Xero to the rescue

We’ve been using WorkflowMax for a week now and it’s all going pretty well. But last week we had a couple of minor ‘adjustment’ difficulties. The team at Xero came to the rescue that same day.

One of the things we love about our Xero/WorkflowMax experience so far is the enthusiasm of the Xero team to help and collaborate. They really seem to take the user experience seriously.

This is especially so in the way they that have responded to our questions. Maybe these issues are covered in the comprehensive help resources somewhere, or perhaps there’s a forum post about them. But we will also capture them here as we experience them.

So I want to go back to my Xero Hour post last week. It was actually more about our first week with WorkflowMax than Xero, but ‘WorkflowMax Hour’ didn’t have the same ring to it. We’re really excited about WFM and the way it can empower us to manage the practice better. But in the interests of being as transparent as possible, I mentioned a couple of things that we were still having a hard time adjusting to.

In what is now becoming pretty standard practice, the Xero guys responded that day with some tips to help us come to terms with those adjustments.

  1. It’s slow.” Response – use multiple tabs. This ‘problem’ mostly derives from the fact that WFM is web-based and that can make it a little slow to navigate around. The suggested solution is to have multiple tabs open in your browser, showing different tasks, or even multiple browser windows on different screens (we have 2 screens on every desktop). This works well, for example, when you need to set up a new job once you’ve already started entering time. What started out as a problem (being browser-based) actually has some benefits. Provided you keep track of what save state everything is in, being web-based allows you have any number of different components of the same application open at the same time. Note: Another suggestion to speed things up is to use Google Chrome as your browser. So far it seems to make a difference.
  2. Entering time should be tabular.” Response – we’ll look at it.  Maybe it’s just us, but our users have said managing time would be so much easier if you could enter and edit timesheet entries in a table, since having to do them individually and waiting for your browser to process and save each line is time consuming. We can see how the current process might be fine for those who only work on two or three jobs in a day. If your managers are like ours, you can multiply that number by 10 some days! Not quite, but you get what I mean. With lots of interruptions and working through issues with junior staff and having to respond to partner requests, etc. your timesheet soon bloats with lots of little entries, and these become cumbersome to manage. There isn’t a ‘solution’ to this since it’s just about style. But Xero’s first response was that they would talk to a developer about having a tabular option. From the way these products are developed and the speed at which updates are released, we have no doubt that they mean it. Whether it actually changes in the end isn’t as important as knowing that at least they’re listening.
  3. Job focus can make managing a day difficult.” Response – use a clearing job.  Again, an accountant’s day often can’t be divided up easily into ‘jobs’. This makes things difficult to manage, especially when you need to put down a little time for a regular client that isn’t really a job – something that’s more an ‘odd-job’. Xero suggested we should set up a generic ongoing job as a clearing account for all staff to temporarily get that time in and then have an admin person later set up the correct job and reallocate the time. We’ll have to try it to be sure but it seems like a workable solution to reduce the admin burden on accountants and allow them to get their time in faster.

You might also remember the little (read: huge) security issue we covered with the WFM login page. As yet no action on that but we’ve been assured by the Xero guys at least that now that WFM has come under their banner they’ll be making sure it’s addressed and fixed. We live in hope!

And ‘hope’ is a great word to finish on. To be honest, we’ve grown accustomed over the years to coexisting with our software vendor in a kind of symbiotic tolerance. Our enhancement requests would be ignored and in return our maintenance would only go up by twice CPI every year! But we weren’t going anywhere. Changing systems can seem as big as changing banks, and they know it. Even if you’re getting the worst deal possible, the thought of everything that needs to be done to switch to something which is not guaranteed to be better is so overwhelming that you reluctantly submit to any injustice just to get it out of your mind.

Our new software vendor seems dreamy. Do you think they feel the same way about us?

Then one day it just gets to the point where you’ll do anything to get away. It’s nice when that decision is actually rewarded. You find yourself wondering what you were so worried about and why it took you so long. It’s too early to say that Xero is everything we hoped for yet, but at the moment all signs point to yes. You’ll never find the perfect application. There are likely as many conceptions of that as there are businesses. But we can now testify that you can find a developer who will listen and engage and help you to get it as close as possible to what you want it to be. It feels great to be finally having a conversation, and that fills us with excitement at what might be possible.

Next time: subaccounts and the fear of flying.

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