At Xerocon 2017, Xero introduced Xero Projects, a new platform that offers small business owners simple ways to track projects, timesheets, invoicing and other factors to ensure better profitability. Because Xero owns both Xero Projects and WorkflowMax, it can be confusing for small business owners: which solution is best for your business?
Here’s the key factors to consider when deciding which of these impressive cloud-based software solutions is right for your business.
Xero projects is very new
Yep, since the announcement of Xero Projects at Xerocon in mid-September 2017, AFL club Richmond has not lost a football game (we checked). Even though it’s new, it’s well thought out and is priced accordingly with a $7 per user introductory rate (that will increase to $10 per user in 2018). But bumps are to be expected, and Xero is yet to roll out the full suite of functionality for Xero Projects. Features like iOS and Android apps, and integration with Quotes and Expenses are not available yet. But, it’s only getting better from here.
What is Xero Projects good for?
The current incarnation is suitable for small businesses with simple costing needs, such as freelancers, sole traders and micro businesses with less than ten staff. If your small business is in the creative, IT, finance, design, consulting and digital marketing space, you’re the ideal customer.
For example, a freelance web developer can use it to record time, cost jobs, manage subcontractors and track progress of projects. Importantly, it allows you to easily build reports to assess each project's profitability and cost effectiveness. This reporting allows you to quote more accurately and concentrate on the most profitable aspects of your business. It’s a great way to bring quality project management software to smaller businesses, potentially giving them a more level playing field with larger competitors.
What is WorkflowMax good for?
WorkflowMax is a sophisticated cloud-based project management tool, with much more complexity and functionality. Managing larger teams brings further complexity in scheduling, operating processes, task tracking requirements and job costing that WorkflowMax is capable of handling. Importantly, WorkflowMax can be configured to your business processes. For example, your business might follow a process of initial scoping, getting approval, integration and then final delivery. WorkflowMax can be configured to these stages in your project life cycle.
And with its lead management and CRM tools, you can track your leads pipeline from one place. Taking leads on a journey from initial interest through to signed proposal can be streamlined and simplified with WorkflowMax. If you have sales staff, you can track how they are performing by assessing how many of their leads convert to customers and the value of the customers they are bringing in. WorkflowMax makes costing jobs easier as you can access data from similar jobs, meaning you’re less likely to underquote a job and be stuck delivering an unprofitable project. And with more than thirty add-ons, WorkflowMax can integrate with other cloud-based software tools that produce financial reports, track expenses, manage payroll, schedule staff shifts and much more.
Simple versus complex
As you can see, WorkflowMax offers a lot more features and functionality than Xero Projects. But with that complexity comes difficulty. It’s not a system you can set up easily yourself. In contrast, Xero Projects is quite easy to get started on your own, if you have basic cloud software experience (such as Xero). If you’ve no plans for extensive growth and can’t see yourself using many features of WorkflowMax, you may find yourself happily using Xero Projects for years without issue. However, as a growing business with intention to increase sales, revenue and staff numbers, you may find yourself outgrowing Xero Projects in it’s current form within a few years.
If you’re small, you might be tempted to start with Xero Projects and move on to WorkflowMax later as your business grows. However, there is no path in place to enable simple migration from one to the other. (Or back again, if your business is scaling down in its twilight years.) So, it may be wiser to start with WorkflowMax while you’re still small, building in the functionality along the way, rather than going through the hassle of upgrading to WorkflowMax in the middle of a complex growth stage.
Pros and Cons
Benefits of Xero Projects:
- simple, with good user interface
- less complexity makes it easier to use and navigate
- easy to get started on your own
- suitable for small business of less than ten staff
Cons of Xero Projects:
- less functionality for complex reporting
- less integration with other tools
- no iOS or Android app (yet)
- you (or your accountant) must be a Xero customer to access it
Benefits of WorkflowMax:
- offers a number of sophisticated reporting tools
- can be configured to your business processes
- manage deadlines, invoicing, job allocation, profitability and efficiency
- you can get WorkflowMax without having to purchase Xero
- suitable for businesses with up to 100 staff
Cons of WorkflowMax:
- Complex features may not be required for smaller business
- Needs expert setup by cloud integration partner for maximum efficiency
- Requires training for staff to learn how to use it
The upshot: our recommendation
If you’re small and have no growth plans, Xero Projects may be all you need. If you have more than five staff and growing, WorkflowMax is the better choice.
Also, if you’re small now but have ambitious plans for the coming years, start with WorkflowMax now. Choose a platform that will support your rapid growth down the track.