Xero: from Chartered Accountant to app developer

We were delighted to have our article about our upcoming Xero-Clover app featured in the latest edition of XU Magazine – the independent magazine for Xero users, by Xero users. You can read the full text of our article below:

App developer is not how you’d typically describe your accountant, but we don’t see ourselves as a typical accountancy practice. So when a client of ours said they would need to connect Clover and Xero, a train of thought was started that ultimately led to us adding app development to our service offering!

As one of Xero’s leading partners in Ireland, we are well used to working with cloud accounting solutions and regularly help our clients to incorporate Xero plugins and other business integrations into their processes. We’re always trying out new cloud solutions so that we can advise our clients as to the cons and pros of each, ensuring we add real value to our service.

Clover – an integrated hardware-software solution

We were already familiar with Clover. It was launched two years ago by global payment giant First Data, and its sleek, Apple-esque hardware and integrated payments processing really set it apart from other POS solutions from the start. Karl McCann, Senior Product Manager for  Clover with AIB Merchant Services (who represent Clover in the UK and Ireland) explains:

“Clover is a smart solution that integrates everything into one place – from card payments to gift card solutions, loyalty offerings, and endless business management tools. We already have around 5,000 users in the UK and Ireland, while the US community is around 100,000 strong and growing fast.”

We love Clover because, like Xero, it was born in the cloud – integration-ready and with a comprehensive suite of APls and a crowd-sourced approach to plug-ins. Users get all the benefits of being able to remotely access data and save time with useful integrations and plugins.

Spotting the opportunity

A client of ours, in the hospitality industry, was going through the process of changing both their accounts software and their Point of Sale solution. They had already identified Clover as being the right ePOS, and when we showed them Xero they were really excited about it. But there was a catch: there was no integration between Clover and Xero.

That meant our client wouldn’t be able to sync the two, or benefit from the automatic sharing of information about payments, customers, products, inventory, employees, or any other data that would give them crucial insights into the business. It looked like they wouldn’t be able to use Clover after all.

A chance conversation with the team at AIB Merchant Services, who act as a Clover reseller over here, revealed that this wasn’t the first time the lack of an interface between Clover and Xero had been an issue. And that’s when the idea of creating a piece of middleware was born.

Working with APls

As time was of the essence, we didn’t wait long to get stuck in to the project! Our inhouse developer, John Paul Hayes started to look into the nitty-gritty of the Xero API:

“Hats off to the team that built Xero’s API! It’s really clear and straightforward and the documentation was spot on. The Xero API does exactly what is says on the tin, which makes developing for it a joy because there are no unpleasant surprises. Having a sandbox platform for Xero was very helpful- you see your assets or invoices immediately, so the feedback loop when developing it is really tight.”

We found that the Clover API and accompanying documentation was equally excellent. Visualising what we were planning to link was really clear, making the development process smooth all the way.

Getting the product right

We didn’t want to create anything unnecessarily cumbersome for the end user, in fact our ultimate goal is that they forget they’re even using our app! Once our middleware is installed and the Clover and Xero accounts have been connected, it will just work seamlessly in the background. But the benefits will be clear from the outset, as John Paul explains:

“You’ll see the detail of items that are being generated on Clover. You’ll be able to generate better, more detailed reports on the Xero side of things. For example, an order on Clover might have multiple line items by a certain store and by a certain employee. That information can then be used to generate really relevant graphs within Xero. So you’ll get better insights, in real-time, on how your organisation or shop is doing.”

Looking to the future

Delving into the world of app development has been fascinating, and we’re really excited about the upcoming release of Xero for Clover. But it’s only the beginning of the journey for us. We plan to build on this experience and explore other integrations with Xero. The demand for apps continues to grow, as we become more used to technology interacting with every aspect of our lives and expect to have instant access to all kinds of information.

The Irish own an average of 3.2 connected devices each; in business as in our personal lives, we now expect seamless, cross-platform relationships that amplify the power of our apps and save us time in our busy lives. I think John Paul summed this up perfectly when we were recently explaining the project to a client:

“Each app allows us to do one thing really well, and people get that. If they can hook that into their accounting, they’ll expect things that weren’t so obvious in the past to be there in the future. It’s all about the integration of these platforms and having Xero as the focal point – getting the most value and feeding that back into your business. I think Xero does that better than anyone else.”

Modern accounting

Businesses are no longer satisfied with just seeing sales figures, increasingly they recognise the need to see margins earned per product or per department – and summary sales figures are simply not enough. In order to understand how their business is doing, where they are making their money and what they should change, they need this level of detail.

Unfortunately, most client solutions don’t provide this information. In most cases only summary sales information is passed from the ePOS system to the accounts system – meaning that detailed margin reporting is obscured. With our XeroClover integration, we want full visibility in Xero over Point of Sale, so that business owners can have any and all the reports they need to really drive business growth.

Karl McCann is looking forward to the release of our Xero integration:

“Many of our customers are also Xero customers, and they will benefit greatly from the work that Beyond Accounting has been doing to create a Xero data exchange.”

Our Xero-Clover middleware app will be available early 2016, for a monthly subscription. You’ll find it in both the Xero and Clover marketplaces. We’re always delighted to get feedback, so let us know what you think!

If you’d like to be alerted as soon our app goes live, you can sign up on the ForClover website!