While most accounting software says they do – they’re all at varying levels. What’s kind of revolutionary about Xero when it launched on the market was it made its API very open. It made it easy for solutions to connect. It launched and then solutions were inspired and born around it because they could see that there was commercial viability in them simply starting a solution that would connect into an accounting platform. One of those solutions was Minute Dock, a time tracking solution, based out of New Zealand, and one of the very first solutions that connected into Xero.
What was interesting was, Rod Drury – the CEO and Founder of Xero, inspired a lot of businesses, especially in the New Zealand region, to start and to go, okay, we can connect into Xero. Now, of course, that has evolved in that more accounting platforms are recognising the benefits, or potentially being pushed into recognising the benefits of opening their API’s. But what needs to be understood is not all fields, and not all data areas are accessible. Even within Xero, which is very open, not everything is accessible. I think areas like purchase orders, and payroll has information in them that you can’t access via the API, and you can’t connect into the fields.
I should declare I have a deeper knowledge of the history and growth of the Xero eco-system, and am talking about this from that perspective, which someone coming to this from a different vantage may disagree with. I’m happy to be corrected.
Other accounting solutions have gone down the path of offering open API’s, and they’ve gone down the path of cultivating an ecosystem around them. If we go back to Minute Dock, which I initially mentioned, it now works with many of those accounting platforms as the market grows.
But saying all of that you have a solution like Data Dear – what Data Dear plugs into a QuickBooks Online or to a Xero, and it pulls down the data into a Microsoft Excel format, it’s soon going to work with Google Sheets too, but it can pull down the data into a Microsoft Excel format. Using a solution like Data Dear, you can get more data out of your accounting solution than you could if you go in and download every single report.
But you’ll still have people saying I want this feature, or I want to access to this information. The developers may respond that the API is not open yet, or it needs to be built, and technical wizards build it, if they can.
But sometimes the platform says, I’m not actually going to let you connect with me. The accounting platform says no, we’ve assessed you – and for whatever reason, maybe a security reason, maybe there are other reasons involved, we’re not going to let you connect with us, which is kind of interesting. It’s not, I can’t simply connect to it, I need to go through a sort of an approval process to connect in there.
An API is not just an open door where anybody can come in, it’s a closed-door that can be opened if you ring the bell and pass the criteria for entry.
The same as what happens if you try and get an app approved on the iPhone marketplace. There is an approval process, and it’s quite a significant and costly rigmarole. Then for example with the iPhone market accounting platform, every time there’s a platform update, you may have to go through an update in your own solution to ensure that it still will work on that platform. You know, when you’re on your mobile device, and your favourite app suddenly says to you, I can no longer work on this device, you’ve got to wait for me to update? That same sort of thing can happen in the accounting ecosystem as well.
The Australian Business Software Industry Association has released a Security Standard for Add-on Marketplaces (SSAM) which you can read about here.