Stuart Lansdale

Invoice Ninja – An accounting robot for Slack

Running Roomfilla isn’t always a simple task. Actually it can be quite a challenge a lot of the time. Dealing with a large amount of guests, bookings, property owners and managers makes time very precious. Anything I can do to save myself time and energy I will. Recently we moved our whole accounting operation over to Xero which has been something of a revelation.

Using Xero before didn’t really work out but since this time, they have introduced integrations with Transferwise Borderless Accounts and also our Singaporean bank account. This means that all the transactions sync every day so we can see exactly how much cash is in the bank and also put all of our invoices there. This is kinda awesome for creating P&L tables, balance sheets and other boring financial documents which are actually critical for success.

One of the processes within Roomfilla which was not automated was creating invoices and ensuring they got paid on time. This had the potential to damage relationships with late payments and bookings and amounts to get lost which leads to more head scratching work trying to figure out what has been paid and what hasn’t.

The first step of solving this issue was to create an input where we could enter the information for a booking. Over time we will automate this further but for now we need to manually input the booking ID, the invoice amount, select a currency and say when an invoice is due. Once we do this some magic happens in the background and we’ll receive a message in Slack.

Invoice Ninja is alive! What Invoice Ninja does is, it searches our database of confirmations for the relevant details. It finds the property name for the booking and creates the draft in Xero for the invoice. The confirmation code is used as reference and we are provided with a button where we can approve or edit the invoice. Once this is done. The magic can begin!

Clicking the button is a deep link into Xero and to the invoice. From here you can press the approve button or you can make any edits which might be needed due to human error or other issues. Invoice Ninja then triggers based on the invoice being approved and will provide our staff with 2 options either ‘Go Ninja Go’ or ‘We’ll handle it manually’.

Clicking either of these buttons will send a double confirmation ‘are you sure’ message back to the staff. We don’t want mistakes when it comes to invoices! After that it sends the answer to a webhook so that a further workflow can process. The reason we have a manual option is because if we get a lot of invoices for one client then we would prefer to bulk send any payments as this saves on costs.

If ‘Go Ninja Go’ is selected, an event is created on the payment date which will start the process of automatically creating the transfer to the client with TransferWise Borderless Account API. This means that we cannot forget to do it and it will pop up that a scheduled transfer is happening. We also send an email to the client letting them know that a scheduled transfer is arranged for the specific date and details of the booking. This gives them peace of mind regarding the payment. We also attach a invoice PDF to that email and save a copy of it in Dropbox for our records. You can never have too many documents when money is involved!

If ‘We’ll handle it manually’ is selected then no further actions take place. A message is just sent letting the staff know that no email has been sent and nothing has been arranged. We then have the due date already set up in Xero so can handle it manually and fulfill the transfer.

Linking up this initial part of the invoice process with the actual payments is where the magic really happens. Since building an online bank into a Slack channel with the TransferWise API, I had this in mind and it is great to see it in practice. Being able to send money to clients directly within Slack where I live most of the day, means less distractions, less tools elsewhere, no OTP nonsense to get into an online banking dashboard and maximum efficiency.

Here it is in action. At the scheduled transfer date, Invoice Ninja pops up and tells us that an approved invoice schedule is commencing. Our online banking functionality will only work from my user account for security reasons but this message is also automated. This starts the flow in TransferWise of creating the quote, then creating the transfer and then funding the transfer. This is all done within this Slack channel. Once a transfer has been funded, it is sent to the client and a final email is sent to them that the funds have been sent and they should receive in 24 hours.

Looking back at creating Invoice Ninja, I have to ask myself, why did I do it and did it solve the problem it set out to? The answer as to why is because I was spending too much time searching down invoices, tracking what had been paid and what hadn’t and generally having no idea about the financial health of the company. Does it solve that problem? Yes it does. This tool enables a paper trail of all invoices and payments. Everything is logged, there is PDF proof. There is proof in Xero and the bare bones numbers do not lie. I can quickly see what is going on with the business a lot easier. It is efficient and saves me time. This automation is a great help for me. Next step is auto creating invoices from confirmed bookings without the need for a form input but with such a large selection of properties we manage, this is a much larger challenge!

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