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Community > Using Xero Connected Apps >

Extend the Xero API with deeper integration

Started by Simon Garner -   in Using Xero Connected Apps

Have you guys considered making a more extensive API for Xero?

At the moment it seems fairly basic, and simply allows other products to communicate with Xero, reading and writing data in and out. This is fine (and definitely helpful), but the result is that anything using this API has to be a distinctly separate product.

If you are for instance using one of the third party products for payroll which work with Xero, and you want to run your payroll, you have to go to that product's website, login to a separate account there, then when it exports payroll transactions to Xero you have to switch over to Xero to authorize and reconcile, etc.

What if you were to take a leaf from Facebook's book and create an API for third parties to actually integrate "Apps" into Xero?

Then I could add a Payroll "App" to my company on Xero, which would create a link to "Payroll" in the tabs at the top of the screen. Clicking on that tab would authenticate me to the Payroll app automatically and load it inside the Xero interface. (You could even offer some UI components so that third party apps could choose to inherit Xero's UI styling, to maintain a consistent UX.)

I think this would make for a much more streamlined workflow, and it would open up possibilities for third parties to add new or missing functionality into Xero without having to build standalone "products" of their own. That in turn has the potential to make Xero significantly more useful, and save Xero from having to build every new 'core' feature themselves.
Funny - I was just thinking that! I can see problems with upgrade maintenance - a change in Xero could result in a plug-in App being no longer compatible, and would therefore place some restrictions on how the Xero team roll out changes. But the benefits would be great and would allow people to create micro-apps rather than complete stand-alone systems (such as allowing batch receipts which Xero doesn't support, or possibly even handling prompt payment discounts which Xero is taking over 2 years to get to).

Peter McCarroll  

Hi guys - not sure if you know we have an API Developer Community too where you're more likely to catch they eyes of our API team! I'll see if I can grab a comment here too - stand by.

Catherine Walker (Community Manager)  

Some good ideas there Simon and Peter.

I manage our Add-on partner program here at Xero, so I definitely have had some discussions on this and in fact I wrote up some notes only today on our primary concerns in our developer API feature request forum: API developer request forum

The Facebook mention is good one to as it shows where Xero diverges somewhat from an application like Facebook:

We have sensitive financial data: We employ bank level security to everything we do as custodians of our customer's financial data. The current API allows us to carefully manage the interaction of applications with Xero, but plug-in apps would have far greater potential to do nasty thing unless we employed a lot of effort ensuring it was done safely and securely – even then there are dangers if they don't have the same level of secure coding and ongoing testing as we do.

We have customers, not users: We have a super customer support team and quite often we get questions about how an add-on application works, or it has done X or Y, because the end result ends up in Xero (like your payroll example Simon) and conceptually, a user associates this with Xero, not the 3rd party Add-on. If the Add-on itself was running within Xero, this would be even more complicated.

I've also mentioned in my other response how concerned we would be about maintaining our beautiful interface design that our talented design team have worked so hard on – we would hate for it to become a cluttered mess if someone added say, 3 or 4 plugin-apps. Again, lots of ways this could be done in a sensible manner, but it all adds up to quite a large project.

So those are some of the things that would give us pause when looking at a project like that, but that is not to say there is not value in it.

If you are a developer, I would encourage you to leave a note in our API feature request page linked to above as I am keen to hear more on this topic. If you are a Xero user, please keep adding your thoughts here, it is great to see them and understand your perspective too. And of course if you are both, do both!


Ronan Quirke (Community Manager)