I was first introduced to Xero in 2015, shortly prior to officially creating Maze Digital, by a consultancy firm who was looking to use a Xero integration as a way to wiggle-out of a previous commitment of providing an ‘invoicing’ software to an Accounting Firm.
By that point, I had already worked with numerous APIs, from the Googles, Facebooks and Twitters into some more proprietary APIs to build client portals of Asset Management firms. Hence working with a new API was to me nothing novel.
I’d dare say that back then, the cloud was much frowned upon in Malta. People wanted to purchase and own the software because that’s what they were used to. Fast forward a year from that date and I was approached by a Xero Partner, or rather, what today we call an integrator, who had worked with the accounting firm we had done a Xero integration for.
His ask was interesting. He had approached the biggest payroll players in the Maltese market and asked if they could help him by integrating with Xero. That would have allowed him and other Xero partners to provide a seamless product that incorporates payroll. Given that some of these players also had their own desktop-based accounting software, all he got was a resounding “No”.
Going back from these meetings, David Seisun, now CEO of Buddy, told himself, “No Xero Integration? No Problem. We will build our own Payroll Software.”
On the back of that very meeting, David reached out to the accounting partner in order to set up the first conversation, explain the challenge that was being faced by offering an incomplete solution and take it forward from there. Furthermore, he emphasised on the fact that Xero, being an international player, was also incomplete in markets where payroll was not yet available as an integrated option. Hence, any solution provided would need to be able to scale into other jurisdictions.
The making of
Initial market research indicated that most people were scared of payroll. Even the best local solution was a scary matter for business owners and bureaus who did not have significant experience working payroll. Payroll, at least in Malta, had become very much its own beast.
Our team set out to make payroll friendly and simple again, taking away the scary stigma it had gathered. Additionally eliminating the stumbling blocks which were causing many business owners and accounting firms to prefer excel based solutions, against a more comprehensive software.
Fast Forward to December 2017 and Buddy – the revolutionary payroll companion was born and available to start helping the very first Xero customers to get their payroll done and pushed into Xero, using an un-official and public version of their API.
As much as Buddy was not the first SaaS application that our team at Maze Digital had built, we equally had much to learn from user feedback. Working closely with our partners at Buddy, and their clientele we listened to suggestions that were put forward. From what they thought was great about the software, into what they found challenging or possibly sometimes lacking, in comparison to more established players.
Over an ensuing couple of years, we helped prioritise and build new features, from integrations with third-party apps such as Deputy for T&A to an all-new and modular reporting engine. Enabling Buddy to move from attracting the micro-businesses which wanted something simple and fast. Into being a solution which also caters for larger businesses and franchises that headcount in excess of 500 people.
Being flexible with Xero
I’d have to admit that the initial integration with Xero was fairly simple. Each employee would have an ‘invoice’ created in Xero. With the wages being debited, and a credit for the respective payroll taxes which are deducted from the salary. The time we took to understand how our beta users wanted to use the Xero integration was invaluable.
Today the integration is more robust, with data flowing and being linked across different points. From the option to post payments in bulk, so that a Xero authorised user cannot see the salaries of each employee, to the ability to link different allowances with different nominal codes, and departments with different tracking categories or nominal codes.
The depth of the integration now allows covering for more complex scenarios catering for a more diverse client base.
Having grown a solid client base back home, and the team happy that Buddy has stood its ground given its growth. The Buddy team started discussions about international expansion. Although a number of ideal jurisdictions came up, one or two stood out. Where Xero has laid eyes upon for further expansion, yet seemingly have no plans to offer payroll.
Equally keen to help expand our client’s and Xero’s coverage within new markets. We undertook the challenge and a soft-launch for this new jurisdiction is happening right during Xerocon London. I’m going to shy away from saying where this will be, as that’s not my story to tell. At least not yet – but if you’re curious enough we can give you a sneak peek on our stand.