Integrating Xero With WatchMojo: Taking Invoice Input Processes To The Next Level

Originally published on Xero Developer Network; Stories, insights and updates from the Xero Dev team

With over 100 billion all-time minutes of watch time and more than 36 million global subscribers, WatchMojo creates video content, which is translated and distributed through multiple online platforms like YouTube, as well as subsidiaries and partner companies. Their mission is to reimagine video production, lower video creation costs, and give viewers access to their content library from anywhere, embedded on any platform.

Using the Xero API, the team at WatchMojo, and their product consultants at Bain Public, have completely streamlined their invoicing processes, and done away with manually inputting hundreds of invoices, by integrating Xero with their own custom software.

The team at Watchmojo shared the below story with us, including how their finance team saw a one day per week productivity increase, thanks to their integration, and the benefits they’ve experienced from recently migrating to OAuth 2.0.

The Story of Integrating Xero with WatchMojo
In 2016, WatchMojo brought a new CFO onboard to support transforming the family business into a global media player. A new accounting system was needed to support the evolution, and Xero had all the needed characteristics — it was cloud-based, well-documented and had an open API.

Implementing Xero was seamless, and within a few weeks, a full year of data was easily imported. But something stood-out very quickly: WatchMojo was dealing with hundreds of freelancer invoices where each had line items linked back to individually assigned production tasks.

When WatchMojo’s finance staff members wanted to support freelancer payment processes, they had to manually input hundreds of invoice details directly into Xero. This became time-consuming, it left too much room for human error, and it resulted in big delays in payment processing. The company also didn’t have a unique pre-production video number, without which it was impossible to tie the different costs of a project together.

By 2017, WatchMojo was growing steadily as an organization, dealing with 226 active freelancers, roughly 1,144 invoices across Canada, the U.S. and Europe and had an estimated 5,000 task items to be approved and paid inside Xero. WatchMojo recognized they needed a unique resource allocation solution with recipient created invoices for freelancers.

The company had already built their own customised software, Unity, to show who was working on what project, track production steps, provide a health overview through analytics, and help unlock further video publishing potential.

Unity was enabling WatchMojo to maximize the time employees spent coming up with new ideas and minimize the time spent supporting existing video production tasks. The final piece in the puzzle was integrating it with Xero, to also streamline processing their growing number of invoices.

Connecting Unity to Xero for streamlined invoice management
WatchMojo wanted to be able to automatically input freelancer’s work data from Unity, directly into Xero, so they had a seamless and accurate invoice approval workflow.

Connecting and Xero in 2017, was an important milestone for Unity. As the company dealt with an increasing number of invoices, they were able to integrate Xero OAuth 1.0a. The finance team immediately saw a one day per week productivity increase.

"The stakes were high, yet we made a transformative shift. Our invoice input process at WatchMojo is much faster and accurate, allowing us to release company resources and allocate them to other tasks. This system has helped us reinvent the business." Paul Ortchanian, Head of Product, Bain Public.

Now, when a freelancer completes a video project in Unity, it triggers an invoice approval and payment process. Rather than manually entering the information and transferring it across platforms, a connection is set up to carry the relevant information into Xero, speeding up communication between departments and freelancers as well as improving productivity and satisfaction levels. The end result: WatchMojo employees can spend more time crafting videos and create further value for the business.

Even more benefits after moving to OAuth 2.0
In 2019, WatchMojo upgraded to Xero OAuth 2.0, which improved security and provided a new automated process granting access to freelancers to the e-invoicing system.

"I’m thrilled that we were able to move to a more secure authentication protocol with OAuth 2.0. I’m happy to see that Xero API was able to handle the complexity of our invoicing system so we could make what Unity is today." Julian Burz, Lead Developer, WatchMojo
Xero OAuth 2.0 automatically gave WatchMojo a pre-authorized access key, which is continuously regenerated behind the scenes. This upgrade also allows for bi-directional updates and freelancer invoicing status updates (i.e. pending or paid).

From January to July 2020, WatchMojo dealt with over 102 active freelancers, 609 invoices and 7,254 task items that need to be approved and paid inside Xero. While the number of active freelancers has decreased over the years, the number of invoices are expected to remain the same and the number of task items is expected to increase to 15,000 by the end of the year.

This means WatchMojo has adopted the methodology of lean production and outsourcing, which ultimately reduces waste and cost in operations by outsourcing repetitive or challenging work to a large group of individuals.

It goes to show that as Watchmojo has grown, they’ve needed a robust and streamlined solution to handle and manage the volume of invoices and freelancers working with them.

"When we expanded our organization, we were able to do so thanks to our team of freelancers. Early on, we could manage the growing list of contributors and ensure they were paid promptly with our existing systems and processes. But once we started to scale, we wanted to ensure that how we treated the freelancers — in terms of prompt payment, giving and receiving feedback, managing multiple projects in different languages no less — would not suffer. I was relieved that Xero's robust and flexible system was able to allow us to grow our organization's output and productivity and helped increase our level of quality and service." Ashkan Karbasfrooshan, CEO, WatchMojoThe Benefits of Automation
Automation, also known as labour-saving technology, is what helped bring Unity to life and take WatchMojo’s invoice input process to the next level. If we dig deeper, there are a number of benefits that automation brought to the table during this integration project:

  • Displacement: The system was able to replace some of the tasks previously done by humans, ultimately reducing the demand for labour and eliminating human error during the process of controlling and approving invoices submitted by freelancers in Xero.
  • Augmentation: The automation system increased the value of the tasks carried out by humans. Managers used to assign freelancers using manual methods (i.e. email and spreadsheets). Now that there’s transparency in this automated system, it allows the managers to view who’s under or over-booked as well as who gives more return on investment, factoring in work output quality and speed in real-time.
  • Capital deepening: New automation systems are an investment that increases the stock of capital that workers use, making them more productive and increasing demand for labour. The productivity expansion, gain in flexibility with the video creation process and the creation of a sprawling, decentralized network of thousands of freelancers, while closely monitoring production, costs and revenue, has increased the stock price investors put on the company.
  • Reinstatement: This is when the automation system creates completely new tasks such as developing machine learning systems or labelling datasets to train those systems. These new tasks will create new jobs and industries, increasing labour demand. Once e-invoicing was completed, it created a completely new task of maintaining IP in WatchMojo’s cloud infrastructure, allowing them to label, and easily query freelancer-outputted documents and generate new documents through automated scripts.
Addressing the Impact of Process Power
Process power is usually best illustrated with an example. One of the inspirations for the founder of Toyota, Eiji Toyoda, in scaling up the company was the manufacturing revolution pioneered by the Ford Motor Company. In 1950, he visited Ford’s flagship ‘integrated factory’ and was shocked at the wastefulness of the processes he observed.

Ford had been keeping huge stocks of inventory and running below capacity so they would have the ability to smooth out variations in the factory’s output, a feat they were very proud of. In response to this, Toyoda returned to Japan and laid out a new set of operating principles in his factories, principles which ultimately led to the famous Toyota Production System.

These operating principles, also known as the Toyota Method, are designed to provide the tools for people to improve their work continually. It offers a long-term philosophy of finding the right processes that will produce results, adding value to the organization through employee development and continuously solving root problems to drive organizational learning.

As WatchMojo has grown as an organization, they’ve closely followed the Toyota Method with Unity and their integration with Xero. Through this method, they’ve learned to continuously massage their processes, improve performance and revisit solutions to give them an edge against competitors. Best of all, when a productivity increase is found, it can be automatically transferred to all production employees, so the benefits are multiplied.

Final comments from WatchMojo’s CFO
"As a new CFO in the business in 2016, it was a challenge to determine the best accounting system to replace an old desktop application. Something that would provide simple accounting functionalities, but also an application sophisticated enough to evolve in the future. Xero was an obvious choice. Its open API is what permitted the development of our production tool Unity, tying the video production projects to the accounting system to allow for the delegation of approval authority within the team. This became the foundation of the freelancers’ payment system, creating a piece by piece low-cost small business ERP connecting Xero to WatchMojo’s Unity, ReceiptBank, ApprovalMax, Expensify, Hubdoc, ADP and finally the international payment platform WayPay. For four years, they are used reliably by dozens of our users on a daily basis." David Massé, CFO, WatchMojo

Check out this article for more on WatchMojo and the work they’ve done with us.

Thanks to Loren O'Brien-Egesborg and Gabrielle Drouin for contributing to, reading drafts of this article and overseeing aspects of its publication. Also, if you have any feedback or criticism about this article, then shoot us an email
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Bain Public, acquired by X Machina-AI Inc. in January 2022, offers consistent roadmap planning processes & tools for business leaders and product managers organized around what motivates, inspires and improves growth. Bain Public offers a variety of articles, e-books and approaches designed to help organizations understand their digital strategies, introduce elements of roadmapping and establish product-led change amongst the senior leaders and managers. Our approach, product, expert advice and coaching helps entangle complex technology, people and roadmap dynamics.

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