Over the past eight years, Xero has gone from a four-employee startup to a global leader in cloud accounting software, with nearly 250,000 customers in more than 100 countries and 700 employees around the world. CEO Rod Drury shares his insights on how G Suite has simplified his business, boosted productivity and helped him scale and grow.

Illustration of a notebook with the Xero logo

1. Work together, work smarter

Teams used to spend weeks emailing documents around for edits and approvals. With Google Apps, teams now review and edit docs together. Whether we conduct meetings in breakout areas or our in-house cafe, open laptops are ever-present, with my employees writing minutes in real time so that everyone has their action items as soon as they walk out the door.

2. Give employees tools they know and love

The easiest switch we made was from our slow email system to Gmail. Since most employees were already using it at home, it was a snap to set up and roll out across the entire company in just a few weeks. Then we replaced our old video conferencing system with Hangouts and Chromebox for Meetings, so now our teams work closely on projects even when they’re located in different offices around the world.

3 members of the Xero team

3. Cut costs, boost productivity

With no more costly software upgrades and no IT hours wasted updating and maintaining servers, we expect to shave a significant amount of our IT budget with Google Apps. The surge in communication and collaboration has had a big knock-on effect on productivity.

4. Access wherever, whenever you need it

Google Apps have freed employees from being tied down to one computer. Now they can work from anywhere, anytime on whatever device they want, and never have to worry about losing documents or emails.

5. Working simply works better

With our employee and customer base doubling year on year, we needed a simpler way of working that could adapt to our changing needs and keep up with rapid growth. Google Apps gave us a simple, scalable communications platform that has dramatically improved productivity across the entire organization.

Read the full story of Xero below

Four countries, dozens of offices, seven hundred employees and one very expensive, outdated email system. It was time to simplify

In the past eight years, Xero has grown from a fledgling startup with four employees to become a global leader in online accounting software, with over 475,000 customers in more than 100 countries, and 700 employees across the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. The company was born in the cloud but ironically it was being held back by a cumbersome, complex email system that still ran on servers. It was slow, unreliable and expensive, as it required continual, costly upgrades. Yet no matter how many upgrades the system underwent it never quite caught up with the rapid growth Xero was experiencing. Xero was doubling both its customer base and employee headcount year on year, so the complex only became more complicated and more costly.

The company’s email system was holding the company back

"Our email system was starting to slow us down; employees had to log in and then download email to their computers, constantly back it up, and they often lost important emails," said Xero CEO, Rod Drury. When employees changed computers, it took the Xero IT team days to transfer all their emails to the new machines, making sure all the emails synchronised to the servers, which resulted in a lot of downtime and reduced productivity. It was also proving difficult to keep everyone in this rapidly growing company in the communications loop. "It was challenging for Xero to maintain cohesiveness and a unique company culture across constantly-growing teams in four countries," said Drury. Xero needed a simpler way of working. It needed technologies that kept pace with its rapid growth, and a system that adapted to its changing needs. It needed a robust, scalable communications platform to help employees across the globe collaborate better. There was only one solution.

It was time to move to the cloud

It was critical for Xero that its new system was fully cloud-based. It was time to go Google. Xero decided to deploy the Google Enterprise apps across its entire enterprise. The Xero IT team decided to introduce Gmail first. This was a huge step in the right direction. It was also a very simple step, as most employees were already using Gmail for their personal email and were very comfortable with it. Gmail is cloud-based so it was also simple to set up. It took just four weeks to roll out to all 700 employees, across dozens of offices, and four countries. Once Gmail was rolled out it was time to introduce the entire company to the Google Enterprise suite of toolsDrive, Hangouts, Calendar, Chat and more. Xero then migrated 99% of its documents and spreadsheets, along with 90% of its corporate files, to Google Drive. Then something wonderful happened.

Employees started working together even when they were apart

"Employees found it so liberating to move their work from ‘my own laptop’ into the secure Google cloud," said Drury. "Everyone just feels freer because they can work wherever they want, on any device, and not worry about losing documents." Xero employees began using Google Drive every day to collaborate on press releases, product release notes, spreadsheets, blog posts and dozens of other documents. Employees across the globe now synchronise their schedules and plan meetings on Google Calendar. Xero’s employees everywhere began taking full advantage of Hangouts, the Google video chat tool, and found it far simpler and more reliable than the video chat tools they’d been using. Often, ten or more employees from different locations get together in Hangouts to collaborate while working on documents in Drive at the same time. "Hangouts are a real game changer for us, because they just work," Drury said. Hangouts has become so popular that Xero is in the process of replacing several of its $25,000 videoconferencing devices with Google Chromeboxes, at less than $1,000 each. No phone calls, no cables and no big price tags.

Costs went down and productivity went up

With no more costly software upgrades, no more IT hours lost updating and maintaining servers, Xero expects to reduce its IT budget significantly, but the biggest benefit the company has realised with Google Enterprise is improved employee productivity. "It’s difficult to quantify how much money we’ll save with Google Apps, but the surge in communication and collaboration has had a big knock-on effect on productivity. So I’d say the ROI of Google Apps is off the charts, almost infinite," said Drury. Maybe even more importantly, Google Enterprise has helped create a huge culture shift among employees. Tasks that used to take weeks, like emailing a document around for edits and approvals, now take just hours. Accessing and collaborating on documents in the cloud has also led to a new sense of immediacy and openness among staff. "I see employees sitting in meetings with their laptops open, writing minutes in real time. By the time they walk out of the meeting, everyone has reviewed the notes and noted their action items," said Drury. "Personally, with Google Apps, I work from anywherehome, the beach, from any one of our offices, wherever." Google Enterprise has dramatically simplified and improved the way Xero works. It has united its 700 employees across offices and borders, and dramatically improved collaboration and productivity. It’s also helped foster a more open culture across the entire organisation.

  • Author
    Rod Drury, CEO, Xero

  • Topics
    Collaboration, Google Apps, Small Business, Work better tips

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