The Support Dashboard

As our customer base as grown substantially this year, and continues to do so every month, so does the demand on our support team.

I needed a way to be able to closely monitor the current state of support without having to continuously log in to the support system.

So what we came up with is the Support Dashboard. This is displayed on a big LCD screen perched on top of a filing cabinet thats visible from everywhere in the office. Visitors to the office always comment on it.

support-dashboard

A green light means all is well.
An amber light means someone has been waiting for a reply to their support ticket for more than 30 minutes.
A red light means someone has been waiting more than an hour if it ever goes red then its all hands on deck until its green again.

As you can see in the photo, itscurrentlygreen. But when it goes amber or red it lists the ticket subject line, how long the customer has been waiting and who (if anyone) the ticket is assigned to.

For those that care about these things the support ticket system is eSupport from Kayako and the dashboard was magicd up by Tim using SQL Server Reporting Services. The choice of the Comic Sans font was also Tims. So please aim flames in his direction, not mine.

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This entry was posted
on Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 at 11:24 am and is filed under Technology.
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Team Photo

I needed some head shots done of a couple of my co-directors to go on OrbitAccounts.com, a new product we launched yesterday.

It was one of those rare occasions when we actually had everyone in the office, so took the opportunity for a group photo (click for larger version).

team

L-R we have:
Shelley Sales
Sandile Lead Developer
Graham Account Manager
Dominique ber PA / General Manager
Les Sales
Efe Support
Kunal Sales
John Support Manager
Me The Boss
Tim Second Line Support and IT Manager
Mandeep Sales
Simone Exec PA andReceptionist
Big Tim CTO
Michelle – Sales Director
Shah Sales
Sam Sales

The photo was taken by Amanda Eatwell of AJE Photography. If you ever need any sort f photogrpahy work, shes the girl to go to. Very professional, very capable and not over price.

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This entry was posted
on Thursday, September 16th, 2010 at 1:51 pm and is filed under Uncategorized.
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Xero iPhone & iPad icons

Xero iPhone iPad icons

Just wanted to let iPhone and iPad users know that weve just uploaded icons into the Xero application and Help Center so that you have handy one-touch access to these sites from your home screen.

They look pretty snazzy on my iPhone, and obviously Im rather partial to the Help Center one!

Note these are shortcut icons that display if you log into Xero (go.xero.com) or the mobile version of Xero (m.xero.com) or go to Help Center (help.xero.com) and choose Add to Home Screen from your devices browser.

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Philip Fierlinger, Xero Yammer (2:44)

UK Bank Feeds – a new way of working

UK Bank Feeds a new way of working

Henry Ford, the pioneer of what we recognise today as Lean Manufacturing, introduced a revolution centred around the elimination of wasteful processes more than a century ago. In his autobiography he explained the essence of it as:

I believe that the average farmer puts to a really useful purpose only about 5% of the energy he expends. Not only is everything done by hand, but seldom is a thought given to a logical arrangementhis whole idea, when there is extra work to do, is to hire extra men. He thinks of putting money into improvements as an expense. It is waste motion waste effort that makes farm prices high and profits low.

While I wouldnt suggest that Fords farmer is perhaps the best proxy for accounting, take a moment to look around your desk and office. Aside from the odd PC, Id bet that paper still rules the roost. But more than that, repetitive paper based processes and workflows still dominate the world of accounting and bookkeeping.

We love a challenge

So, in a few weeks well be rolling a new capability to our UK customers which securely imports daily banking transactions straight into Xero. While weve had this running for over twelve months for the hundreds of Xero UK customers who bank with HSBC, the UK bank feeds release will enable this ability for most UK banks, credit cards and financial institutions. Around eighty new UK feeds will be added all told.


So, why is this such a big deal for small businesses?

Cash is king. Providing the capability to check your live bank balance and cash transactions from within Xero not only means theres one less website to visit every morning, it also means that cash based businesses have a fully automated mechanism for loading, analysing and reconciling their cash. Instead of sitting down once a fortnight if youre lucky with a paper bank statment and then repeatedly manually keying, matching, marking and reconciling payments and invoices for each statement line, Xero will will enable you to do a bank rec in minutes every day. Not only do you save time but, critically, you get the benefit of complete, up-to-date visibility of cash.

So, why is this such a big deal for accountants?

Eliminating the need for accounts staff to manually capture, key and reconcile their clients accounts not only benefits the clients, but the internal practice efficiencies are multiplied many times over.

Is bank feed data capture a silver bullet, should all my data now come in from my bank statement?

No. While every business will benefit from automated bank feeds, it stands that the more cash based your business is the more you will benefit. But we believe that loading and coding with automated bank feeds, coupled with the full accrual accounting capabilities already present within Xero, will eliminate huge amounts of wasteful re-keying of cash movements, as well as providing hyper realtime management reporting that is sourced from the real, current cash position not what it was weeks ago when you last did a full bank rec could be transformational for many small businesses.

We are really excited about finally bringing this service comprehensively to the UK market, stay tuned for more insight as we get closer to launch.

Remove that Twitter badge from your website – Now!

I got asked last week why we dont have a Twitter badge on our website. I think the asker assumed it was an oversight.

It isnt.

As Ive written before, the purpose of the KashFlow website is to get potential customers to register to take a no-obligation, 60-day free trial of our accounting software.

So anything that distracts from this end goal, or doesnt move a website visitor towards it, is a Bad Thing.

Put another way, the website is a funnel, with the bottom of that funnel being the free-trial sign-up page.

Putting a badge on the website saying Follow us on Twitter would effectively be like getting a drill and putting a big hole in the side of the funnel for visitors to escape and maybe never return.

dj_tweetssa_tweet

My turn to make some assumptions. I assume s/he is talking about Twitter being a method of getting people to your site to buy your wares.

Yes, it is but why take someone from being on your site to another location in the hope of getting them back to your site???

brays_tweet

That argument has some merit. We do have a good community around KashFlow, and following us on Twitter is a way to be a part of that which is why we have a Twitter badge on our log out page.

But getting new trialists is ahigherpriority than getting newfollowers. Or to put it another way:

jw_tweet
So do you have a Twitter badge on your site? Are you losing sales because of it?

Semi-related post: Four Things You Probably Didnt Know About Twitter.

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This entry was posted
on Monday, September 20th, 2010 at 3:51 pm and is filed under Marketing.
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Your Vanity is Devaluing LinkedIn

vainI use Twitter every day. Anyone can follow me, and Ill follow anyone who looks interesting.

Facebook I use much less frequently and dont have (or want) many friends on there. Its more personal/family related, although I do have KashFlow RSS feeds plugged into it.

My problem is with LinkedIn. I find it a very useful network, but Iregularlyget connection requests from people I have very tenuous connections with or have never heard of:

– Twitter followers I have no interaction with, or just banter with
– KashFlow customers Ive never dealt with myself (theres nearly 10,000 of you now!)
– People I exchanged a few inconsequential words with at some event or another

You get the picture.

Ideally Id only connect on LinkedIn with people I know, worked with, done business with or would at least recognise if I bumped into them somewhere.

Theres two reasons I dont want to add other people.

Firstly, if they ask to be introduced to a genuine connection of mine, I cant tell the recipient of the intro anything at all about the requester. And if the requester turns out to be a muppet then it reflects badly on me.

Secondly is the same thing but in reverse. A genuine connection may see Im connected to John Random and want an intro. An intro via me to John Random isnt going to carry much weight as John hardly knows me Im just one of his 500+ connections. So again, a poor quality intro that John Random may not follow up reflects badly on me.

Adding tenuous connections seriously undermines LinkedIns usefulness.

I think its the whole race to get a high friend count that makes people want to add as many people as possible.

Am I missing something?
Do you have 500+ LinkedIn connections, most of whom you dont know from Adam? Why?
Would we all be better off without a published friend count, or is that an essential ingredient?

I am willing to have my mind changed on this, just as it was on the topic of Twitter badges

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This entry was posted
on Friday, September 24th, 2010 at 11:33 am and is filed under Ramblings.
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Mumpreneur – a good or a bad word to be using?

Theres a debate raging on Twitter now over the use of the word Mumpreneur as a name for a mother thats an entrepreneur

It started with a conversation between @EtcEtcOnline (Darren Leighfield) and @KellyCairns

Darren says its a ridiculous label and would put people off using the services of someone calling themselves a mumpreneur
Kelly disagrees, and lots of others agree with her arguments include the fact that it helps mumpreneurs identify each other.

I really cant decide what side of the argument I agree with.

Use the comments box below to share your thoughts, or tweet with the tag #mumpreneur

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on Thursday, September 30th, 2010 at 12:43 pm and is filed under Ramblings.
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Peter Thiel to Invest in Xero

Peter Thiel to Invest in Xero

Part of our US strategy is to work with the best people in the Industry. Over the last few months weve had the opportunity to connect with some of our heroes a group of people that we believe are the global leaders in Internet. Were really proud that they are enthusiastic about our business, understand what were doing and that they want to help us.

Today we have a big announcement

US Technology Guru Peter Thiel to Invest in Xero

Leading online accounting software provider Xero Limited [NZE:XRO] today announced that Peter Thiel, the San Francisco based investor and Silicon Valley authority, has agreed to invest NZ$4 million to support Xeros expansion into the US market. He will also join Xeros US Advisory Board.

Mr Thiel co-founded and led PayPal, the online payments company, which was acquired in 2002 by eBay for US$1.5 billion. He was also the first external investor in Facebook, and serves on its board. He is currently President of Clarium, a San Francisco based global macro fund manager.

The investment in Xero will be made through Valar Ventures LP, Mr Thiels New Zealand investment firm. Valar Ventures focuses on helping New Zealand companies in the post-revenue phase move into global markets. The Xero placement is the firms inaugural investment.

The capital raising, made via a placement, is expected to close next week and will be priced at NZ$1.4918 the volume-weighted average share price of Xero over the thirty trading days prior to 20 October 2010.

Millions of small and medium-sized businesses need an online accounting solution, especially in this time of increasing regulatory and tax complexity, said Peter Thiel. Xeros tight focus, robust product, and strong team should enable it to expand tremendously in the United States.

We are delighted to welcome Peter and his team at Valar Ventures as strategic investors in Xero, said Xero CEO Rod Drury. Access to their extensive networks will provide a major boost as we take on Quickbooks in the vast US small business market. We have taken a measured approach to our US market entry so far. With the support of Peter and his team, we believe we are now strongly positioned to enter the US and capitalise on the opportunity that this market represents.

Single Business Number

Single Business Number

In our home market of New Zealand weve been dialing up the awareness of a Single Business Number (SBN). An SBN is a public unique identifier for each small business.

Single ID number for firms

Australia already has a Single Business Number (called the Australian Business Number ABN) as does Canada, the US (Employer Identification Number EIN) and a number of other countries. Where a Single Business Number exists, these have normally been created by Government departments for the purpose of making it easier to collect information from small business.

In a cloud computing environment, a Single Business Number comes alive for the small business owner and is a key building block for a number of new services.

Possibilities

One of the key differences between cloud computing compared to desktop software is your data can be linked to other information. Take for example entering a new customer. You have to know their name and address and if they move you may not know for several months. In the cloud it would be great to be able to connect to that customer and have their latest address details load automatically into your system, and if these ever change, have them automatically updated.

If a new customer approaches you with a large order, wouldnt it be great to do an immediate credit check. If they come back with a less than clear bill of health then you still might do the business but insist on a cash payment up front. Both parties win.

Another example is sending electronic invoices. It seems crazy that a small business creates an invoice in its own accounting system with structured data, then flattens that data into a paper invoice, which is essentially a picture, and then the customer has to retype that invoice back into structured data in their accounting system. (Weve started on this at simpleubl.org)

Wouldnt it be useful to have as the last page of your monthly management accounts an anonymous benchmark of similar companies in your space. You can see how well you are doing against your competitors and peers. That 1% growth youre achieving might compare with an industry average of -2%, showing that your strategies are working and you are gaining market share in a tough market.

The Single Business Number is a key building block for all these scenarios.

What number?

So what could the Single Business Number be? In New Zealand its likely to be the GST (Goods and Services Tax) number as its already a number that each business uses to interact with our Inland Revenue Department. There may be a suffix or prefix to make it match other international numbers like the ABN. There is some Government policy work required to enable the GST Number to be used for this purpose.

But that may be a too literal interpretation of a Single Business Number. Another candidate identifier might be the physical address of head office. Essentially this is a physical key that already exists for many businesses and can be easily populated using a geo interface like Google Maps.

Another alternative is the Companies Office record. In New Zealand the Companies Office has recently implemented a new Companies Register which could generate a unique url for each business. (e.g. business.govt.nz/company/xero2006). The problem is the Companies Office does not have a register of sole traders and partnerships and is therefore missing the majority of small businesses. A policy option might be to allow sole traders to (initially at least) voluntarily register themselves to obtain a validated listing in the Companies Register. We believe that providing certainty over who you are trading with is an accelerator for most businesses.

Start the ball rolling

As anything involving Government can take a while, the industry can potentially just get started with some of these candidate keys and match them up later, but that is not as powerful as having certainty. We believe the traction cloud computing vendors are achieving creates the business case for businesses themselves to get interested in SBN. That leads to a massive opportunity for productivity gains and increased commerce for small businesses. We think thats important.

Let us know what you think. Were keen to understand if there is any resistance to SBN so we can talk through those issues.