Xero Projects now adds project-based billing and reporting to Xero.
A long-standing criticism of Xero has been that it doesn’t have a function comparable to Quickbooks’ Job Costing. That is no longer true. Xero Projects fills that void.
For those of us who have worked in Xero for years, we were used to turning to third-party apps for any kind of project-based billing and reporting. (Xero has a tracking category feature that I sometimes used for light segregation, but it has limited functionality, and Xero even admits, is not a substitute for any kind of job-costing.)
Enter Xero Projects.
Projects are set up by contact plus project name and can be opened with a deadline and project estimate in dollars.
From the main dashboard, it is easy to see all open or “in progress” projects at a glance. An open project can hold both time and expenses. Time must be associated with a task within the project, which frankly, I found a little bit frustrating at first. Time can be entered in the browser-based platform or using a stopwatch feature on the mobile app. Estimated time compared to actual time is shown visually on the project’s dashboard. Any time over the estimate is displayed as a red line.
I found the expense submission to much more intuitive. After a little bit of testing with a couple of my clients, it seems as though the best workflow would be to begin with the payment of the project expense, either as a bill or spend money, and associate it as a billable expense to the project. Doing so will add it to the open project expenses and allow it to be added to the project invoice.
Project invoicing is especially simple. All possible charges – time and expenses – are shown on a screen, where they can be selected or unselected for inclusion on the invoice. With a click, Xero creates a draft invoice for the project. Alternatively, a fixed price can be invoiced.
There is no native templating function yet in Projects; however an easy workaround would be to create a project with tasks and no entries, then use the overflow menu to Copy to a real project as needed.
My only criticism of Projects is that invoices generated will only show the title of the task in the invoice description field, not the optional description associated with time entries.
I reached out to Xero support on this and it seems that the optional description field can only be seen on the Detailed Time report. It seems as though including the time description on invoices could open the functionality for users such as attorneys, who must include significant detail on their client invoices.
After some limited testing, I believe that Xero Projects is a solid in-product alternative to simple job tracking. With slight tweaks, I think it could give the bigger players in the space and certainly law firm management packages, a run for their money.
Overall, the new Xero Projects is a drastic improvement in the platform and speaks to Xero’s commitment to make accounting beautiful.