What a day! We’re in London at the ICAEW Chartered Accountants’ Hall, surrounded by buildings like the Royal Exchange to host our 6th Xero Partner Conference (#xerocon).
We’ll be live blogging throughout the day with speakers from Xero and special guests and you can follow along here so bookmark this page or the already very busy #xerocon Twitter stream.
9.35am: And we’re off! Gary’s on stage welcoming and introducing the day. Let’s move that needle!
9.50am: Rod’s up on stage for his ‘Rodnote’, no signs of jetlag from the trip from New Zealand. Rod’s sharing his own experience running a business, using desktop software, moving data and papers around between the business owner, accountant and board. How the cloud has changed this and connected us to our accounting data and so many other services.
Rod’s taking us through what Xero believes:
- Small business is the biggest revenue opportunity on the web
- Cloud fundamentally changes the economics to address the small business market
- The prize is transactional data, not software licenses
- Accounting is the key to the small business market
- The incumbent vendors are held back by legacy and may be displaced. Global software vendors are coming into this space
- Cloud accounting is Client + Accountant solution and EDI
- Massive opportunity for the accounting industry.
Xero is the dream ledger. Built to scale globally – beautifully designed, double-entry, multi-currency, scalable and enabling an ecosystem. We love building this stuff! We think it’s completely disruptive putting the accountant on the same platform as their clients – removes friction and helps business owners make smart decisions. Talking directly to the partners Rod recaps the acquisitions we’ve made to help accountants with their side of the process, WorkflowMax and Spotlight Workpapers, about the apportunity to bring add-on solutions together to help partners offer the vertical services they need to and about pricing for bundled services.
2013 is about completing the platform, more localisation in markets, smart network effects by linking customers and the power of the data, more mobile and social, partner solutions and more to make our partners the trusted advisers for small business.
10.30am: Nathan (partner enablement) & Darren (business development) from Xero talk about working with clients – how to streamline the compliance work using cash coding, management reports, cashbook product and bundled services. Stephen Paul from Valued Accountancy Services has come up onto stage to answer some questions about his 18-month old firm, starting from scratch using Xero, how it was adopted and accepted by his clients. Stephen is talking about the time savings they’ve discovered using Xero, a phenomenal reduction running a management report for example. They’re now offering Xero complimentary to their clients – and his staff have stopped doing timesheets thanks to fee-based pricing.
Side bar …
Our New Zealand contingent (4 of them here – Rod (@roddrury), Craig (@storminwalker), Tokes (@andrewtokeley) & Catherine/OG (@orangegirlnz)) report that good coffee can be found in London town – apparently we English can not only make a decent cup of tea but also a pretty good flat white. If you don’t know, OG is pretty fanatical about coffee and excitedly showed me her flat white and English muffin and jam she found for breakfast this morning!
11.30am: Tokes is now up – volunteering to take any product requests! He’s covering off what we’re working on next – “coming soon”. First up is work on the Community to allow voting on features and a Partner Marketing section where partners can find resources for marketing Xero and their practice. “Does anyone still write cheques in the UK?” What can we expect to see introduced into the product next?
Payment terms, auto-reversing journals, outstanding statements, emailing updates – now more than just the subject line & text for invoices and statements, RIP AR/AP – switching to sales & invoices and purchases & bills to make the language more business-oriented. And beyond that VAT online filing, purchase orders, changing subscriber, stock ‘lite’ and UK Report Packs.
We’re getting a live demo of Report Packs – another tricky question for the audience … what do you call the green version of Xero? My Green Xero? Green Xero? Practice Edition? Client edition?
12.00pm: Craig is going to show us some things coming next week (after some obligatory heckling from Rod about his hair!). So what’s coming next week? The Android app! Cheers from the crowd! And after that for Xero Touch … bank reconciliation.
Also about to be released this Sunday is online invoicing – customers will still receive a PDF of their invoice via email and also a link to view the invoice as a living document. Being online, the invoice can be saved directly into Xero if the recipient is a Xero customer and they can also view a list of all outstanding bills and pay the entire outstanding balance.
12.30pm: Special guest Dave Jessep from DJCA – a Xero Partner from New Zealand in our early days – his practice has 800 clients with 2 offices and he’s about to open an office here in the UK in the new year. He’s sharing his experience of having to explain the cloud concept to customers at the start and that Xero was this starting point. David’s talking through what it was like during and after the earthquake in Christchurch (NZ) in 2011 and we’ve seen a picture of the table he and 8 others hid under while out at lunch that day. From a business standpoint after making sure everyone was OK, they were filing tax (GST) returns 3 days later thanks to all their data being in the cloud after they picked up some cheap laptops. Talking through the ‘Modern Practice’ concept, he doesn’t need hardware, David runs his practice on things like Gmail, Skype, box, SmartPayroll, Yammer, WorkflowMax (and Xero of course!)
Lunch time! Sandwiches and cakes in the beautiful ICAEW Main Reception.
2.15pm: Chris Rothwell from Microsoft entertaining us with reasons why people have different expectations of IT these days. Think about the computer you might’ve had in a job 10 years ago, and what you have at work and home now. Thanks to cloud computing, availability of data, social computing, natural interaction (touching, waving, tipping & speaking), more than one personal device and ubiquitous connectivity there are really high expectations from hardware and software these days. We’re demanding a beautiful experience, something that “just works” and is low cost. Cloud plays a large part in fuelling these expectations: anyone can buy and anyone can sell.
2.30pm: Nathan, Darren and Gary back up on stage talking about our Partner Program and how to get more clients on Xero. Training is really important because a certified partner can give their clients confidence in the best use of Xero – there are over 1000 certified partners in the UK now. As part of the program, partners can expect help with marketing, workflow best practice, running client events, pricing and driving new customers from the Xero website. A couple of new initiatives launching as part of the Partner Program – banners for partners on the Xero website and the formation of the UK XPAC (Xero Partner Advisory Council).
3.00pm: Paul Bulpitt from the Wow Company is talking about their very ‘different’ accounting practice while standing here at “ICAEW – the Hogwarts of accounting”! Taking advantage of the cloud they’re packaging vertical solutions for their clients using add-ons and getting so many of their clients through social channels. They have a take on running their firm that’s about culture and knowing what type of clients they do and don’t want, how available they’ll be to their clients, that sharing ideas and information is OK. Which of your clients just love statutory reports? They love that you get it in on time and save fines. Let’s not be scared of big accounting firms that might not be able to move fast enough, let’s keep collaborating. Queue standing ovation – for an accountant!
3.30pm: Richard Anning from ICAEW is back up talking about the ICAEW, Faculty functions, beyond practice and megatrends – mobile, cloud, cyber, social. How can you build trust in the digital age? The Faculty provide thought leadership in best practices for information and cyber security, analytics and IT literacy.
Afternoon tea time …
4.10pm Dennis Howlett leads an accounting technology panel. Describing himself as an odd-ball and never knowingly under opinionated, he talks about being creative and making a difference. On the panel we have Paul Bulpitt, Dave Jessep & Stephen Paul:
A range of topics being covered: how these accountants got their start, how social technologies are breaking down communication barriers with clients, can accountants be salesmen? (all on stage just checked to see what colour socks they were wearing!), is it easier to start with a cloud practice than change a ‘traditional’ one? Shout-outs from these guys to their Xero Partner counterparts in Australia and New Zealand as examples of how to succeed – great to be part of such a global company! A couple of direct questions to finish the panel … The one thing these accountants really want Xero to do next: report packs, payroll, report packs. The one thing they’d tell other accountants in the audience: get your whole practice on board with Xero and certified; have a game plan, ask your Xero account manager how you can get to Gold Partner status if that’s what you want; think differently and act differently, there’s enough business out there for all of us.
Questions and comments from the floor:
- payroll – is a huge job, if there are any payroll partners we can connect with who are already used and trusted here, let us know.
- WorkflowMax – we need a tax module for the UK market but yes, you should commit to WorkflowMax.
- a direct login button on a partner’s website or a sub-domain of Xero – you can’t have a button that logs directly into Xero from your website into Xero because it’s not secure but we might continue talks about how Xero can be branded in some way with your logo.
- clients don’t want to use bank feeds because the bank says they’re not secure – banks are not building the connectivity we want so we’re using services like Yodlee, we’ve spoken to banks and our use of Yodlee and will build out partner feeds as soon as they come on stream. If you’re angry with your bank because they don’t offer a bank feed – get on social media and tell them. What’s the best bank that works with Xero? We could do a bit more around this – perhaps leverage knowledge and experiences people have in our Community.
- how do you get staff to be so passionate about the Xero brand – how can you keep this up? We hire passionate people, find out what they’re passionate about – from sales to GAAP. We all understand the mission and we all feel like we’re part of the same team.
- customisation of user roles – we do get requests for this but we’re some way from this. If you post very specific role scenarios on our Community then it’s easier for us to extend what we have now that create a granular matrix approach. We don’t want to make things too complicated for a small business accounting system but we do what to know those specific scenarios.
- will we trample over our add-on partners and build stuff they’re building – no, we have a good and ongoing relationship with our partners, we’ve demonstrated a commitment to our partners and we’re open if anyone is entering in a space we might think about in the future.
And that’s a wrap for #xerocon UK 2012. Everyone is taking a break to put on their glad-rags and dancing shoes for the gala awards dinner tonight – check back on the blog tomorrow for a run down of the award winners or keep an eye on #xerocon on Twitter tonight. Photos from the day are in our Facebook album Xero Conference London 2012.