Accounting software provider Xero has announced a machine learning automation system that uses detailed statistical analysis to learn from and assist the individual business and their partner based on their own specific circumstances. Translation: an accountant or small business owner using Xero will, after some use, no longer have to worry about categorizing invoices; the software learns how to categorize on its own.

The technology will first be made available to a selected group of small business customers and their accountant partners for testing, and will be generally available to all Xero customers later this year.

This new machine learning technology, developed in-house at the software company, is designed to evolve with the processes used by the small business owner and their accounting professional. With use, Xero will automatically suggest an account code to the user, and the user can approve or correct that suggestion.

Xero has a stated goal of shaping its software as a personalized assistant for small businesses and their accountants. Machine learning is the natural way in which to achieve that goal, and as artificial intelligence technology improves, so will such platforms.

Xero accounting software on an iPad
Xero accounting software on an iPad

“Before we work with a client, we always review their balance sheet to see if items are correctly allocated,” stated Andrew Erkins, director of business development and technology at Xero Partner Digit Books. “They very rarely are, and so a lot of our time is spent playing catch-up, fixing errors. Xero’s machine learning can help us spend less time on these low value exercises, and more time adding value to our clients by providing expert advice. Every business is different, and how one client needs transactions to be allocated for their reporting will be different to another. For that reason, we need personalized machine learning which reflects the unique scenarios of every business. Generic machine learning would probably cause more issues than it solves for a lot of small businesses and their partners if it was applied as a broad brush.”

Ranica Arrowsmith

Technology editor for Accounting Today.