Artificial Intelligence comes to Accounting, Xerocon 2016

Artificial Intelligence comes to Accounting, Xerocon 2016

Artificial intelligence

Xero announces artificial intelligence helpers

The cloud accounting provider is set to launch AI tools that will reduce transaction coding, provide real-time contact information and offer business advice.

Xero co-founder Rod Drury has unveiled a major push into machine learning technology, including the release of a Facebook Messenger chatbot that will provide business advice.

During a keynote speech at the company’s Xerocon South conference in Brisbane today, Drury also announced the company will use machine learning technology to automate the process of coding invoice transactions.

Another new feature, called Live Contacts, will see businesses gain access to real-time customer and supplier information from public records, including details from Australia’s largest credit reporting agency, Veda.

The announcements come on top of a string of new features announced earlier during the conference, aimed both at small businesses and accountants, including BPay support and a major overhaul of My Xero called Xero HQ.

Hey Xero

A major upcoming feature Xero unveiled during the keynote was a Siri-style artificial intelligence service called Hey Xero, which is currently being developed by the company.

The feature will be able to quickly answer questions for business owners based on their Xero accounts, including account balances and which customers currently owe money.

It will also be able to find apps and extensions in the Xero marketplace that can solve a particular business problem, or find accountants listed in the soon-to-launch Xero HQ directory.

While it will initially be available from within Facebook Messenger, the service will also be made available in other platforms, including Slack and Apple iOS.

For accountants and business advisors, Drury suggested the chatbots could be integrated into the websites of Xero partners.

“As we started playing with chat, we realised it was about much more than just talking to Xero,” Drury said.

“We found it was an interesting tool for talking to the entire ecosystem of Xero, including [accounting services]. It’s about talking to [our customer experience team] and getting support.”

Xero has not revealed a release date for the new feature at this stage.

Reduced transaction coding

The second big announcement by Drury in his keynote is that Xero is set to begin using both Amazon and open source machine learning tools to reduce and eventually eliminate the amount of transaction coding businesses need to do.

“What machine learning and AI gives us is things like intent, the ability to look at large data sets to identify patterns, and when you fix things up, it even learns more,” Drury said.

“When the rubber meets the road on something like invoicing, when you type things in, we can figure out how that’s going to be coded.”

The change will mean that transaction codes in invoicing will be hidden from small business owners. Accountants will still be able to see the chart of accounts, and be able to make changes on client accounts using the find and recode feature.

“In the next version of invoicing – we’re doing a lot of A/B testing on this and this comes out shortly – we’re going to start dropping the chart of accounts,” Drury said.

“It’s still there, but we think the machine can do it better than small business owners, and accounts will be able to fix things using [the] find and recode

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    “[Accountants] can do that because they’re trained professionals, but small businesses don’t need to do that – they just need to run their business.”

    Machine learning is also set to be applied to save time by automating most of the bank reconciliation process.

    “When we looked at bank [reconciliation], nine out of ten we can code on our first pass. Bank rec goes away,” Drury said.

    “As a company, we’re focused on eliminating coding. This is one of the biggest changes that has ever happened to accounting. If you think about the millions of hours that are wasted by small business on coding transactions, that’s going away.”

    Live contacts

    A third new feature, called Live Contacts, will automatically update customer and supplier information, including details from Australia’s largest credit reporting agency, Veda.

    The idea is that when businesses change the details in their account, that information will automatically flow through to update their customers and suppliers that use the Xero platform.

    This will be augmented with further information from public records and Veda, including businesses information on registered business names, addresses, ABN/NZBN numbers and industry classifications.

    “We can already populate the details of every business in Australia and New Zealand. So instead of typing in their details, people can click and link to them,” Drury said.

    On the sidelines of Xerocon South, Xero Australia managing director Trent Innes said the feature will be a timesaver for business owners.

    “Basically, with the power of the web, we’ve got access to a variety of data sources and a lot of information about contacts already. So we’re trying to save business owners time by pre-filling that in,” Innes said.

    “So we’ve already got that information, we can surface it up and allow them to do more than re-enter data.”

    Businesses looking for more detailed information will also be able to buy a full Veda credit report through the Xero platform.

    “The partnership with Veda is a really important one. It’s trying to help small businesses make informed decision about the customers they’re looking to do business with, and get some indication about what that relationship might look like.”

    Innes also stressed that the feature would be opt-in, and that business owners with privacy concerns will be able to manage those risks.

    “Privacy and security will always be at the forefront as we roll out these sorts of solutions,” he said.

    Andrew Sadauskas attended Xerocon South as a guest of Xero. 

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    When should a startup charge GST?

    Someone asked an accountant type of marketing question in a Facebook Group recently. It’s about how to raise your prices when you start charging GST. It was a Hair Salon business asking the question. For a startup its a curious situation, ever thought about it?

    Being heavily involved in small business issues, my advice is to add the GST when you first start out, whether you charge it or not. Salons are a B to C (Business to Customer) type of Business Model which means the end user pays, there is no passing it on further down the line as with other Models. That being said your clients don’t realise or think about the difference being tax so it’s harder to do, down the line, generally. IF you haven’t started your salon yet I highly recommend including the GST price (the equivalent amount) in your prices SO when you do charge it your clients won’t notice. You won’t need to raise your prices.

    The amount you need to earn to start charging it is only $75,000 so chances are it will happen pretty quickly anyway. It will mean you’ll have more cash from sales in the beginning and then take a hit cash wise as it the extra becomes GST that you’ll pay as GST credits, to the ATO (you’ll always pay more GST than you claim unless you are investing in Capital Items) but you won’t have the problem of raising your prices when you have to, when you have to start charging GST. I’ve seen this work well for several different enterprises in the retail space such as non medicare related health therapists. And in the bookkeeping sphere as well.

    I also suggest to NOT register until you have to. $7500 is better in your pocket than in the ATO’s.

    Artificial Intelligence comes to Accounting, Xerocon 2016

    WordPress – Talking Backups


    How many backups do you need?

    Where do you store them? and

    Are they reliable?

    Did you know that your Host provider backs up your Database? It will be the last backup they have so if you had problems with your Database that started months ago, chances are the backup will be useless.

    Did you know that a Database backup doesn’t include your Website file backup unless you have specifically set it up to do that? A backup with the suffix SQL is a Database backup and doesn’t include any WordPress files.

    Did you know you can export a copy of your website via WordPress? Good to have although they are missing the Media Library on mine. You’ll have to reconfigure the customization but heck, you’ll still have the wireframe and the written content. Not the best way to Backup.

    Did you know that the most popular and Best on Market Backup system for WordPress today is Updraft with over 800,000 installs? I suggest paying for the Migrator tool, backing up your site, buying another domain, hosting it and migrating your backup to it. If that works, you are not wasting your time doing a backup. Whatever backup system you use you must be able to test it. If you can’t test it, it’s as good as non-existent. If your provider doesn’t allow this, don’t use them.

    Set up your backups properly. Don’t wing it. I use Updraft and schedule the Website backup 1 x per day and hold a maximum of 5 in Dropbox. I schedule a Database backup once a week and hold a maximum of 2 in my Dropbox.

    When you install WordPress on your system, your host, (using Softaculous for instance) you can backup that installation at any time, using Softaculous, giving you an XML backup of your site and it will remain there.

    Updraft is the best and its free. Or not. There is a premium service and for me, it’s the best option.

    Artificial Intelligence comes to Accounting, Xerocon 2016

    Keeping up with change and making few of your own waves

    who-are-youBusinesses from micro right through to large enterprises are constantly faced with new challenges (and opportunities) to remain relevant. But, as a business owner, that might leave you feeling like you’re sometimes forced to make reactionary changes to suit the demands of the ever-evolving marketplace.

    Twenty years ago business technology centred on floppy disks, fax machines and Windows 95. Now, there’s an abundance of tech gadgets including smart phones, cloud technology, tablets and social networks. The business world has changed significantly in the last 20 years or so and it will continue to change at an increasingly rapid pace, so now is the perfect time to ensure your business is ready for the journey ahead.

    Business owners and entrepreneurs need to take advantage of innovations in technology or run the risk of being left behind.  What to do?

    Don’t fight it – go with it. 

    1. The only thing constant in business is change, so you might want to stay “in the know”. Try scanning your environment for trends and educate yourself and your employees on any factors that could potentially impact your business. Changes can stem from factors such as the economy, politics, and society, changing cultural trends, technological advancements or variations to the environment (Business Strategy 101)
    2. Keeping track of potential threats and opportunities in these areas can help keep your business ahead of the game.
    3. Your Internal Environment – your costs, organisational structure, operations manual and your plans for the future.

    Whilst scanning your environment, it’s also important to remain vigilant of your competitors. Keeping up with the competition is all about innovation, not price. Why is it so? Because quality and the buyer’s ability to use what you are selling is a better gauge of value and therefore success for the buyer than price although it’s still relevant.

    So, how do you compete on innovation? It’s about keeping your customer’s needs in the forefront of your business – your goal is their satisfaction.  Listening to your customers is a great way to gain insight and build new ideas although sorting out the fluff from the valuable information is not easy.


    Partnering with other businesses even in short term / Joint Ventures. 

    Teaming up with other businesses and expanding ideas beyond your four walls is becoming more common=.

    Affiliating with other businesses maximise your business offering? Most business have affiliates. Joint Ventures are good for short term projects where two business partner to meet specific goals, split costs and profits then disband.


    Writers worth reading on the topic of sustainable businesses practices know or have heard of Simon Sinek. People don’t buy from you because of what you sell they buy from you because of why you sell it.  

    Vision has been replaced by ‘your why’ in the Business Plan. Limiting Risk has replaced the 5 year plan. You do what you do because you believe in it and are willing to go to almost any lengths to make it work. Innovation is like evolution in 2015. Its inevitable so you better have a hand in it or an interest in it or you won’t move forward.  Customers are fickle so it’s vital to position yourself in the market to attract the type of customers who will appreciate you.


    Talking to customers isn’t enough I’m afraid because it’s like looking backwards to see what’s already happened. You need to be marketing and finding your niche.


    Above all, having a team that can work together productively and effectively is one of the best ways to build a working environment; outsourcing is the new way of employing. The world is moving faster than the people in our community where that’s concerned but the best way to build a team is to pick people you can work with who supply you with that bit extra, who are competent and have a ‘why’ of their own.

    I can’t keep up with my brain  


    My thinking is a mess of do this / go to that / get this done / then get distracted and work on that. Don’t get me wrong, stuff gets done and my soft files are organised but my brain feels like its buzzing sometimes. I’m glad it does it feels like my creative juices are flowing but it can be distracting. It’s like a lion I have to put in a cage when I have to do technical work for clients or a specific job.

    A way of shutting down the buzz is to commit to focus.


    It’s not new (it’s a shit of a word to spell!). It is of course, isolating your thoughts so that you focus. We cannot do serious work if we can’t block out our unfocused thoughts. But the conundrum is that we have to have time to allow for no- focused thoughts to allow us to spread out and dominate our time if we are to learn and explore and dream.

    I saw a Detective on a Game Show this week. He didn’t bring any part of his work to the game show. He has mastered compartmentalisation. He was a normal guy from the street, on the show. Is this good? Not for an entrepreneur it isn’t. Nor is it for a start-up.

    What is a Start Up

    You might acquire a business by buying it, or start it from scratch. If you start it from scratch, you have a start-up. As a start-up, 5 years in now, I have some insights now that I didn’t have 5 years ago. I really felt like I was walking on a tightrope above the city most days.

    Last year a lawyer was going to sue me which worried me greatly and dominated my thoughts until it was pointed out to me that I was insured and I should stop worrying – that I should compartmentalise it.

    Taking the lid off a brain, if we could compare those whose worry, with those who compartmentalise, we’d see, I believe, a lot of ‘bleed’ between compartments of those who live with worry and in the inability to separate non related issues.

    Worrying is detrimental to your health. You can’t fix what you can’t control but worrying about it doesn’t help anything or anyone. So why do we worry?

    Its a Bad Habit

    Worry is made up of nagging, persistent thoughts that circle around in your head. It is “what if” statements, worst-case scenarios, and awful predictions. The act of worrying is an obsessive, habitual behaviour-and one that you can give up. But before you can give it up, you must accept that the act of worrying serves no purpose. Worrying is stealing your energy, fatiguing your muscles and body, exacerbating your aches and pains, increasing your vulnerability to stress and infection, distracting you from the present, interfering with your sleep, inappropriately increasing or decreasing your appetite, and keeping you from more pleasurable or important tasks. It is time to recognize the act of worry serves no purpose and has become a bad habit says Marci G. Fox Ph.D

    Replacing worry with a personal alarm system to ‘assess risk’ is what most people do. I think those who persist with practising worrying, find some joy or happiness in it, as amazing as that sounds. It’s a habit and like any other bad habit you can quit it. Take it from an ex-worrier.