April 24, 2014

Spotlight Workpapers launches beta for Australian firms

Spotlight Franchises also released.

Spotlight Workpapers launched a localised version for Australian accounting firms last night at the Sydney offices of cloud accounting program Xero. The beta software was available only to silver and gold Xero partners and was due for a public release in April.

“We have a huge chunk of Xero’s gold and silver partners” already trialling the cloud-based workpapers application, said Richard Francis, Xero’s general manager for workpapers.

Spotlight Workpapers was initially released in the New Zealand market, where Xero gives the software free to gold and platinum accounting partners. Xero added business activity statements, franking credits, GST and income tax information to localise the program with Australian regulations.

Spotlight Workpapers has a core set of 20 workpapers which were general templates for use anywhere in the world, Francis said. About 100 firms were using the software, he added.

Spotlight Workpapers was recently acquired by Xero to patch a gap in its software suite for running accounting practices, which included practice management software based on cloud job management application WorkflowMax

Although Spotlight Workpapers had fewer workpaper templates than competitors such as Business Fitness, its integration with Xero and WorkflowMax made Spotlight’s workpapers much faster to fill out.

Client details and Australian Taxation Office numbers were automatically imported from WorkflowMax, and trial balances, GST and BAS data were imported from Xero into Spotlight Workpapers.

“Intelligent filters determine which workpapers an accountant needs to do,” Francis said. “You also don’t need to reconcile to the last dollar. We’re trying to achieve faster, more focused year-end work. There’s quite a lot of fresh thinking about it.”

The addition of workpapers to the WorkflowMax Practice Manager and Xero accounting platform made it a credible alternative to practice management software sold by MYOB and Reckon, Francis said.

Many accountants were still using highly manual processes based on CSV, Excel or pen-and-paper worksheets which required data entry and copying information between them, Francis said.

Spotlight Workpapers only worked with Xero but Francis said it could be integrated with MYOB or other accounting platforms in the future. Some Xero partners were using a hybrid of MYOB and Xero programs in their firms, he said.

Spotlight Franchises was also launched this week. Spotlight Franchises was part of the Spotlight Reporting family of cloud applications, owned and run by Francis separately to Xero.

Francis claimed Spotlight Franchises was the first dedicated franchise program for Xero. “Spotlight Franchises has been designed specifically for master franchisors,” Francis said. The program could consolidate up to 50 franchisees as one group and provide benchmarks, KPIs, scorecards and rank franchises by performance.

A competitor to Spotlight Reporting, Xero-compatible application Fathom, could be used for single franchise reporting and benchmarking separate entities, Francis acknowledged. However, Fathom was not designed specifically for franchises.

Spotlight Franchises was in beta testing with two small franchise chains in New Zealand before its release to the Australian market.

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