How to Create Smart Lists in Xero: Leveraging Data for Better Decisions

published on 23 January 2024

Most business owners would agree that making sense of financial data can be overwhelming.

Luckily, Xero offers a powerful yet easy-to-use tool called Smart Lists that can organize and analyze your accounting data, saving you time and guiding better decisions.

In this post, you'll learn what Smart Lists are, how to create them in Xero, and how to leverage Smart Lists to simplify financial management tasks like accounts payable, reporting, and more.**

Introduction to Smart Lists in Xero

Smart Lists in Xero are customizable lists that allow you to track and report on specific data in your accounting records. They differ from standard lists by allowing you to set up filters and rules to automatically populate each list with relevant transactions.

For example, you could create a Smart List that displays all overdue invoices from a certain customer. As new invoices are created and existing ones become overdue, the Smart List would update automatically to include them.

Some key benefits of using Smart Lists include:

What are Smart Lists?

  • Smart Lists are customizable lists in Xero that allow you to filter transaction data and create automatic reports
  • You can set up filter rules (e.g. by contact, date range, status) so that any matching transactions are added dynamically
  • They automatically stay up-to-date as new matching transactions occur in Xero
  • Differ from standard lists by being automated and customizable to your reporting needs

Key Benefits of Using Smart Lists

  • Customized tracking: Create lists tailored to your specific data reporting needs, no coding required
  • Automatic updates: Lists update automatically as your data changes, saving manual reporting effort
  • Easy insights into trends: Spot patterns and anomalies in your data with automatically refreshed lists
  • Time savings: Reduce time spent on manual data entry and list updates by leveraging automation
  • Focused tracking: Isolate and report on just the subsets of data you need to monitor

In summary, Smart Lists unlock more value from your Xero data by allowing you to track and report on customized transaction sets automatically. They save time, provide insights, and give you better control over your data.

How do I create a smart list in Xero?

Creating smart lists in Xero can help you better organize and analyze your contacts. Here are the steps to create a smart list:

  1. Go to the Contacts menu and click "All Contacts"
  2. Select the "Smart Lists" tab
  3. Click on one of the default smart list searches such as "Have Purchased an Item" to view an existing smart list
  4. (Optional) Click "Add a Condition" to customize the search criteria for your smart list
    • You can filter by contact tags, contact groups, account codes, purchase history, and more
  5. Give your new smart list a name and click "Save"

Once created, your smart list will be dynamically updated as your contacts meet the specified criteria. This allows you to segment your contacts and gain insights into customer behavior and sales patterns.

For example, you could create a smart list of customers who have made a purchase over $1000 or contacts located in a certain city. The possibilities are endless.

Smart lists are a powerful feature in Xero that can help you identify sales opportunities, understand your customers, and make data-driven decisions about your business. So take advantage of smart lists to get more value out of your contacts.

How do I create multiple reports in Xero?

Creating customized report packs in Xero allows you to generate multiple reports at once with a single click. This can save you time when pulling common reports on a regular basis.

To create a report pack:

  1. In the Accounting menu, select Reports.

  2. Click the menu icon in the top right corner.

  3. Click "Add report" to select the first report for your pack. You can choose from any of the standard or custom reports available.

  4. To add additional reports, click "Add report" at the top of the page for each one you want to include.

  5. Once you've selected all the reports, choose the date range that will apply to the entire pack.

  6. Click "Update" to generate the reports. They will now appear as tabs at the top, allowing you to toggle between each one.

  7. You can also edit the individual report settings as needed by clicking the menu icon next to each tab.

Creating report packs is a handy way to compile the financial data you reference most often. You can generate them on demand or even schedule packs to run automatically based on custom date ranges. Leveraging packs saves you clicks and ensures consistency when comparing standard sets of reports.

How do I show profit and loss on Xero dashboard?

To view the Profit and Loss report on the Xero Accounting app:

  1. On the dashboard, under Profit and loss, tap the profit figure.
  2. (Optional) To change the reporting period, tap the current period, then tap the period you want to show. This also changes the default period that shows on the dashboard.

The Profit and Loss report provides an overview of your business's financial performance over a specified time period. It summarizes your income and expenses to show whether your business operated at a profit or loss.

Key things the Profit and Loss report shows:

  • Total income - This includes sales revenue, interest income, or any other money earned.
  • Total expenses - This covers operating costs like wages, supplies, rent, etc.
  • Net profit/loss - The bottom line that results from subtracting total expenses from total income. A positive number indicates a profit, while a negative number indicates a loss.

Reviewing this report periodically can help you:

  • Track business performance over time
  • Identify trends in income and expenses
  • Uncover areas to reduce costs and boost revenue
  • Make informed decisions to improve profitability

By default, the current month's profit/loss shows on the Xero dashboard. Tapping the date range allows you to view other periods like year-to-date or previous months. Comparing periods helps spot positive or negative trends.

So in summary, the Profit and Loss report clearly shows your revenue, costs, and bottom line profit/loss. Checking it regularly and across date ranges provides valuable insight into your business's financial health. Toggling the date range on the dashboard makes this quick and easy in Xero.


What is a contact group in Xero?

A contact group in Xero allows you to organize your contacts that have something in common into one place. This can help streamline your workflow when you need to email or interact with certain groups of contacts.

Here are some key things to know about Xero contact groups:

  • Create New Groups Easily: You can create a new contact group directly in Xero by going to Contacts > Contact Groups and clicking "Add Group". Give your group a name that reflects the common thread among the contacts.

  • Add Existing Contacts: When you create a new group, you can immediately add existing contacts. You can also add or remove contacts later by editing the group.

  • Customize Groups for Your Needs: Groups can be based on anything - location, department, partner type, etc. Create groups that align with how you categorize and interact with your contacts.

  • Simplify Email Communication: If you need to email a certain group regularly, adding them to a contact group saves you time since you don't have to search for those contacts every time.

  • Rename or Delete Groups: Your contact group names and structures may change over time. You can easily rename a group or delete it when it's no longer needed.

In summary, Xero's contact groups allow you to organize your contacts in a way that matches your business needs. Taking the time to thoughtfully create contact groups can help streamline your daily workflows.

Creating and Customizing Smart Lists

Smart Lists in Xero provide users with the ability to create customized views of their data based on specific filter criteria. This enables users to focus on the metrics and contacts most relevant to their accounting tasks and financial decisions.

Build with Filter Criteria

When creating a new Smart List in Xero, users can leverage a variety of filter criteria to tailor the list to their needs, such as:

  • Account types (e.g. display only Accounts Receivable or Accounts Payable)
  • Contacts (e.g. show transactions associated with specific customers or vendors)
  • Date ranges (e.g. last 30/60/90 days)
  • Amount thresholds (e.g. payments over $500)
  • Tax rates
  • Tracking categories

Using detailed filter criteria ensures that Smart Lists display only the most pertinent subset of accounting data for the intended purpose. For example, an AR manager could create a Smart List showing the total balances owed from customers over 90 days past due to prioritize collections outreach.

Choosing Which Columns to Display

Once the filter criteria is set, users can customize which columns are displayed in the Smart List. Rather than showing every available data field, it is best to select the specific columns most relevant to the use case.

For AR tasks, important columns could include:

  • Customer name
  • Invoice date
  • Invoice number
  • Days overdue
  • Balance due

This enables AR personnel to quickly scan for and sort the metrics needing the most immediate attention.

Setting Automated Actions and Notifications

One of the most powerful features in Xero Smart Lists is the ability to set rules and alerts based on target metrics. For example, users can be automatically notified via email if an invoice exceeds 60 days past due or if a customer balance goes over $1,000.

Setting notifications and reminders for key thresholds helps ensure critical AR metrics do not slip through cracks. Users can also create reminders for specific tasks like sending an automatic statement to customers at 30 days past due.

Automating these types of actions provides peace of mind that the right activity will happen at the right time based on Smart List criteria.

Leveraging Smart Lists for Accounting Tasks

Smart Lists in Xero provide powerful filtering and automation capabilities to streamline key accounting workflows. Here are some ways to leverage Smart Lists for critical business processes:

AP and AR Management

  • Create Smart Lists to automatically track outstanding invoices and bills by due date, helping prioritize collections and payments.
  • Set up email alerts when invoices are paid late to stay on top of receivables.
  • Use custom filters to identify and follow up on overdue payments from specific customers.
  • Automate approval workflows based on Smart List criteria like purchase amounts or expense types.

Project and Cost Tracking

  • Build Project Smart Lists to analyze spending across individual projects or departments.
  • Gain visibility into profitability by customer, service line or other dimensions.
  • Configure alerts when project costs exceed defined thresholds to enable proactive cost management.

Financial Reporting and Planning

  • Use Smart List segmentation to automatically prepare reports for business units, locations etc.
  • Identify trends and outliers in KPIs like revenue growth, margins, cash flow with filtered views.
  • Leverage Smart List data to build budgets, forecasts and performance benchmarks aligned to business objectives.

In summary, Xero Smart Lists empower accounting teams with actionable insights to drive critical processes - from cash flow management to cost control and planning. The dynamic filtering and automation capabilities can be customized to the organization's specific needs and workflows.

Tips for Advanced Smart List Users

Smart Lists in Xero provide a powerful way to automatically track and analyze your financial data. For advanced users who want to get even more value out of Smart Lists, here are some tips:

Complex Filter Logic

You can create complex filters in your Smart Lists using Boolean operators like AND, OR, and NOT. Some examples:

  • Amount GREATER THAN $1000 AND Type IS Expense
  • Date IS LAST MONTH OR Status IS Draft
  • Type IS NOT Bank Fee

This allows you to fine-tune your Smart Lists to pull in very customized data views.

Calculated Columns

In addition to the default columns available in Smart Lists, you can create custom columns that perform calculations on your data using formulas. Some ideas:

  • Profit Margin = Amount - COGS / Amount
  • Days Outstanding = Date - Due Date

Adding metrics like these gives you more analytical power from each Smart List.

Performance Optimization

As Smart Lists grow in size and complexity, performance can slow down. Here are some tips:

  • Filter out unnecessary rows using date ranges or status
  • Summarize data instead of transaction-level detail
  • Split one large Smart List into separate Smart Lists
  • Refresh no more than once per hour

With some optimization care, even very large and complex Smart Lists can continue running smoothly.

Taking full advantage of Xero's Smart List flexibility takes some practice, but can enable advanced reporting and automation for your accounting processes. Start simple and slowly layer on complexity to build custom views matching your business needs.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Implementing Smart Lists in Xero can provide significant benefits for managing accounting data and enabling better business decisions. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Smart Lists allow you to save customized filters and views of your data so you can quickly access the exact information you need. This eliminates the need to recreate filters every time.

  • Smart Lists enable you to identify trends, outliers, and insights that would be difficult to see when looking at all your data. Focusing on targeted data cuts through noise.

  • Sharing Smart Lists with others ensures stakeholders have access to the same views of critical financial data for consistency.

  • Smart Lists can be used across customers, suppliers, invoices, bills, bank transactions, contacts, and more.

To get started with Smart Lists:

  • Identify your most frequent or important reporting needs. What data views do you access or share regularly? These are good Smart List candidates.

  • Build customized filters that isolate the data you care about. Save these filters as Smart Lists for quick access later.

  • Share Smart Lists with others who need to see the same reporting views.

  • Set up automatic email reports based on Smart Lists to have key data delivered on a schedule.

Taking full advantage of Smart Lists can save time, improve visibility into your data, and enable better business decisions through targeted accounting data insights. The customization flexibility is powerful if used strategically for your most frequent reporting needs.

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