Connect high-level company goals to individual work through global and regional OKR tracking
Improved asynchronous collaboration within a globally-dispersed team by managing work in one place
Transformed status meetings into action-oriented decision-making sessions, with all real time work status available in Asana
It can be life-changing when a small business owner gets their financial systems running smoothly. Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform that does just that. They help small and medium-sized businesses escape the limitations of the desktop and get into the cloud, with integrated systems and a clear cash position. More than 3 million subscribers around the world streamline their finances with Xero.
Founded in New Zealand in 2006 and now a public company, the brand is well known in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, and they’re focused on growing their presence in the Americas. Tony Ward, President of the region, is leading the charge—and his objective is to improve operating efficiencies as the company scales up. Before Xero adopted Asana, it was difficult for global teams to stay connected, with over 4,000 employees distributed across all continents. Alignment was far from perfect and there was limited visibility into the diverse work happening across countries and teams:
Time zones created communication challenges that slowed projects down.
Individuals couldn’t see how their efforts advanced company OKRs; people forgot about company-wide goals, which were tracked in static spreadsheets that weren’t front and centre.
Different departments worked from different information across a number of tools, creating silos.
People had to spend a lot of time in status meetings to stay in sync.
Xero needed a better way for employees to collaborate asynchronously—a single source of truth that linked everyone’s work to ambitious OKRs that could only be reached if the global team worked together as one.
Xero needed a platform that could centralise communication and accommodate all teams and working styles. It also had to be easy to use so that employees would make it the foundation of their workday. Leadership wanted high-level visibility into project status, while teams on the ground needed a way to track every little detail of a project’s tactical execution.
Another key requirement was security. Tony Ward explains that trust is a core part of Xero’s identity and vision: “We have small businesses’ financial data—their crown jewels. Security is number one for us, so any software we use needs to meet really high standards.”
When Asana passed the test, its customer success team ran training workshops for Xero employees and the leadership teams encouraged adoption by pulling up Asana Portfolios in meetings to review the status of initiatives. This drew their attention to anything at risk or off track—leaders spend their days context switching, so having a snapshot of all projects at once was helpful to get them up to speed and make decisions quickly.
Teams made a habit out of using Asana by building meeting agendas in the platform and assigning action items as tasks during their meetings. They also established basic rules, such as making sure that people asked any questions about a project in the relevant Asana task using comments. Xero’s Executive General Manager of Customer Operations, Rob Goodwin, explains, 'We ask all questions in Asana so that our records, workflows and artifacts are all in the same place, and we don’t confuse ourselves with some information in email, some in slides, etc.'
Xero uses Asana across the company to manage both project execution and high-level goal setting. “As a large, global company, it’s a challenge to make strategy real for everyone and help them see how their execution fits into the big picture,” says Tony. “We’re using Asana to solve that problem.”
Tracking OKRs in Asana has aligned leadership and given them the ability to prioritise projects, track progress and ultimately, execute faster to grow the business. Tony notes that breaking down silos makes this possible: “OKRs, by nature, are gnarly problems that no one group can solve alone. We’re using Asana so that cross-functional groups have visibility, clarity and accountability to complete their goals.”
Each program or initiative that Xero executes is managed in Asana as a project and they use Portfolios to group projects together. For example, Rob’s customer operations team has a portfolio for UK-based projects and another for the Central Operating Plans of the global go-to-market organisation. This portfolio holds the 14 initiatives that will help the global team advance their two- to three-year vision for the business. Clicking through this portfolio in Asana, Rob can see the live status of all projects, who their owners are, the target delivery date for the next milestone and more.
Rob says, “Our strategy articulates both central and regional priorities and it’s the sum of those parts that makes us hit our overarching strategy. With a tool like Asana, I can see how the UK piece rolls up, the Australian piece rolls up, and so on — I can also see where I need to put more resources, effort and time.” Teams update their Asana projects weekly and Rob receives an automated email with all the status updates for the projects in his portfolios. Every two weeks, teams walk through their Asana portfolios for a deeper check-in.
When a team begins a new initiative, they duplicate an Asana template and add all related files into the new Asana project so they’re in one place. If a project is managed Kanban style, they use Asana’s board view, while a waterfall project uses Timeline view. One of Xero’s programs is called 'Ready, Set, Go', and it takes a product or customer initiative to market through three distinct phases in an Asana project: scoping, preparation and execution. The Asana project acts as the hub for all cross-functional collaborators, bringing together marketing, product delivery, sales, customer service, the partner network and more. All the details live together, and anyone can access the information day or night, no matter what time zone they’re in.
Xero’s product marketing group relies on this collaborative hub; as a global function, they use Asana to get stories to teams in regional markets so they can build out their plans and campaigns. Marketing also runs a monthly email newsletter and each issue involves many stakeholders around the world. They manage all these contributors in Asana, and use it to improve and simplify the production process.
Other initiatives managed in Asana include:
Onboarding Xero’s accounting and bookkeeping partners: 70% of Xero’s business comes from its partner network. Xero runs a 3-month onboarding program to train new partners and they coordinate everything in Asana, from materials to trainers.
Salesforce effectiveness project: Xero is improving their revenue organisation’s operating efficiency with a global initiative to improve their Salesforce instance. “We’re shipping features faster now that it’s managed in Asana, due to improved collaboration and insights from cross-functional stakeholders,” Tony says.
One-on-one meetings: Managers and their direct reports build their one-on-one meeting agendas by adding tasks to an Asana project between discussions. They can add tasks from other Asana projects to their agenda, so that all the context is already there and there’s less time needed to get up to speed.
Asana has become Xero’s source of truth, putting everyone on the same page, across the business. Employees have clarity on what they’re responsible for, leaders can make better decisions and global teammates have significantly improved their collaboration and asynchronous work.
Xero’s business is booming, and as they expand into new regions, Asana will help them continue to work efficiently at scale. As Xero gains operational clarity and visibility for themselves, they can bring more financial clarity and visibility to the business owners they serve.