We’ve just spent the last two days in London talking, presenting and demonstrating Xero to 650 accountants and bookkeepers across two separate conferences; the annual conference of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers and the ICAEW’s Sole Practitioner’s Conference.
As Xero’s responsible adult in the UK I was lucky to enjoy the additional privilege of being invited to the ICB’s annual awards dinner on Thursday night at the historic Banqueting House on Whitehall. I was impressed not only by the grand architecture but also by ICB’s Garry Carter’s vision for the bookkeeping profession and with the reverence and importance that was conferred upon bookkeepers by HRH Prince Michael of Kent (ICB’s patron) during his talk.
Our exhibitor stands at both conferences were super busy throughout, the live performance of our Profiting as a Connected Practice talk I gave to a packed breakfast briefing at the ICAEW on the practice management impacts of the cloud seemed to resonate if nodding heads is anything to go by, and the individual questions I took in Q&A were qualitatively different from eighteen months ago.
At the end of my ICAEW talk only one accountant asked about vendor viability and data security – which is actually a great question and one I always love to answer – but otherwise the back and forth felt like it had moved on considerably from the elementary ‘what is the cloud?’ stuff we were fielding a couple of years ago.
In fact, it was telling that over the whole two days the most laggardly comments came from the representative of a very large UK accounting software vendor who shall remain nameless. Opening his talk to about 150 ICB members with a tortuous tale about his failure to find a reliable internet connection while he was trying to work from his hotel earlier in the day (which he employed presumably as some form of contextual tenderizer because he had to follow two very webby presentations from Google and Xero) to make him feel better about going on to promote the virtues of offline software vs. the cloud. In my experience, if you’re savvy enough to be running online apps then you’re probably also savvy enough to have enabled tethering on your smartphone or you also own a MiFi device. Using the universal crappiness of hotel internet provision as the justification for boxed software was both remarkable and, coming from a competitor, very encouraging.
The accountants and bookkeepers I spoke to – some at great length – conveyed to me not only a new ease with the cloud and what it represents to their respected professions, but many just seemed to get it in a way I didn’t see quite so clearly eighteen months ago in the UK.
We’re only scratching the surface and there’s a long way to go but my sense from the front lines is that the big directional shift is definitely now emerging, even if the resulting diverging paths inside the UK’s professional communities are still a little faint.