First up, what is an App Integrator I hear you ask? Well app integrator, cloud integrator; call us what you will; we are essentially part of the Advisor network to help Accounting & Bookkeeping Xero Partners, along with Xero-user businesses, get the most out of Apps in the Xero Ecosystem for their business. Readers may remember I previously wrote about our role in Issue 14 (March 2018) Value Added Cloud – Who needs a cloud integrator?
Essentially, we are technology specialists with the knowledge and experience to advise on the best Apps. So why do we need our own program? Well, the Accountants & Bookkeepers Advisor directory on the Xero website offers those who can help you with your Xero accounting & business advisory, however, it can be a little difficult to find our specialty, so having our own page so we can be found easily makes sense. But there is a little more to it than that. Enter Andy Muir, Xero Partnerships Manager – Business Platform (UK & EMEA):
The Xero Perspective
“Whilst the Xero App Integrator Program is primarily communicated to our partners, it’s also available for both existing and potential Xero users. The programme is suitable for small businesses, or accounting and bookkeeping firms, perhaps not currently using Xero but interested in moving away from legacy desktop software to a cloud solution like Xero.
A survey conducted last year, amongst Xero’s UK accounting and bookkeeping partner community, revealed that getting support with apps is their number one ask from clients. It also demonstrated they perceive adding value to their clients with apps as the second biggest revenue generating opportunity for their firm. When you compare these findings to some independent research we conducted last year (with 1.5k UK businesses), 56% of business owners told us they were willing to pay their advisors for the implementation of technology and apps. Another proof point that Xero partners want access to a curated group of experienced Xero App Integrators, enabling their firm to fully digitise. This allows them to not only offer clients their expertise in Xero, but provide the tech services we know businesses want.
Technology implementation, at times, requires a specialised set of skills such as scoping of requirements, mapping processes, tech implementation and ongoing evaluation and support. Not always easy when you’re running a business, so we feel very fortunate to have five App Integrators – LimeCloud, Bluehub, OutserveWeb, Maxama and Foxability – who have a proven track record of working with Xero partners and their clients to achieve this.”
After having a program in the Australian market, why now for the UK?
“Now feels like the right time to launch the Integrator Program for the UK market. We also have 700+ world class apps in our Ecosystem, meaning there’s a valuable app for every single one of our 1.6M users around the world.
The reality is that business owners want to concentrate on running and growing their business. However, as they become more tech savvy they’re seeking guidance from a trusted advisor, such as their accountant, on how they can adopt cloud solutions to more effectively trade, improve growth, save time, improve cash flow.
The recent launch of Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT – an HMRC initiative designed to make sure the UK tax system is effective, efficient and easier for taxpayers – has naturally resulted in firms using cloud accounting tools like Xero with apps to digitise various workflows. This, in turn, has enabled Xero’s accounting and bookkeeping partners to feel more confident using business apps. As their small business clients are increasingly requesting support with technology, there’s a desire to either make recommendations themselves, or for those more complex needs, work with a specialist app integrator to provide the full project implementation work.”
How has it been received since the soft launch at the Kick Off event for App Partners at the end of March?
“The feedback so far has been really positive.
Within two weeks of going live, we had thousands of visits to the Integrator programme webpage, and our integrators have received a flurry of direct enquiries from both small businesses and accountants looking for support with various app projects. We also have some accounting and bookkeeping partners beginning to offer a ‘accounting + tech’ service proposition to their clients and prospects. This really excites us. But it’s certainly early days for the programme, so we’ll continue to review where we’re adding value and iterating it over the coming months. Watch this space!”
What can Xero users get from App Integrators, that isn’t available online already?
“We’ve got educational assets, like our app playbook series (which has been incredibly popular), an improved online marketplace and a personalised in-app marketplace experience, along with the customer support Xero provides across its partner and customer-facing teams. But it’s worth noting that there will always be businesses and accounting and bookkeeping firms with more complex requirements, where a specialist will be required to implement a range of technology solutions. This is where our expert App Integrators can really add value.”
From this, it’s clear Xero are committed to supporting all their Advisors to enable small businesses to get the most from their Apps, but what do the App Partners think of the program?
The App Partner Perspective
Xero’s research last year confirmed businesses with Apps connected to their Xero, grow on average 30% more than those without, demonstrating Apps have a big part to play in cloud solutions.
GoCardless are a direct debit payment platform, one of a suite of finance tools essential for managing a business. They attended the Kick Off event in March and could see the benefit of the Integrator program straight away.
“We know that technology solutions can supercharge a business, but too many SMBs and accountants have been locked out of app based solutions – often simply through lack of expertise.” says Head of SMB Partnerships, Rachel Astall, “The launch of the App Integrator Program is fantastic news for SMBs and accountants who are looking to improve their business with technology. And with the endemic culture of late payment in the UK driven by 52% of businesses still being paid by manual bank transfer, the Integrators play a crucial part in improving cashflow for SMBs across the country by implementing best in class payment solutions.”
For manufacturers, wholesalers & distributors and both on- and off-line retailers, Unleashed Software offer inventory management that integrates with your sales platform and Xero and more. They understand the benefit correctly implemented productivity apps can have on a business and are hugely supportive of the Integrator program;
“As we all know, products that are poorly implemented, are often perceived as a less valuable and your client’s business value isn’t maximised. So as such, we’re very excited about this program,” said Lisa Miles-Heal, General Manager and CTO of Unleashed.
“For us, the scale and extent of business transformation that is possible by using productivity apps like Unleashed can see a large business totally transform the way they drive profit, if the solution is implemented with a full understanding of the business processes. We also see the level of user adoption and user knowledge so much higher in a business that’s used a reputable implementation partner.”
An Accounting Partner view
So how do Accountants & Bookkeepers see it working? We spoke with Jonathan Bareham, Director & Co-Founder of Raedan, based in Covent Garden and specialising in creatives; from agencies, to media & arts, technology and e-commerce clients. As Jonathan has a degree in both computing and accountancy, his was an interesting perspective:
“We’ve been on the Xero journey for over 9 years now and would consider ourselves pretty advanced, given my training. When we started, there were far fewer apps in the Ecosystem and we chose the apps that fitted our business at the time. Over the years we’ve become fairly embedded with them, so it is a simple choice for us when new clients come on board as we have a standard App Stack of Xero, ReceiptBank & Fluidly.
There are a few Apps that we are comfortable using, such as payment services, CRM and some custom Zaps, so I would say out of the 750+ Apps, we are probably across less than 10% of them in detail.
With so many Apps that now integrate with Xero it is far more confusing, especially for new Xero Partners coming on board. The App Integrator Program is a really interesting proposition, as a resource we can access the specialist App knowledge and an impartial network to call upon for more complex integrations, without fear of being sold just on the basis of a feature list. It also helps that none are accountants, which removes any concern over competition. Having user knowledge and experience of an app which goes beyond just a feature list is key, especially with the rate of change & updates that happen in the cloud space.
We look forward to seeing the App Integrators being a bigger part of the trusted Advisor network around the Xero Ecosystem.”
The Small Business Perspective
So what does it all mean for business users of Xero? Well, as Andy says, they can access the Integrator program directly too, taking advantage of the specialist skills on offer. We discussed how this might impact small business with Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation and passionate advocate for small business across the UK.
“We have seen over the past decade that small businesses who take advice and embrace digital tools grow better and faster than those who don’t.” enthuses Emma, “Companies can produce and sell more, manage finances, and have a motivated and well-informed workforce through using solutions such as Xero and its ecosystem of apps. With over 5 million small businesses operating in the UK, if each business grew turnover by just 10%, imagine the combined contribution this makes to the national economy. At this interesting political time, it’s more important than ever that small businesses are supported to drive growth in the UK; to understand the tools and solutions that best suit their business, and to be connected to the peers and experts, through initiatives such as the Xero App Integrator Program, who can help make it happen.”
LimeCloud were pleased to have been invited to become part of the program, after working with Xero for about 6 months prior to launch going through due diligence to become trusted App Integrators and helping shape the program along with our four counterparts, we are really excited to see it now live and look forward to seeing it develop.
So, talk to your App Integrators; as technology partners, we bring the craftsmanship, skill and yes, art to our discipline through our extensive field of study; in short, the physical manifestation of our skills. And we are ready to help you!