Xero today announced further enhancements to their "Report Packs" functionality. Report Packs are available to their customers in New Zealand only but are coming soon to other markets:
We’re already working with Grant Thornton for Australian reports and work will start soon for the UK, then the US shortly after.
This functionality is a fundamental part of Xero's "one ledger" strategy: to build integrated client and accountant side accounting tools around one dataset. Report Packs are the "accountant side" part of the equation.
One cannot argue with the logic of a "one ledger" strategy. It seems common sense to have the business's internal management reporting and the accountant's external financial reporting driven from the same transaction database. I do wonder, however, if accountants (in the UK at least) will embrace the Xero ideal.
The accountant side of reporting in the UK is currently handled by specialist software packages, provided by specialist suppliers. My old firm uses IRIS for accounts production, for instance.
The main benefit of using IRIS is that, as the accountant, all one needs to do is input the final trial balance numbers for a particular accounting period, and IRIS will do the rest: the rest being produce a well laid-out, multi-page report in the prescribed format, complete with cross referenced notes and accurate pagination.
This might sound pretty straightforward, but trust me, automating this publishing process provides a massive time saving for the accountant, compared with a manual process, perhaps using Excel or Word.
As far as we were concerned, our work effectively stopped once we had the final trial balance numbers. My concern is that might not be the case with Xero's Report Packs, and if not, accountants might want to stick with what they already have.
If Xero has default layouts that cover most common scenarios but, crucially, can also handle exceptional circumstances, without user intervention, then everyone will be happy. If the accountant is often left to manually add, edit and reorder text then I suspect accountants will prefer the IRIS way.
From the little I have seen, Xero seem to be building rich functionality to allow accountants to format and manipulate reports in a really flexible way. I just wonder if the accountants really want to be involved at all.