMRC.
We also added furlough leave in Xero Payroll so UK small businesses can more easily manage and report information about employees who have been furloughed. This makes it easier for businesses to apply for 80% of an employees’ regular earnings, with flexibility to record furlough periods as and when they occur.
In other regions, we have added in-app prompts and reminders for customers about available stimulus measures in their country, and have of course ensured all relevant information is available in our Business Continuity Hub.
Invoicing made easier for Australia, New Zealand and the UK
This month we became the first major provider of small-business accounting software to offer e-invoicing (see Fig. 3) in Australia and New Zealand, with more advanced functionality being added over time. Rather than manually creating and sending invoices, this means small businesses in those countries can now send electronic invoices to participating businesses and it will arrive in their accounting system as a pre-populated bill.
From this month, Australian and New Zealand businesses who work with participating government agencies will be able to send e-invoices to them. Participating Australian government agencies have committed to paying e-invoice sent by small businesses in as little as five days. The New Zealand Government is also using e-invoicing as a core part of its pledge to pay 95% of domestic invoices within 10 days.
E-invoicing is starting to gain traction around the world as a way to reduce errors, speed up payment times, and streamline account receivable. We are working with governments, international standards bodies and organisations around the world to increase e-invoicing capabilities and can’t wait to bring more functionality to the platform.
For UK small businesses, we launched Pay with TransferWise, a new solution that helps businesses pay and manage multiple bills quickly. It means businesses can pay all their bills through Xero regardless of which bank they use, and reconcile transactions easily. This removes the hassle and time spent dealing with batch payment files, or checking the status of individual payments in an account.
And UK small businesses in the construction industry can now deduct Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) payments automatically from invoices on the Xero mobile app, so contractors know exactly what to pay.
ShipIt initiative brings more to the fold
Xero employees across the company have been itching to help out wherever they can to support our customers during this time, from improving platform features to creating support resources. We launched the internal ShipIt challenge in April to give product teams not directly involved in immediate feature enhancements a way to contribute to the cause.
Over the course of a month, product teams around Xero came together to brainstorm and develop new features and capabilities designed to help small businesses and advisors focusing on business continuity. Working in close collaboration with Xero executives, the ShipIt teams looked at customer feedback data to determine new ways to help, and quickly settled on seven distinct product enhancements.
These included the COVID-19 Support page now available in Xero HQ, a new way to find duplicate bank transactions in Xero, enhancements to extend course deadlines in Xero Learn, and a platform to help connect small businesses to an accountant or bookkeeper and help them through these situations. These improvements and initiatives are being rolled out in the coming weeks and form part of our broader effort to prioritise everything we do at Xero on those in need.