The evolution of the virtual office – Part 3

This is part three of a series of posts on our experiences in running a virtual office.

A lot has happened since 2009.


In 2010 we started to see a big uptake in Xero. Clients that used it loved it and anyone that had used MYOB especially appreciated Xero’s ease of use. Our practice became much more Xero focussed.

While Xero was good for clients it didn’t provide the powerful reporting that we needed to produce final accounts for clients so we continued to do most of our compilation work in MYOB Accountants Office (AO).  We used the clients’ Xero as a cashbook and at year end dumped our various reports, entered summary data into AO where we did the compilation, produced the annual accounts and filed the tax returns electronically. When the job was complete we then journalled the adjustments we had made back into Xero.

We found with Xero clients we spent less time going back for more information as it was often already in Xero. This helped offset the time we lost round tripping the job Xero – AO – Xero.

By 2011 Xero had started developing the back end reporting that we, as accountants, needed to be able to prepare annual accounts in Xero efficiently. So for any new clients that came along that used Xero we did the full compilation in Xero, but still had to manually enter the tax information into the AO tax module to electronically file it. As the reporting was still one size fits all it required a fair bit of manual effort to produce the end reports, and we still had to manually enter tax information into AO.

These All in Xero jobs cost us a bit of time but although it was quicker to round trip to AO than do All in Xero jobs we could see that it was going to get better so we hung in there.

We needed to get things working in Xero as MYOB AO was an old product that had been through several private equity owners and seen little development. The current version we had was now in maintenance only mode while MYOB worked on developing a new version. The .NET version was still going to be client/server (with maybe a wee bit in the cloud) and looked like it would be expensive and painful to implement and we didn’t have any confidence it would a) be released on time and b) be any better than the existing product – at least not for a long time.

By the end of 2011 Xero’s reporting for accountants had started to come on stream and we started thinking about doing all our compilation in Xero, using the Xero ledger edition for those clients that didn’t need to use Xero as a cashbook, and putting our old work horse AO out to pasture. When Xero announced they had bought Workflow Max and would provide it to Xero partners with more than 20 Xero clients for free we made the decision to move from 1 April 2012.

Xero bought into Workflow Max over a year ago to fund the development of a tax module for accountants that integrated with Xero and allowed tax returns to be electronically filed with IRD. At the end of 2011 Xero bought the rest of Workflow Max.

So at 1 April 2012 we switched off AO and started doing everything in Xero and Workflow Max. There was quite a bit of conversion work to set up Xero ledgers for non Xero clients, set/check conversion balances and bring in fixed assets into Xero (thank you Sam and Shehaan, our accountancy students who did the bulk of this work). We have now been running for just over two months and it has been a pretty easy transition. There are still a few gaps in the Xero reporting that mean that some things are harder than they should be, but looking at Xero’s roadmap for reporting most of these gaps will be addressed by early 2013.

A paperless office

Coinciding with our move to Xero we have gone paperless. All incoming paper based records from clients are scanned, our workpapers are all in Excel, Annual Reports go to clients as PDFs. We still have four printers but they are largely idle now. I’ll write another post on going paperless soon.

 And a real office too

Lastly – we now have a footprint in central Wellington. Our virtual office outgrew our home office so we have taken on an office on Level 7 166 Featherston Street in Wellington. The building is diagonally across from Dick Smith. Very central.

We still have staff operating remotely but we also have base in town where we usually work and meet with clients. Our office hours are 8:30am to 5pm – come and visits us!


Offices of Dowse Murray Chartered Accountants Wellington

Second thoughts on the Kindle (Touch)

We lost our original Kindle to our daughter so swinging by Dick Smith one day I paused to try out the Kindle Touch … and ended up taking it home (yes I did pay for it).

The Dowse Murray Accountants Wellington Kindle Touch

The touch interface really works well on the Kindle.  It was painful navigating menus and setting up the wireless on the old Kindle, so clunky I never used the Kindle interface to shop on Amazon. With the Touch it is all a breeze.

The wireless seems better too, the device is smaller (same screen size) and sits more book-like in my hands.

Still doesn’t support epub but other than that no complaints.