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Xerocon New Zealand 2013 – live!

We’re at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland for the seventh and biggest Xerocon conference so far – over 800 people are expected! It’s the fourth in New Zealand but Xerocon is now a well-established global phenomenon with dates in each of our regions and many accounting, bookkeeping and add-on partners globetrotting to attend.

We’ll be live blogging with pictures and posts all day so do check back regularly. Follow #xerocon on Twitter and check out our Facebook album during the day – thanks to PJ and Joseph for the photos today.

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Everyone is arriving.

Coffee carts are steaming. The exhibition hall is buzzing…

Jaquie Brown is our MC for today. It’s like watching the Jaquie Brown Diaries live!

Xero CEO Rod Drury is up now to deliver the Global Update address.

We’ve got double the number of attendees today compared to last year, this is on the back of a huge roadshow in Australia over last couple of weeks.

Rod is introducing our new General Manager for New Zealand, Amanda Armstrong. Amanda comes to us with over 20 years experience at CCH, with her last role there as Software Sales Director for Australia and New Zealand.

Why are we here? – to use software to make small business more productive – Rod is looking at entrepreneurial challenges that ICEHOUSE talked about recently and suggesting everyone consider for their business and clients:

  • Access to capital
  • Sales is a craft not an art – get beyond winging it!
  • Customer understanding is fundamental
  • Management is a team sport – clear complimentary skills
  • Clear differentiation.

The infrastructure numbers around the Xero application are stunning – 160 servers, 5TB of financial data, 1.3 million requests per minute, 320,000 average bank lines imported per day, $84b invoices process globally last year – of which $34b were in New Zealand.

Now Rod is talking about the ecosystem. These slides say it all:

 

Recap on the Single Ledger – let’s avoid double dipping by software companies that charge both the client and the accountant. That’s legacy and we’re disruptive.

We are going to talk later today about Practice Studio, which we’ll release in stages over the next 18 months. This will bring together reporting, practice management, workpapers, and tax. Better than that, these products which from other vendors in the past would be thousands of dollars will be free at Silver level.  This is a major investment to bring the core tools together on the single ledger. Cool eh?

Now talking about infrastructure. We’re partnering with Gen-i to help accountants. Standardise your network with the right technologies and vendors who can help. For example Codeblue have now completed multiple migrations to Office 365. Changes to Office 365 give you 20% lower price with E3 plan now at $29.50  per user per month. You get 25GB of email storage in the cloud and a additional storage is now 92% cheaper at $.30/month.

Content

We’ve heard loud and clear you want content – it’s a missing part of the modern practice offering. We’ve build an open content architecture into the Suite system. We’ve got Thomson Reuters, Xero marketing templates, The Accountants’ RePublic and Xero is proud to announce a partnership with a brand new compliance content provider – GiST, run by Michelle and Steve Hill from Resolve Accountants in Bay of Plenty. Availability – end of August 2013. Applause!

Rod doing a competitive review – MYOB why would anyone use them given their current debt situation. Reckon – hard for them to make money given that we’re giving practice software for free.

Banking

Now turning to banking. Bank statements are the beginning of accounting. We have a great view of the banking landscape because virtually all small business accounts in New Zealand pass through Xero, via our partnerships. Interesting fact – 25% of businesses in Xero have multiple banks.

10 million bank statement lines are imported into Xero every month. Make sure your customers know about bank feeds. The future of banking is self provision via online banking – we’ve been doing a lot of work here with TSB, better coverage of credit card feeds, other account types, and extended data. Also, we want to have batch payments upload and online large bill payments.

We are excited to be working with the ASB Bank, sponsor of the Xerocon Start Up Alley, with a new technology innovation partnership and with marketing to support the small business ecosystem this year. They were the first to do bank feeds with us. Check out their new FastNet Business App.

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Finish the platform!

Funny video of Craig Walker “Finishing the Platform”! with buttons to “Feed him coffee” or “Zap him”.

We want to nail Purchase Orders, Quotes, Stock, Projects, and Version 2 of our Reporting – we are rebuilding reporting and it will look Beautiful with a capital B.

Farming

Another opportunity that is being tilled and watered – Farming. We have 40 firms with Xero farming clients and have tailored resources coming in March release – in the meantime available from farming@xero.com

Key part of farming will be having rural feeds (no pun unintended). Need people to put pressure on all the rural banks and suppliers.. There is an interim solution using ReceiptBank – check them out.

Anticipate a future module for farm reporting, similar to fixed assets. There are a variety of solutions coming into the market that we can link into – FarmIQ, AG-HUB, CRS, OSPRI, Deloitte. “Mazillions” being spent in this area.

Benchmarking – we’re keen to be able to offer this – to do things like connect with geocoding and enable people to benchmark businesses for example “all the plumbers in Hawkes Bay”. It’s a long term journey to build the components.

We had a win this year with single business numbers – policy work still be done at Government. There will be a unique URL for every business. Just need to be able to bring in sole traders – this is pretty cool.

Document storage

Xero CTO Craig Walker is now showing off a demo of document storage. The idea is to fully document enable Xero – to be able to attach a document anywhere in Xero. Throwing in pictures, rotating receipts if they have been photographed on their side…

But wait, there’s more – not just add-hoc adding documents anywhere but structured document storage with folders – the idea to make Xero the “single source of truth”.

Craig live demoing doing a panorama photo of the room and emailing it straight into document storage in Xero. “Watch the screen – I’m not touching anything”. Yes it worked. Standing ovation from the bookkeepers at the front!

Rod makes the point – you can’t do this stuff with desktop software.

Feature reveals

Product Manager Andrew Tokeley (known as Tokes) has hit the stage to talk about the Xero Business roadmap. He’s ticking off what he said we’d work on this past year such as Report Packs, Multiple Budgets, Online Invoices, Android, and Mobile Bank reconciliation.

While there’s two or three features we haven’t yet delivered they are still in our sights, and there were additional features that we did, often as a result of listening to the community – Outstanding Statements, Remittance Advice, Auto reversing journals, Payments terms, Discounts and New sales/bills dashboards.

Set for the next release we’re making inroads into the top community feature request around adding new roles, as well as many others from the top 10. Our big focus for this year will be doing Stock Light.

Food’s arrived – fruit platters and muffins – that’ll keep us going!

And Sara Goepel is now up and she’s got the low down on development in My Xero for Partners.

In My Xero upcoming features in the next couple of releases include grouping orgs on the dashboard, marking favourites, having practice-wide groups and more. Sara is demoing.

There’s also work going on in breaking staff into teams, improving management of staff org access and expanding user roles.

Sara is talking training now and star of this show is the just released Xero Essentials video series. This literally has to be seen – you can read more about it and jump to it from our blog post on Wednesday. I know I’ll be catching the whole series as soon as Xerocon is over.

And she’s finishing off with Xero Profiles – the ability to utilise your information in a customized public and private fashion on Xero.com, online invoices, your own website via a widget, the Xero Marketing Directory and Community – Wow!

Payment Services

Craig is back and he’s talking payment gateways. We only had the one – PayPal when we launched Online Invoicin, but always intended more and users have been calling for them. Never fear, over the next couple of release we’re adding Authorize.Net globally EWay and DPS for Australia and New Zealand, Stripe for US and Canada and GoCardless for the UK.

Banks

Getting onto banking, mobile and banking product manager Matt Vickers notes the support we get in New Zealand from banks with feeds. The next step is to integrate feeds better with Xero.

Banks have an opportunity to come to the party and deliver improvements in customer service through integration with Xero. Encouraging everyone to put the acid on banks to up their game and if they get no satisfaction – change banks. After all, it’s in their interests to have stronger deeper relationships with small business customers and ideally it should be just a tick box in your online banking settings, as Matt is demonstrating, along with bill payments.

Matt’s other hat goes on and we’re into a mobile device lovefest. Matt’s doing a hands-up survey of what phones people use. iPhones rule the roost with Android close behind. Tokes uses a Windows phone…

Looking at changes in market share of SmartPhones globally over three years and Android is where it’s all at now. Howver, iOS is by far the biggest user to the Xero marketing site, reflecting that there are differences in the degree people use their smartphone features between the types.

The Xero Touch App has been downloaded now 85,000 times, compared to 30,000 at Xerocon NZ last year. So it’s sure being used and will be used even more now with the bank reconciliation feature added. This works for both iOS and Android and Matt’s showing this off to a pretty happy audience.

A bit of an update on Xero Personal and woah, Matt has just dangled a demo of Xero Personal for iPhone in front of us – well he’s opened a crack in the door on that one…

Gavin George, our development leader on document management for practices, is talking about Practice Manager user interface – we’ve completely redesigned WorkflowMax Practice Manager as we align it to the Xero product so it fits with Practice Studio later. We want to have everything seamless as the end-goal. Demoing new look – stuff that has been built and stuff that is part way there.

Practice Manager has an integration in beta with Box, Dropbox, Google Drive. Office 365 offers the ability to store templates.We’re working with the Sharepoint team.

We’re spending millions on the content platform. Working with new compliance content provider GiST as well as others we will provide the Suite platform that lets you choose your content providers.

Xero Workpapers GM Richard Francis has taken the pulpit with an update on where it is now that the product is well ensconced with Xero. The closed beta is near an end, 100 firms are trialing or subscribing and the user feedback has been great time and cost outcomes. UK Workpapers by UK Xerocon!

Next step is an open release, more functionality, smart integration and getting it out there globally, well on the way to being a key feature of Practice Studio.

While we’re having a little pause, a note:

As 2013 progresses there will be Xerocon events in Australia, the United Kingdom and, we are pleased to advise, in the US at San Francisco – and nicely timed around the America’s Cup!

Creating opportunity with the cloud

NZ General Manager Amanda Armstrong and RightWay CEO Greg Sheehan are stepping in to cover Hamish Edwards’ presentation as he is unable to present today.

First it’s about the Xero story and how we’re providing a platform for the profession to become valuable advisors for small businesses to succeed. To get away from the dominance of compliance work and into value-based services. Many have made the move with Xero so let’s learn how everyone can “Elevate” their practice.

The world is changing including government regulation, online technology, mobile technology and a new generation of go-getters in the accounting space. Clients want more and are prepared to try new ways of working – skype, virtual CFOs, monthly reports, rolling forecasts and more. Fees are relatively stable but costs are creeping up. Profit per partner is down, except for at the exceptional firms, which are doing really well.

 

Looks like most firms even in the upper quartile are getting a poor return on employee time, losing on average about 28 minutes out of every hour they charge. Partners aren’t doing as well as they could and additional staff are not paying off.

The top firms understand value and Greg Sheehan, CEO RightWay is now getting on stage to explain what that means and “poke the borax” at the profession. Greg gives an immediate callout to the Accountants (and bookkeepers) in the audience.

Client perception of value is not the same as hourly charges. Billing is different to value – clients are looking for low cost compliance, and then the right help to grow their revenue. They want time with you.

It’s sad when a client has both an accountant and a business coach.

It’s an opportunity to be a source of solutions to them, not problems and to be proactive, not reactive. It’s more than an opportunity – it’s essential to your survival. RightWay is a great example of a built-from-scratch model that puts the customer at the centre, uses bundled product offerings and is 100% in the cloud. All focused on delivering value.

Great anecdote about competition – would Burger King get their nose out of joint if you went to Maccas – there’s nothing wrong with taking clients off other accountants! Competition is good.

Greg is now telling everyone the practical steps – laying the foundations including single ledger, going 100% Xero, and report packs. There shouldn’t be a single business in New Zealand that Xero and API partners can’t serve.

You don’t need to get carried away with selling and bundles. Then look after your best client, look to replace yourself, empower your team, execute, give your customer the ultimate meeting – where do you provide value.

Then set the right structure with functional heads, KPIs, your own culture, pride and connection, and team functions.

Core then is to build efficiency with technology, looking for ways to lower cost of work and working those management reports. Monthly payments need to become the norm, along with client meetings at least 3 times a year.

You can all be top firms!

Amanda is back with a cool offer for attendees. Five firms will be selected from a draw and be helped to implement this type of plan, with Hamish. What an opportunity! Loads of people entering.

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Now some Q&A before lunch. Jaquie is even one of the Mic runners.

One of the questions was about privacy of Xero data in the context of benchmarking. Everything is absolutely secure. What we would do for benchmarking for example at a regional level is to have an opt-in capability. So a business could indicate they are say, a plumber, and choose to be part of a comparison group. At a high level we would only use highly aggregated anonymized data for noting broad trends at a national or global level as is common in the cloud sector.

Now we are breaking for lunch. This afternoon will be splitting into sessions. We’ll keep up with more photos and some sporadic reports from some of the sessions.

Lunch is over.

In the Business Execution session Consultant and Accountants Republic CEO Viv Brownrigg is talking about the state of accounting practices. We have poorly performing firms all over the place – this can be dealt with – and also the demographics are such that many will need to change hands over the next few years.

Accountants have their reasons why they aren’t growing:  Clients want help but won’t pay – give them value as Greg talked about; Accountants don’t have time – yet so much time is spent managing poorly performing staff, make sure you have good admin support, look to outsource. Anyone with CA status should be able to sort this. The issue is fear of failure, fear of rejection by client. Another issue is inability to sell – but all you have to do is help your client.

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In a financial awareness survey there is was a lot of ignorance amongst clients of almost all financial areas. Tax was the one they knew the most about.

A face to face survey in Rotorua (source: ReSolve Accountants ) found they want services such as future planning, business seminars, strategic planning, forecasting, and monthly reporting, and often didn’t perceive their accountants as providing these.

Viv says the accountant needs to work to retain a central position as business advisor to their customers and can provide help with software available in the cloud as part of that.

Relationships are important – accountants can be so reliant on content. There is no checklist for this. Just an interest in your clients.

Viv is talking about a concept of “Marketing Gravity” involving 19 basic marketing activities that while individually may do not much, together make a difference in bridging the gap in understanding between an accountant and their clients.

Viv is moving through so much great material at such a pace.

Now she’s talking about something that is big for her – industry specialization. How many clients of one type makes you a specialist? The key to it is that it creates huge word of mouth. For example Astill Hawke, with Business Buddy for Trades. She’s a plumbing specialist. She really goes to town – has an ebook even, she’s part of that community and getting referred all over the place.

Another hot tip to finish for Viv. Perfection is your enemy. Worrying about getting documents absolutely right. She has an example of a 1 page document where the advisor sat on it for 9 months – that’s 9 months lost revenue.

Meanwhile over in another breakout room there’s a bit of role playing going on:

Training manager Sue Pak (left) plays the role of Candy, a client who is learning from her accountant about Xero and how to run her business better.

Marketing general manager Paula Jackson is now up in the marketing breakout.

We have our redesigned Partner Marketing Guide, which is now in Xero Community. It works perfectly with the new Partner program. We expect accountants and bookkeepers to be active on social channels. We have demonstrated in the marketing guide how you can build your online profile.

Marketing is about connecting with your clients. Here are some examples of clients doing it well – check out their websites – Growthwise, Jason Blumer.

Having a website should be everything for you – where you want to drive everyone to. It is mandatory to have a landing page if you are a partner and we also have the directory which is a damned good source of leads. We have a deal for attendees for a free website by Mogul, valued at $7500. They need to send in the strongest argument why they need it to be in to win it.

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Now explaining partner banners. These allow partners to reference the Xero site on the web or elsewhere and the company will be referenced on the top of the Xero page to grab follow-up enquiries.

Getting your name at the top of search engines online is a black art that you need to get on top of. Find the experts, that can demonstrate their worth.

Direct marketing campaigns – we offer a cooperative advertising fund for these so bring us your ideas. Be proud to be a Xero partner and make sure you weave it into your branding.

We’ll also look at supporting areas such as signage and other branding if you have great locations – this is for Gold partners.

Next week we’re going to invite a partner from each region to develop a case study on a playbook idea with a key vertical for the Partner Marketing Guide. Looking for someone in New Zealand who is passionate about non-profit or franchises.

Now stopping for ice creams and afternoon tea.

We’re back, and it’s partners sharing all in the panel discussion – Neil Sinclair – Winstanley Kerridge, Brett Slater – Slater & Co, Avril Hillind – Laurensons, Paul Pettit – Curtis McLean and Baubre Murray – Dowse Murray.

Neil Sinclair – went through the full process to decide which vendor to go with and were surprised when Xero came out on top – they made the jump fully last April, looking at the benefits of efficiency and better service to clients. Seeing a 40% decrease in compliance load, enabling them to bank that time for other activity.

Brett Slater – see themselves as a little rural in the capital. They learnt from previous change that they needed to have a systematic approach and go full on with Xero. They see they have the ability to scale – getting rid of servers. Never really marketed Xero to customers, just brutally pushed it through despite the occasional loss of clients. It’s been a hard year for staff in changing over and taken a hit but they don’t care as its the right direction.

Avril Hillind – loves the add-ons approach. Over the years seen use of programs that didn’t tie into the ledger so lacking. The cloud is such an advantage to be able to see what the client is talking about. Reducing the time lag for reporting. Data transfer in the cloud. Productivity gains without a doubt. Single ledger does provide a challenge – we had to think carefully on adjustments so the client understands why they are happening – this is a good thing. We’ve been able to add value to our services.

Paul Pettit – process wasn’t smooth so learn from us – with all our IT outsourced didn’t realise the size of the conversion process. We assigned 4 people to our Xero team to implement it. We should have appointed a project manager and set milestones. Biggest mistake was not allocating resource to get clients onto Xero. The key change to us has been the culture in the practice. The empowerment of our younger team has been fantastic.

Baubre Murray – Primary motivation for choosing Xero was to do something for our clients. We needed an accounting system where we could e-file tax returns and went with MYOB. We had set up our own work papers. We brought more staff on and they all worked off site on contract. We had estimated fees, which were similiar to fixed fees. But the quality of stuff from clients was a problem. I wanted something that was bank driven and that clients could use themselves, to get off spreadsheets. Came back from a holiday to a Xero flyer and it ticked all the boxes! We met with a lot of resistance but pushed on through – we offered it free for 20 tech-savvy clients and they loved it.

Big round of applause for the partner panel.

Rod is wrapping up now. Really loved the panel. Reflecting on team. So proud of the Xero team. Have you ever seen so much innovation in the two hours we saw this morning. So exciting to see our young talent coming through presenting, some for the first time.

Really good to see the coaching and sharing all around, as was our goal.

 

That’s it for the blog today. Gala dinner tonight. Keep an eye on #xerocon on Twitter  for the Partner Award announcements.

UPDATE: Awards blog up

 

 

 

6 comments

Gayle Buchanan
22 February 2013 #

The best 48hrs any bookie could invest into their practice – Xerocon 2013 – so great to see more of us here this year.

Kirsten Barrie
22 February 2013 #

This is such a great blog, thank you for posting such details and photos!

Jamie Weddell
22 February 2013 #

Great information being shared at Xerocon today, we’re getting excited about all the up and coming features!
Thanks Xero for the Kendons shout out with our lovely branded windows!

Matthew Miller
22 February 2013 #

Make sure you follow the live stream of social media updates, photos and buzz from the XeroCon participants at Strea.ma. The URL of the XeroCon stream is http://strea.ma/streams/stream/hxPrTgDj

Colleen Stromei
22 February 2013 #

I can feel the excitement in the room from here (OZ). Amazing development roadmap. Can’t wait!

Sylvie Eymin
19 November 2013 #

A good follow up with pictures..

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