I’ve never been very good at staying on top of my accounts (invoicing, chasing, reconciling etc) so my accountant suggested I checkout some software some of his clients have started using: http://www.xero.com/

I was almost instantly sold. My previous system was a custom microsoft access solution I built myself. It works well and is infinitely customisable but requires quite a lot of "data entry" and was a bit too "manual".

I managed migrate my accounts (with a little help from my accountants) in about half a day. This included:

  • Outstanding invoices from the previous financial year: These were easy to import (I’m not sure if it’s possible to import multi-line invoices but I decided it would be fine to just mport 1 line for total invoice amount labelled "imported invoice")
  • All invoices from this financial year (which started in February)
  • Bank & Credit Card transactions: I was able to setup a feed for both accounts but the automatic feed was only able to retrieve a few months worth of transactions so I had to create an extract and import a few months myself (again, very straight forward)
  • Clients: Imported easily, although i’m a bit unsure about the lack of a "key" to link them to invoices etc (I don’t think it matters, I’m just not used to it)
  • Custom docx invoice template: This was without a doubt the hardest part. I had to use trial and error as the "merged invoice pdf" didn’t look like my docx template. I also had to change font face and drop a few merge fields from my previous access template (I have raised a support ticket to see if I can improve on this)

I think I still have a few questions I may raise with Xero support:

  • How often are feeds checked/refreshed?
  • Is it possible to automatically create accounts payable entries for purchases rather than posting directly to expenses? (to allow reporting on purchases from same supplier for example? Is this good/bad practice?)
  • Is it possible to report across accounts (all expense accounts for example?)

I’m sure I’ll answer some of my own questions, as well as come up with more as I become more familiar with the system.

So far i’d say my favourite features are:

  • Automatic Bank / Credit Card feeds (no more "manual" data-entry / reconciliation. My accounts will always be up to date!)
  • Easy chasing of overdue invoices (this directly links with the automatic feeds- without these I previously never knew what invoices had been paid)
  • Easy VAT returns (including the flat rate scheme for which I’m currently registered). Although it doesn’t look like it’s picked up a purchase I made for £2,000 which should be eligible?
  • Easy access (web based with a handy iPhone app)
  • Easy support (you can give your account/staff access to help)

I’m using the middle tier subscription at £19/month with all features with the exception of multi-currency accounting. This cost will easily be recouped by the time the software will save me!

I’m looking forward to not having anything to do at the end of this financial year (unlike every other year where I’ve suddenly found myself having to reconcile 12 months worth of accounts, chase 12 months worth of overdue invoices, dig out 12 months worth of purchase invoices and a variety of other mundane jobs).

I need to have a bit of a read on http://www.xerousers.com/ and see if I can find even more efficiency gains and learn a bit from the community.