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Harvest & Xero are popular software as a service platforms that anyone running a small business should take a serious look at if you think your spending too much time book keeping and recording hourly time.  Harvest is a web-based time tracking and invoicing application, Xero is online accounting software ideal for small to medium businesses. Nicely integrated, both have web and mobile apps and are a delight to use.

We've been using Xero for over a year now and it's transformed the way we view doing the accounts in my business, it's no longer painful. In fact it's such a transformation that I have to call out MYOB the platform we used for 5 years as the cause of much angst, grey hair and to be frank cost a small fortune to use in time and therefore money.

There's an overlap with Xero and Harvest in that the latter also handles invoicing and expenses but these are weak compared to Xero. Harvest excels in time keeping allowing us to have multiple clients, projects and tasks that we can switch between with ease using a Mac task bar menu or iPhone App. This timesheet data is uploaded to the Harvest service, the Mac app even detects idle time and asks if you want to remove it which is fantastic for those forgetting to turn the timer off!

 One very useful feature was being able to manually enter historical time against clients at the start of the free trial and include that in the first invoice. When you get to invoicing time simply create an invoice in Harvest first then post it to Xero, this isn't ideal but it works. I'd have preferred a big button that said 'Create Xero Invoice' without having to create it in Harvest but as I don't have to create it in Xero the net effort is the same so I can live with that. My main issue is that Xero doesn't provide the next invoice number, Harvest does and of course it starts from 1, which is a pain.

A nice update would be the ability to start invoicing at a number the trial user chooses, or let Xero do it. If you're wondering how Xero is saving us time I'd have to say that it's via the bank reconciliation features. Xero is hooked into bank feeds and presents new statement items against sales invoices and spend so it takes just five minutes a day to stay on top of this normally time consuming activity. It's also brilliant that our accountant can log in and check out the numbers prior to lodging our quarterly sales tax returns.

Having tried many time keeping apps I can say that this combination of Harvest and Xero will do us just fine for a while yet, in fact if I'd found these apps 5 years ago I think we'd still be using them today. I'm now able to spend much more time on chargeable work and less on time recording, book keeping and bank reconciliation. Both Harvest and Xero have trial accounts so if you're struggling with that old skool account package installed on a single PC and using a spreadsheet to record your time then you really should jump into the cloud, you won't look back.

Published: August 6th 2013 at 11:13am

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