The secret to building a best-in-class Xero integration

King, the Wire Fox Terrier won Best in Show at the 143rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

When we first started Spritz we knew we wanted to have a seamless integration with the tools our customers know and love. Our number one priority was a Xero integration.

We also knew we didn’t want to be just another integration. We wanted to be the standout, the best-in-class for the category.

Why aim for good enough?

The end result speaks for itself with high praise from our customers, the accounting community and the platforms themselves. We are stoked.

Here’s how we got there and what we would recommend for anyone building their own app integration – especially if you want to build something that stands out in a crowded field.

1. Engage with Xero early and often

The APIs on Xero are incredible. Well documented, well tested, with thoughtful error messages and, for the most part, up to date. I can’t recommend the Integration Best Practices guide enough.

But it always helps to have the importance of these guides reinforced, and the docs generally don’t give you an idea of what changes might be around the corner on the product roadmap.

I was lucky enough to attend XeroCon in June 2016 and met with the Head of Developer Evangelism, Sidney Maestre. Through Sid I was able to meet developer evangelist Kody O’Connell to get a better run down on the hoops we’d need to jump through, and he was able to introduce me to Vincent Lo the product manager on Xero’s own expenses product.

Image result for sidney maestre xero
Sidney Maestre + Kody O’Connell (via Twitter)

Through a few of these conversations I learned some pretty crucial details about the future of the expenses API, and some tips and tricks I’d skipped over in the documentation which helped us plan ahead.

And when it came time to get our app tested and live in the marketplace we were already on the teams radar which made it a lot easier to receive the candid feedback we needed to get our app into production.

2. Build an accountant advisory program

The Xero accounting community has been incredible to us from day one. As someone without an accounting background, and with no previous experience in the ecosystem I was welcomed with open arms by a community that is open, transparent and generous with their time and knowledge.

Will Lopez, Founder @ AdvisorFi, Xero Product Advisory Council, Gusto Ambassador

In particular Will Lopez from AdvisorFi who took the time to not only give his feedback on our product, but also helped me to navigate the ecosystem and introduced me to our other advisors including Nikole Mackenzie of Momentum, Kenji Kuramoto of Acuity and eventually David Leary of Sombrero / AutoEntry once we moved across to the Quickbooks Online side of the house.

Every one of these interactions gave us a better understanding of the market, the competitors, and how they wanted to use these products.

These people are not only your power users – having hundreds of clients they each work with – but they’re also potentially your biggest advocates.

To be clear they’re not providing this feedback 100% altruistically, although there is a lot of that, they’re just looking for great products that solve problems for them and their clients in elegant ways. If you can help them do that then they’ll be your biggest advocates.

Our accounting partners quickly pointed out where our competitors had made mistakes, or where they were stronger, and helped us thread the needle around these problems. They consistently worked with us to test and improve.

Ultimately if you’re able to deliver they will be able to become paying customers of your product (thanks team!) and refer you into their customers too (double thanks!).

Will, Kenji, Nikole and David are all open to providing ad hoc feedback and offer a range of in depth consulting to help make your app successful in the ecosystem. I definitely recommend getting in touch with them sooner than later in your integration journey.Will become cheerleaders

Will pull you up if you’re not up to standard

3. Find your enthusiasts

The first version of your integration is going to be rough. No matter how much work we did on the upfront design, or flow charts with our accounting partners, there were a few holes we needed to plug.

To really put your product through its paces you need early adopters to use the product and take it to its breaking point.

Image result for adoption curve

Really you’re looking for the enthusiasts.

These are generally people who are wide open to trying new things in general, and want to be in front of the latest and greatest. But they’re also keen to give you feedback when things fall down.

I have to give a huge shout out to David Leary from AutoEntry and the Cloud Accounting Podcast in particular here. David has been incredibly generous with his time & feedback to help us improve on the Quickbooks Online side of things. More on that later…

Finally these early adopters are important to get you listed in the Xero marketplace. Xero seeks reviews from 6-10 active beta users before they’re going to have you publicly listed in the marketplace.


The final step in building your best-in-class integration? Tell everyone about it.

So today we’d like to let you know you can now find Spritz in the Xero app marketplace as the first corporate card and expense management solution to be listed.

Check us out – it’s free to sign up – and let me know what you think.

And if you shoot me an email I’ll give you $20 worth of credit on your first Spritz card to try it out for yourself with a lunch on me: ned@spritz.works.

Ned

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