How cloud accounting keeps your business nimble in the new normal

To cope with the social restrictions brought about by the coronavirus, Singaporeans have been turning to apps to order food, connect with others and entertain themselves. 

Two in three consumers downloaded at least one shopping app (retail, food or grocery) between mid-May and mid-June according to a study conducted by technology firm Criteo.

The study also found that consumers were using their apps more — 56 per cent of consumers upped their time on social networking apps while 42 per cent of them used food delivery apps multiple times a week.

While the coronavirus outbreak may have driven most consumers online, the trend towards on-demand services started much earlier. 

Even before the pandemic, consumer demand for convenience has led to the rise of super apps like WeChat in China and Grab in South-east Asia. By providing multiple services such as transportation, financial services and shopping under one umbrella and sometimes integrating with other app providers, these super apps offer a uniform and typically seamless experience for users.

The linchpin of apps

But these apps would not be possible without technological advancements in the smartphone in the past decade. Innovations such as GPS tracking and programmable interfaces or operating systems have effectively turned the smartphone into a mini platform, which in turn facilitated the boom in e-commerce and the sharing economy.

In Singapore, where the smartphone penetration rate is 82 per cent, apps are becoming increasingly important not only for consumers but also for businesses.

Behind the scenes, small business owners are using apps to manage projects, store files, collaborate on documents, access their financial accounts, track business expenses, create social media content and schedule meetings — just to name a few!

Now that software solutions can deliver a full suite of cloud-based offerings on one platform to cover the full spectrum of business needs, it is a natural progression for business owners to look to super apps to supercharge their growth.

Facing the future

Just as super apps have consolidated multiple services into one platform, accounting software such as Xero is giving companies access to a wide range of business processes and latest tools through integrations with other cloud software.

With a future that’s going to be volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, here are five ways a platform like Xero can future-proof your business.

Future-proof your business with Xero. PHOTO: XERO

1. An entire ecosystem to back you up

Running a small business can be a lonely job, especially for those who take on multiple roles. Xero connects business owners with an ecosystem of app partners and advisors such as accountants and bookkeepers to help them drive profitability.

There are more than 800 app partners in Xero’s ecosystem to cater to a myriad of business needs and functions such as managing cash flow, handling payroll and sending invoices. Each app can handle the equivalent workload of at least one headcount.

And as businesses focus on how to move more of their commerce online, they can look to e-commerce app partners such as Shopify and BigCommerce.

This also means that companies can move most, if not all, of their administrative and operational tasks to cloud-based services, beyond just accounting.

2. Automating mundane tasks

Super apps are popular because consumers don’t have to key in personal details in different apps. Likewise, because Xero’s app partners share information seamlessly with Xero in real time, the data entry is all done for you — at the back end.

Other repetitive and mundane administrative tasks are also automated by technologies such as artificial intelligence. For example, Xero’s invoicing features not only track outstanding invoices, but also automatically remind clients when a payment is due. It includes a “Pay now” icon that makes it convenient for clients to make payment through options ranging from debit and credit cards to PayPal.

Moreover, Xero users can connect their accounts via bank feeds with banks such as DBS, HSBC, OCBC and UOB in Singapore, so that the financial data can flow directly into the accounting platform, making it easier for business owners to reconcile bank transactions in bulk instead of tracking transactions manually.

All these help free up time and energy, so small business owners can focus on more value-added tasks and work more efficiently during these challenging times.

3. Getting insights in real time

Most small business owners are concerned about cash flow during the pandemic. Xero’s digitalised accounting process provides a real-time view of the company’s liquidity status and cash flow movements, so that management can make timely decisions.

As a cloud tool, Xero gives users real-time access and real-time visibility to their business processes, as long as they have internet connection. They can immediately see any changes or entries being made and continue collaborating with their team anywhere, anytime — and with any device.

4. Offering a cost-efficient, customised and scalable solution  

Due to limited resources, business owners are wary of spending more than needed. With Xero, there are no upfront costs unlike traditional systems that include hardware, installation and version upgrades. 

The cloud solution is scalable and users can subscribe to a plan based on the features required. Being able to scale up or down the capabilities allows for flexibility to cope with fluctuations in market demand or unforeseen disruptions to supply chains.

5. Securing your data

The risk and impact of cyber attacks will heighten with the digital transformation of businesses and the shift to working from home. During circuit breaker, the number of phishing attempts to trick users to give up personal information doubled from the year before, said the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore.

Moreover, applications that businesses use to facilitate telecommuting sometimes contain vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit.

Against this backdrop, a cloud-based platform like Xero offers better data security than downloadable programs. You can control who has access to the company accounts and not have to worry if an employee’s computer gets stolen or corrupted.

To safeguard users’ financial data, Xero encrypts it with the same level of security used by banks, along with regular security audits, two-step authentication and round-the-clock monitoring of data centres and servers.

As Singapore slowly reopens, small business owners need to be more nimble and agile than ever to respond to the evolving situation.

Super apps have helped consumers to manage the “new normal”. Similarly, a cloud-based platform like Xero can empower small businesses to prevail over disruptions to thrive, now and in the future.

Visit Xero to find out more about how you can get started with cloud accounting for your business needs.

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