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Xero taps artificial intelligence for SMBs across the globe

Xero taps artificial intelligence for SMBs across the globe

The New Zealand managing director for Xero, Anna Curzon, shares the software company’s goal of ‘rewiring the small business economy’

Anna Curzon - Managing Director, Xero New Zealand
Anna Curzon - Managing Director, Xero New Zealand

Through machine learning and AI we are able to see and identify scenarios where an SMB might be getting into trouble

Anna Curzon, Xero

Xero has global expansion plans for Xero Signals, its data service to help small business owners understand how they are faring compared to the larger market.

“Signals will be rolled out globally, or where we have significant subscriber numbers which is Australia, UK and the US,” says Anna Curzon, Xero's local managing director. “We have some initial data for the UK and we'll be rolling out Australia soon.”

With the use of big data and machine learning, SMBs can be alerted to economic trends in advance, she states.

“The Xero platform is providing unique and real-time insights into the importance of small business in economies,” she told the audience at a panel discussion on cross border e-commerce at the Tripartite Economic Summit in Auckland.

She says the Xero platform is now being used by more than 700,000 customers in 180 countries.

“We will give back the data to SMBs,” she says. “If you are in this region, this sector, here is where your peers are performing.”

“Through machine learning and AI [artificial intelligence] we are able to see and identify scenarios where an SMB might be getting into trouble.

Read more: ​Customer-obsessed leadership is now the new standard: Forrester

“We will be able to say 'hey, seeing other businesses like yours in the same size, in same industry [and] potentially in the same region, we can see from a cash flow perspective or through other economic conditions there may be some headwinds coming'.

“Talk to your partner, your accountant, your bookkeeper to get advice. Here are some tips as well.”

She says Xero aims to be the network that joins SMBs, large businesses, government and banks to each other.

“We are rewiring the small business economy," she says. “It is about connecting SMBs to each other, so they can invoice faster and pay each other faster. This will speed up the cadence of business.

Read more: Digital, the 21st century gold rush

“If we know we can do that, we help SMBs to grow.”


It’s taken less than 10 years for cloud accounting to surpass the desktop. We are anticipating there will be more innovation over the next three years than there has been in the last 10.

Anna Curzon, Xero

Read more: Time to shift to platform thinking

Into Cloud 2.0

“We believe we're moving to the second version of the cloud, Cloud 2.0,” she states.

Amazon, Google and Microsoft are in a race which has seen the capabilities of their cloud platforms dramatically expand. Not just in terms of raw computing power, but also enabling access to big data technologies, right next to the massive transactional platform we’ve created.

“For companies like ours, it means we can now plug-and-play advanced new data technologies like AI, machine learning, analytics and automation into our product, creating a new wave of innovation for small business.

“This availability of new technology has made the big three cloud platforms mandatory for cloud application providers, if they don’t want to be left behind.”

Read more: Survey says ANZ firms waste $61 billion annually on unnecessary admin tasks

She says the Internet of Things is one technology they are also looking at to help customers with.

“Imagine if the owner of an SMB could wake up in the morning and get some alerts through their smart watch. They will know, for instance, that everyone has been paid, as well as get reminders that a staff member is celebrating a birthday, or they need to follow up XYZ business to remind them their invoices are due.”

Curzon notes that while some companies have been focused on migrating their legacy desktop software to the cloud, “the game has changed again."

Read more: 2016 World Competitiveness Report: New Zealand lifts rank,ahead of Australia

“Now all vendors must accelerate their move to the platforms of scale to gain access to the innovation that is being commoditised in these platforms.

“These platforms will provide the fastest way to deploy updates, and near infinite scale, which is why we are migrating our platform across to AWS.”

She says that while they are pleased with their progress at Xero in building a beautiful accounting experience online, “We think it’s crazy that small business owners still code transactions.”

Across the vast numbers of transactions on our servers, we can work out how most transactions need to be coded, she says. “Access to the many new tools available in the public cloud will allow us to, over time, eliminate the majority of manual processing.

Read more: Software audits – why vendors’ clauses may not be as strong as they think

“Now that transactional data has been cleaned up and the breadth of traditional accounting functionally is available as a fundamentally better experience in the cloud, innovation will be driven by deep analytics to drive business outcomes, AI and machine learning.”

“The amount of manual coding required will also be dramatically reduced,” she adds.

We think it’s crazy that small business owners still code transactions...Access to the many new tools available in the public cloud will allow us to, over time, eliminate the majority of manual processing.

Anna Curzon, Xero

On the local front, she says Xero is working with a New Zealand Bank to help manage one of the biggest challenges of SMBs - access to lending cash flow for capital purposes.

“We are enabling the bank customers to send their Xero data to the bank and the bank will look at the data and make decisions in real-time for loan applications.

She sees no let-up in the acceleration of innovation in the sector.

“It’s taken less than 10 years for cloud accounting to surpass the desktop,” she says.

“We are anticipating there will be more innovation over the next three years than there has been in the last 10,” she says. “The vision of a truly connected business is not only now possible, but the foundations are in place.”

Anna Curzon talks about ‘speaking up and making a difference’ in the networked enterprise

Send news tips and comments to divina_paredes@idg.co.nz

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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