Here we are at Xerocon Sydney 2013. What an amazing location at the Australian Technology Park.
I caught up with our CEO Rod Drury before the conference started and he was saying how in the beginning they dreamed that one day we’d have conferences in multiple countries, with multiple streams, guest speakers and a big trade show.
Well it happened. Xerocon Sydney is kicking off with over 900 people and a massive trade show. We believe this is a little bit larger than the Microsoft Australian partner Conference last week and believe it is also Australia’s biggest accounting conference.
We’re live blogging today and tomorrow with loads of pictures and posts, so check back regularly. Follow twitter activity on #xerocon or see the #xerocon wall on strea.ma. Also, there’s loads more photos during the day in our flickr album
Next door there are 53 exhibitors, which is massive.
Looking around the exhibition stands the breadth of solutions and services is incredible – from the full range of Add-ons to integrators and technology services.
The Xero team has done a round of having a 1 minute pitch from each. This is fun, 16 such partners (including here today: eWay, Fathom, Spotlight, Practice Ignition, EnableHR, Debtor Daddy, Mogul, Add-on Success, Invitbox and Receipt Bank) have got together to do a competition, called Your Cloud Crowd, to show how software and services “could enable you to reach the pinnacle of cloud accounting, and, most of all provide the best possible client service possible”. Each has contributed a prize, so go and enter.
Time to get into the main hall
Now we’re rolling…
MC for the day is leading business and financial commentator Peter Switzer. Regaling us with amusing anecdotes along with the usual housekeeping. We’ve got prizes for best tweet judged by CEO Rod Drury and best photo on twitter judged by Australian Managing Director Chris Ridd.
Xero CEO Rod Drury is up.
“Holy shit” is his first words. Humbled by the size of the crowd. Fantastic to see so many motivated people.
Rod’s global update is setting the scene showing the growth of the company, 102% for FY2013, staff at 507 as at 1 August (half are new in the past year and we’re fussy, we want the best!). Customers were actually 193,000 at that point too, so closing in on a big round number, half in the last 13 months.
It’s a huge investment, we’re building the bridge as we run across it. Still lots of cash to invest at NZ$69million.Wow – 7400 accounting partners as at 30 June 2013 and 900+ people from those in this very room!
This next chart is a winner. Comparing growth of Xero to Salesforce.com, Workday and Netsuite at similar time periods in their life. Rocking it. Right in the ballpark, and we’ve done it at the small business not enterprise level. Leading the world in small business class SaaS.
At 1 August 2013 the annualized revenue run rate (ACMR) was NZ$64million. See our annual meeting presentation for more such details. Revenue growth outlook is “over 80%” for FY2014.
Investors want us to keep investing, growing, hiring. Still a lean team though, with low overhead at the management level. 247 staff added in last 12 months, of which 94% are selling and building the product.
Rod’s now showing the product platform strategy, with four quadrants. This is key. We’ve moved beyond being accounting software to being a platform:
The ecosystem is booming:
We are providing the commodity horizontal application. Our partners can provide the vertical solution. We want to see a more of these cool line of business applications – it’s a fundamental re-architecting of business.
We recently added add-on reviews in the Xero Business Community, helping people navigate and get informed by peers about the add-on software they need. Get on there rate the add-ons and put frank comments on there.
Now Rod is showing at the high level product roadmap. We’re working on the much demanded features of the core product, as well as reporting and practice suite, AU Tax, US Payroll (being done by the team that did Australian Payroll).
Then it’s about getting more connected. Online invoicing has gone nuts. How many hours will we save by keeping things electronic. We’ll be getting onto connected business services, country packs, other payroll, additional country regions, and then longer term additional languages.
The industry is changing as we talk so Rod is now getting really high level on where this is going in the next decade and more. When you are planning your business around Xero it can only help to get this vision explained at Xerocon (hint if you aren’t here for this one, get to the next!).
On the accountant side of thing we want to get the cost of compliance out and for cloud software to completely displace desktop software across your practice over the next 18-36 months.
One of the big trends is in banking and this is about making it two-way, not just the one-way of bank feeds. Bringing on online provisioning, direct payments bank-to0-bank.
Rod is now talking about Privacy – Xero is a data custodian, recognizing privacy and security as central to our business. We take an upfront honest approach to privacy with full disclosure of how we treat data so are aligned with the new privacy principles. We are also proactive, having been an instigator of the New Zealand Cloud Computing Code of Practice, which is receiving interest in Australia too.
Now Rod is finishing off with a look at the technology adoption curve – we’re in the early adopter stage, bridging the skills gap, and Xero as an instigator of change. Looking forward to working with you for the next 10 years.
Australian Product Manager Oliver Furness is introducing the next few presentations for today regarding products and featuring a full suite of of Xero’s product leads, and giving some insight into how products are developed at Xero.
Demo time with Product Development Manager Andrew Tokeley (Tokes). Wow. it’s a showcase of what’s coming up, in the flesh. You really need to be here to get the best value from these but here goes:
Purchase orders – was blogged about recently – keep eye on blog for advance details of features we are working on.
Getting a few laughs about a big hand shadow on the screen. It’s all about being touch friendly – making sure gigantic fingers can operate. Hoping to get purchase orders pretty soon.
Demoing Quotes – these have terms and conditions feature that can be different for different types of clients. Showing the approval process. Ultimately, in a second version, it will have an online version of the document like in online invoicing, so can be a conversation not just a document you are sending off.
Now inventory – we don’t have a desire to do all the magic around this. We want to provide for people with “lite” requirements. Enough to support simple management of items you buy and sell. Something you track and has an asset value. Playing around with a concept of tagging that might work in other parts of the software.
On first version it will support FIFO not average cost – quick poll of attendees as which they think we should go with first – pretty even – a bit more for FIFO, shout of “both”.
Now showing how to do adjustments and counts (incuding for stocktakes). Some debate about whether you can sell things you don’t have.
Reporting – we’ve talked a lot about redoing our reports. Just showing some of the magic planned. This is not a report builder but gives us more flexibility than right now. There are primary requirements for any report and there are report settings that are typically required that can be saved for regular use. There is grouping and filters and multi-select.
Files – not just having your accounting data in Xero, but your documents. You can add as many files as you like in and drag and drop. Lots of applause for this feature. We are creating an inbox system as part of it. You’ll be able to rotate and zoom in on image files. Great to be able to pull up receipts and type in from them.
Our Payroll Vice President Stuart McLeod is now up talking about the vision of Xero’s payroll – clearly it’s about saving time and money, and also giving small businesses advanced features like auto-super, payment summaries, and online submission of tax file number declarations. It reduces risks for compliance by having automatic updates to tax tables and legislation changes, by removing need for backup and by helping businesses manage their finances.
Some more stats: 136,346 employees paid, 621,352 pay runs, almost AU$4 billion in payroll processed, Applause. $41 million in automatic super contributions.
Stuart is now talking about features we’ve talked about before. We can tick off progress on admin rights, time sheets, archiving and the API and the rest is still being worked on.
Coming up, a redesign of the leave process, assigning leave types to employees, a refreshed look and feel as a result of work going on for US payroll, and an iOS app for iPhone for employees.
Now demoing Leave process. Applause for manager view of leave. This is expected early next year.
Building an employee mobile app too and integration with general ledger.
Product manager for mobile and banking integration Matt Vickers is talking banking. We’re getting beyond just having bank feeds in the relationship with banks and it needs you to put the pressure on them over quality, speeds, and more, as many have on social media. Feeds are important because they drive banking reconciliation, which makes reports etc available every day. So pressure them and be selective.
Matt’s showing off the new ideas around online sign-ups and in-app feed management, as well as doing direct payments from within Xero through your bank.
Moving onto mobile, Android continues to grow in popularity while iOS is still the market leader for Xero users and prospects. There’s now been 125,000 downloads of our mobile software, of which 40% were from Australia!
Interesting slide on the differences between developing for desktop and mobile. Shows how mobile opens up the scope for innovation:
And now being shown demos/screenflows of mobile developments. Demoing live Xero Touch 2.0 – expense claims, much faster than previous, but big focus is on complete redesign of bank rec using stylish matching cards approach. Very cool! Should be out in a couple of months.
Profiles, roles and partner training
Product Manager Sara Goepel looks after a raft of service delivery technologies at Xero, including My Xero, Help, Community, Notifications, Subscriptions and Support systems.
Today she’s starting with the exciting plans for a centralized location for all profile information in Xero at profile.xero.com. It is a part of Xero that will be optionally public for you and if so searchable by Google, allowing you to promote your services online. These profiles will also have achievement badges and be integrated into the Xero community and available as a widget for your own website. People are loving that.
Now Sara is talking about improvements to navigation within Xero, across all our applications that will make it faster to switch between them – applause.
We are reworking notifications to make them more powerful, with a popup approach that doesn’t take over the whole screen.
Roles in My Xero are being tuned. The current single Practice Admin becomes the Principal and then multiple Practice Admins can be set up, along with other types of permissions – including Staff and a restricted access Consultant role.
Online training for partners is on the way, where you access all your tutorial, monitor progress and take the Xero certification test from the training tab in My Xero. Training will also be available on mobile.
The practice admin will be able to oversee the training and course completion of staff and approve paid courses.
Now Oliver Furniss is back to wrap up the product show talking about Practice Studio, which brings together the Xero Accountant practice tools under the one banner, including Reporting, Practice management, Workpapers and Tax – the key tools you need to manage your clients in the cloud.
Yep, these are all pure cloud of course and it’s all about moving your practice to the cloud and all the benefits that brings. At the moment these are separate applications but over time Practice Studio becomes a platform, just like Xero is a platform.
Workpapers is about faster compliance. Great for online and offline reviewing, tailored or generic client queries, bookkeepers, and year-end.
After 3 months of open release, there are 200 firms subscribing and 100 trialling. We’re looking at further enhancements, a UK version, and increased integration, including Tax.
Practice Manager is being redesigned.
The first phase of Xero’s Online Tax goes into beta in June, with release early in the new financial year.
Now switching to workflow and a very quick demo of Activity Statements – Announcement: Available to partners on 19 September.
Lunchtime – back in a mo
This afternoon we’ve split into four streams and I’ll magically try cover the first two of these – one for accountants and one for bookkeepers, by summarizing from the slides of the other.
National Sales Manager David New is introducing this next section in Stream 1 about Your Practice in the Cloud.
Stream 1 – Your Practice in the Cloud
Australian Product Manager Oliver Furniss is now back up and recapping on Practice Studio to the Accountants audience. The key components are Workpapers, Practice Manager and Reporting. The vision is to bring them together into one platform.
Practice Manager Sales Manager Gavin George is getting into the detail with some screen flows to show what WorkflowMax will look like as Xero Practice Manager, to be consistent with Xero. Being able to create filters for views is something that will be used across the features. The ability to drive quotes from templates or previous quotes.
Looking at jobs. Introducing a concept of an owner of a job. A bunch of new dashboards across the applications. There are many more features Gavin is going through to show how the new look works and simply too much to cover here.
GM Workpapers Richard Francis now up. The times are a-changing – It’s all about getting away from paper and having clients controlling the flow. Now it’s about collaboration and you controlling the flow. Workpapers can be seen in a central location connecting Practice Management, client accounting, reporting and tax, along with content and document management. The opportunity is to invest in smarter, faster compliance, be mobile and distributed, and get in control.
The latest release of Workpapers features client queries that can be tailored or bulk-sent, creating and re-using workpaper packs, Job Notes and Payroll work papers, and auto-approve journals in Xero.
Remember it’s free for Silver partners and above, and there are implementation partners ready to help, so take the leap.
Oliver is back, and talking Tax for Australia. Nowhere need finished. Activity Statements will be available on 19th September under the existing user interface. There will be help, webinars, whatever we can do to get you up to speed. Now demoing. Coming down the track Trust, Partnership and individual returns, ready for EOFY June 2014.
Now moving to a panel session.
Stream 2 – Marketing your business
Meanwhile over in Stream 2 they are talking about Marketing you business to Bookkeepers. Just going off the slides for the bits I’ve missed.
Baz Gardner from The Social Advisor is apparently sharing advice on bow to use social media. We could all probably learn a tip or two from him. He’s talking about taking control of your personal SEO (search engine optimization) by using both LinkedIn and YouTube. Work out what you stand for then tell your stories, and your client stories. And get online and get conversing. Be social. Be yourself to create relationships and trust.
Now I’m in the room. Making your website work better for you is where Practice Plus founder Matt McFedries is at. Today he’s showing why Search Engine Optimization is not the be-all and how to fix your website content, with a few tips and tricks thrown in.
It’s not about search rankings, it’s about results. The key is authorative content. Don’t fall for the trap of trying to game the system – write good content and get qualify links. He suggests 10-15 pages of content, with over 400 words on at least half of them. No duplication, not stuffed with keywords – that can actually harm your site’s ranking through negative user experience. It’s about building links naturally from high quality sources, looking to get 10-30 a month of which 30-50% will be to the home page.
Aim to get 5%-20% of leads from search. Leave the marketing speak out, talk less about yourself.
Matt has some a great examples and how they have succeeded. The job of your website is persuade people to buy from you. You need a strong value proposition that is persuasive and believable – like Dominos 30 minutes or free offer.
Jill of all Trades before and after website analysis is a great case study in articulating the value proposition leading to more leads. Went with “Get the best from the best Cloud software” with a much simpler home page design.
Now we’re talking design, which is like a multiplier on your content, bringing forward the most important points.
We’re back from afternoon tea now. Whoops, didn’t tell you we’d gone … that’s how full-on it is here.
Back in Stream 1 where the Accountants hang out.
Stream 1 – Your Practice in the cloud contd
Consolid8 MD Tanya Titman is is going to provide a case study of the firm’s transition to the cloud. There’s real value in this relaying of experience and love this willingness to share that we see all over the Xero community.
The practice put their first client on Xero in 2012, became a Gold Partner in June this year. They love the culture and enthusiasm they see at Xerocon. Tanya is a complete convert from having one integrated suite to the add-on philosophy. They got into WorkflowMax last November and after testing Workpapers since February, implemented it in June along with Ledgers and Reports. Will get off that competing product completely as soon as Tax is ready!
Tanya is outlining the entire nuts and bolts practice tools plan including document management, Office 365, and e-marketing and how it all fits and works together. About 90% cloud so far. Special mention – “We love WorkflowMax and the lead management it provides – it’s really streamlined our quotes”.
They work with two screens per person to see the various software at once, make it more efficient and helps reduce paper use in the office. Some have three screens.
Now focusing on the Xero Practice Studio tools and how workflow operates from leads coming in, proposals, initial invoicing and jobs allocated to team. Benefits to be seen in speeding up new client processes, fast quoting, and better management of on boarding.
Tanya suggests get help to set things up. They lost some productivity and billing time in trying to do it all themselves.
Managing jobs in WorkflowMax from creation to tracking, team notifications, invoicing and reporting. Benefits in budgeting, recurring jobs, visibility of workload and streamlining fixed fee engagements.
Workpapers is great for quality control, looking at the workflow cycle. Again, great visibility, structure, consistency and makes reviewing easy and efficient.
All up, the cloud and Xero’s practice tools are helping Consolid8 through knocking out time waste of sending files for year end work, bank accounts not being reconciled, compromised debtors balances, and when clients miss adjustment journals.
Efficiency in improved, greater visibility of data, better client collaboration, better reporting, more time for advisory role and client education vs “accounting”.
“Hasn’t been difficult at all to get 100 clients onto Xero”
Staff – they are over the moon. Love this pic of them arriving at the event earlier.
Now moving onto a partner panel Q&A session.
Meanwhile, over in Stream 2 twitter tells me there’s been some great presentations.
Stream 2 – Modern Bookkeeping
Continuing on in the Bookkeeper stream, we had CFM Bookkeeping’s Ryan Gollan running through best practice checklist for setting up clients. This can be done two ways – using Add-on services, or manually. Conversions are best done at the end of year or end of a period.
Ryan talked about a BAS checklist and a Payroll checklist. Key points are accuracy of the setup, of processing through the year, and integrity of the financial statements and reports.
Viridity’s Rhys Roberts covered off creating higher value services. Industry challenges include – price pressure and the business model. The solutions involve communicating, understanding the market, reinforcing value. Key is the reports – formatting and presenting, summary reports, detailed reports, tailored reports.
Then into the panel discussion.
So that wraps up the Live blog for today, subject to us adding a few more pics! Hope you enjoyed it and do comment below. We’ll be back tomorrow with the Day 2 Live blog.