#xerocon Australia Live Blog
The second Xerocon event in Australia is about to begin! It’s our Xero conference dedicated to our accounting and add-on partners. We’ll be live blogging and posting regular updates here so please check back throughout the day for what’s happening.
Follow the conference on Twitter via the hashtag #Xerocon as Xero staff and delegates tweet what they’re seeing and hearing. You can also see photos taken throughout the day in our Facebook album Xero Conference Australia 2012.
Update: We now have Xero CEO Rod Drury.
Rod talks about the passion in getting people excited by tech “We do this to make small businesses more productive”.
Xerocon Australia is the biggest event in the company’s history – over 400 attendees and over 30 exhibitors.
Xero is now a global business, not just a New Zealand one. Rod says that Xero is one of the fastest growing tech companies in Asia Pacific and continues to grow.
Update: Rod says that we think small business market is biggest monetizable opportunity on the web. The first step is getting software online and Xero is delivering that. The next step is to connect businesses together. There are huge opportunities to facilitate commerce between businesses.
Next phase is making things smart – what if your accounting software started giving you business leads? It’s all about the data – it’s becoming a big data business.
The mobile application is taking off, with 40,000 downloads. People sent 2000 invoices on the fly last month and took 8000 receipt photos.
Rod is talking about the accountants and bookkeepers becoming trusted advisors. “We think we can materially improve GDP”. Empowering the channel is the key. “Put the accountant in the middle.” It’s all about disruption – putting the accountant and the customer on the same platform. The existing vendors can no longer charge twice. It’s free stuff they can’t compete with. “We’ll put more investment onto the advisor side and it will be completely transformational.”
Rod is now really emphasizing the partnership approach. Working with the channel. The client pays and gets the value. Also looking at commoditizing and driving business leads.
9:30am- Xero Acquires Spotlight Workpapers
Rod announces that Xero has acquired Spotlight Workpapers and the crowd cheers.
Xero is spending serious money on infrastructure with over 100 app servers, using Akamai caching, housing 60TBb of data.
The App economy is taking off for the Xero platform. Small businesses don’t spend big money on integration, they benefit from the Add-on approach where software partners are doing the integration for their customers, at scale. “Just seeing the quality of the products is absolutely amazing” – Rod
Another growth area is the conversion tools from other products. The open API helps a lot.
Rod is now talking about all the growth in Australia with staff growing from 10 to 40 staff in 18 months. Offices all around the country and always looking for quality staff.
Why Xero? – Transparent public company you can invest in. 100% focused on accounting software. Legacy free. On the right tech platform. “We are demonstrably reducing your cost and increasing revenue opportunity”
Rod finishes up with the passion and that he takes any downtime personally. “We live this stuff”
9:45am Chris Ridd, Managing Director, Xero Australia
Chris Ridd hits the stage. Promises exciting announcements during the day. First up, time to look at achievements – Australian customer numbers are way up (over 25,000) along with accounting and bookkeeping partners. Launching integrated payroll was a highlight. The Add On solution partnerships have really come along with 1/3 of Xero solution partners coming from Australia. And all capped off with the CeBIT Award – humbling.
Chris is getting into the detail of the team growth across the different roles. Hiring a lot of bookkeepers and accountants amongst that. “Not just sales people but roles that will help drive success in your practice as well”.
Move planned for Melbourne to a new building that will provide capacity for five years growth. Offices also in Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane. Speculates on potential for an office out west.
Customer care response times are worth talking through – Chris is covering off what we’re doing about any issues that follow from increasing volumes. Duncan Ritchie blogged on this recently. Chris – “It’s all about hiring expertise” – including people with payroll and tax expertise specific to Australia. We won’t open a call centre but we are looking at a formalised call back system.
10:10am Online Tax planned for Australia
Chris announcing plans to launch online tax in Australia. Was delivered in NZ this year. Can’t put a date on it but it will be released in stages to mitigate risk and build trust in the functionality.This is a major investment and has been thoroughly researched.
10:15am-New Partner Program coming
A new Xero partner program is being launched, starting October, which will evolve over time. Chris is explaining the key changes to levels and standardizing of margins. Margins for partners as at 1 October will be locked in for two years. New volume pricing for Ledger. Big announcement that partner tools will be free for Silver+ . Details will be communicated.
Chris steps back for the big picture – Small Business sector is 46% of GDP. We need better broadband. Xero is working with AIIA, has partnership with Federal Government on Teleworking Initiative, and involved with NBN forum. The Cloud approach allows people to be “living the dream”.
Chris ends his presentation by talking about the Xero band. Looking forward to seeing them perform live tonight at the gala dinner!
10:50am Morning tea
11:00am Sara Goepel, Product Manager, Xero Australia
Back from morning tea. Xero roadmap time. Sara Goepel going through some sneak previews relating to: Online training; Partner Marketing within the online community; Feature voting; opt-in public profile.
Now looking at Xero Personal. Loads of recently new features that just make it easier to use. New keyword rules help the categorizing of transactions, and expanded suggestions also help.
If you use both Xero personal and Xero business, you can send expense claims through from personal to business!
Payroll guru Stuart McLeod takes the stage. Through Xero payroll there have been over 30000 people paid., over $180 million transacted in the past couple of months.
So what’s the feature roadmap for payroll? Payroll only admin; Xero-style reports (and Stuart is seeking requests for what details are needed); Timesheets for employees/timesheet import; and somewhere down the track – time billing.
11:40am Andrew Tokeley (Tokes), Product Manager, Xero
Let’s talk reports. Lots of customization ability but we want to be able to offer a higher level of customizing and branding capability. It’s all about the use of Report Codes and Report Packs and giving more control.
Remittance advice in testing phase says Tokes – “going to ship it in the next while”! Showing a live demo off a test server. The new “send remittance” button is something to look forward to.
Online invoices are a huge opportunity. Tokes says that Rod talks about the great potential for Xero to have a network effect. The thinking is that you be able to send invoices online. The recipient not only gets an attachment, but also a live link with payment options. “It’s not a static PDF”. It cuts out a lot of back and forth between organisations. Also being able to see the list of invoices and their state online. “Static statements are very old school”.
Tokes also covering off plans for emailing improvements, purchase orders, more plain English language use, and Xero Touch on Android (release in next few months).
12:15pm What’s for lunch?
Sholto says the Cloud is going to revolutionise business and accounting. First key benefits – work from anywhere there is an Internet connection – zero cost in setting up a new branch office!
Second key benefit – cloud software means you don’t need servers. They are so frustrating – financial cost and operations. The difference is huge. Also solves a lot of distraction that IT causes. Only thing to worry about is Internet
Third key benefit – the ability of cloud software to connect to each other. Businesses need to share info all the time. It opens up a range of opportunities by removing manual entry.
All the big software companies are moving to the Cloud. Sholto says the biggest issue is that IT services companies can’t make money from selling Cloud services. When they go, who will advise small business about IT? Accountants and bookkeepers.service – not a biggie.
Hamish Edwards is now up.
Hamish has set up a new company, Rightway, this past year, which doubles as a proof of concept. It is a virtual team of 14 full time or part time staff. All clients are on bundles (not time and cost) and use Xero. Expect to break even in a month or two. Adding 15 clients a month.
How to move to “Next Gen”? Hamish says move to a “value add”, away from “compliance” thinking. Get your staff fully trained with Cloud approach. Get your software over to Xero. There is software for conversion. Then get your clients over to Xero. Have a launch party as a great way to bring people on board to the concept. Then put them all on a bundle – probably takes a year. Then start presenting management reports, identifying their business problems, and helping them be successful.
Update – Xero now trending on Twitter
Byron is looking at ways clouds allow you to “do more with less”. Cloud delivery is revolutionising the way hardware and software is sold. IDC has forecast that 80% of new business applications will be deployed on the Cloud. This means accountants can now foot it with the big boy consulting firms.
Cloud allows accountants and bookkeepers to engage with clients in real time, utilise at-home workers, and gives increased ability to exit your business through having attractive modern processes.
Up next is Tim Wright, Product Manager for Xero.
The Modern Practice is Xero’s vision for a practice in the cloud. So how do we get there?
It all starts with a single ledger. In a traditional model, there are different products you might use to manage various tasks for your clients. This can be inefficient, as well as costly to you and your clients.
Using Xero’s single ledger perspective, there’s only one platform to manage all your different clients and products. Makes more financial sense. “You can take them on a journey” says Tim.
Leveraging efficiency of the single ledger by providing practice tools for free, including Report Writing, Practice Management, Workpapers and Tax. Then there are the many Add-Ons…
Partner Tools will be available outside of the Partner Program at a cost, but will be free for silver+ partners. All returns from Xero free. Individual returns free. The challenge will be for Xero to put this together when it hasn’t been done before. It will be released incrementally.
2:50pm Afternoon tea
Photos from the other streams:
Xero General Manager Marketing Paula Jackson helping Xerocon attendees to think about their own marketing. Starting with in-room survey – what are you doing with websites and social media?
Survey results show less than 60% in room who responded have a website, less than 20% have a blog.
If you are operating your business in the Cloud, then market your business in the Cloud. Partnership marketing material has been updated. The Partner Marketing Resource Guide will be part of the Xero Business Community.
The Guide gives you practical steps to incorporate marketing into your business. For example, it has activities to help you define your brand and who you are.
Paula notes that small business love fixed price, as seen with phone services.
It is mandatory to have a landing page if you are a partner. Paula showed off a new initiative coming in a couple of months that keep the partner’s banner up if when they link to Xero. If they click on the banner link it comes back with an enquiry box that goes back to the specific partner.
Paula recommends using an email fulfillment system such as Campaign Monitor. Great tracking, but the key reason is to allow opt-out and avoid issues with being perceived as spamming.
Xero regularly offers direct mail campaign assistance, has event support, advertising support, signage and more. If rebranding, consider how your brand can work with ours. 5Ways mobile services is a beautiful example.
Bench PR’s Jocelyn Hunter steps up to talk social media. Blogging is an easy way to get new content on your website. Use RSS feeds to track what other blogs are saying. Use forums and communities of interest on the web – ask your customers where they are going for advice and join up.
Sign up to LinkedIn and Twitter and get involved in the groups and discussions. Do your research about how your customers want to communicate, what tools are available such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite. Time is money but Social Media is not a fad, nor just for kids.
Paula announces a direct campaign. You need a minimum of 50 clients, email firstname.lastname@example.org before 31 July. It will happen if we have 20 emails by Monday wanting to do it! Show of hands – way over that.
4:10pm Transform stream with Hamish Edwards, Co-Founder of Xero
Hamish takes the stage for the last presentation in the Transform stream ‘Be More Profitable’.
Talking about the collaborative relationship between the bookkeeper and the accountant.
Hamish dives into the single ledger. It’s a concept that builds efficiency into the accounting process. Xero is the only company in the world that does this. “Biggest thing to drive efficiency into your practice as you start using Xero is the single ledger”.
Talk shifts to bundles. Hamish asks for a show of hands on how many people have their clients on bundles? Scan of the room shows the majority.
So why should you offer bundles? Three reasons: it protects your fee base, clients see it as better value and it enables you to do management reports for clients.
Absolutely have to do bundling, says Hamish. It will improve your bottom line. To get started, invent your bundles (or go online to find one), put together a personalised bundle for your client and present it to them. It’s really simple to do.
If there’s one takeaway from today, Hamish says, “do more management reports for more of your clients- Got to do it”. The audience agrees:
Hamish ends by reiterating that the single ledger improves efficiency in your practice and increases your capacity.
And that’s a wrap for Xerocon Australia. It’s been a day of major announcements, valuable networking opportunities and the chance to hear from industry experts and practitioners on new software features, the cloud momentum and smarter practice management.
For attendees, there is a gala dinner tonight where the winners of the Xero Australia Partner Awards will be announced. We will be live tweeting from the gala so be sure to check our Twitter feed at #Xerocon for live updates throughout the night. We’ll be posting a recap on our blog tomorrow so stay tuned!