Reflections on Xerocon 2013

Well Xerocon Sydney 2013 has come and gone and has left an unforgettable mark on the accounting and bookkeeping industry for more than one reason. Visionary leadership, product innovation, revolutionary thought processes and just a damn good time are what defined this years conference and has me excited about the next phase of our industry’s life cycle.

I’m going to give my thoughts on what all of this means and so for all of the data, you can find the Live Blog from Day 1 here and from Day 2 here plus a wrap up from Managing Director Chris Ridd here.

Products updates….for the day to day Xero User

Purchase Orders, Quotes & Inventory are finally coming. Long requested features which will complete the package for most SMEs. From where I was sitting all three appeared to be very robust solutions and I can’t wait to get my hands on them.

Payroll updates, filing solutions and report updates are further enhancements which will all improve the functionality and user experience.

For my clients, these updates will be fantastic and even for those that are hanging onto their desktop platform, with these new features it will be hard for them to hold us off any longer !

But that is not all. The redevelopment of Xero Touch will make it even easier to do “bank recs in bed”. ! And the roll out of “Banking 2.0” is a complete revolution in the way that SMEs can use Xero and their Internet banking to streamline their payment processes. Bank West and Macquarie Bank are now working with Xero on this new platform and it will be very interesting to see how this will work.

Product Updates….for us Accountants & Bookkeepers – Practice Studio

The first installment of Xero Tax is here. September 19th to be exact ! Activity statements are coming and for practitioners is the first part of the long awaited final feature set to make Practice Studio complete !

And now we have been promised C Forms, I Forms, T Forms, P Forms and SMSF Forms by June 2014 just in time for our next tax season WHICH means for many Xero partners (like us) that have held onto their legacy tax software it will be bye-bye and good riddance !

This may for many partners also be the catalyst for the move from legacy ledger systems to having all of their clients ledgers (Xero day to day users or not) hosted within Xero ledger. This will however force Xero to rethink its pricing on these ledgers to make it more affordable (because at $60 per year, across say 200 ledgers it does get pricey). and work with partners to find a way to get data transferred over from these legacy system efficiently however this process may be left to a cloud integrator solution partner.

I for one can’t wait. I have voiced my opinion on a number of occasions re the urgent need for Xero to get tax finished (albeit with a sense of self need) however after a few chats with Oliver Furniss I am very confident that the finished product is going to be once again world class and not just a replacement product but a much better product than is currently available in the market, desktop or cloud based !

WorkflowMax is getting a great re-design and its integration with Microsoft Sharepoint Online is not far away which will make my team’s life much easier when finding client documents through our practice management solution.

Thanks to HubOne, our integration between WorkflowMax and Sharepoint Online will get even better with the Modern Practice 2.0 (the MPP) as it becomes a two way system, with a focus on creating more efficient workflows from lists and forms in the MPP.

Workpapers get some updates that are all designed to make the client fit in with our processes as well as streamline our internal processes.

Profiles within My Xero will allow the EFS team to promote their skills to the Xero community and the new training module within My Xero will see a better management of my team’s Xero skill sets.

All of these improvements to the Practice Studio will allow us to continue with our goal of continuous internal innovation, all designed to drive internal efficiencies.

The Vibe, The Businesses, The Battle & The Awards….

The place was buzzing. Just the sheer number of registrants indicates that the revolution is in full swing, not to mention all the new Xero staff faces around the place as well as the huge number of Add-On partners in the exhibition hall. The number of new faces amongst the partners was great, but also a little scary ! It shows that our first mover advantage is quickly being clawed back as savvy accountants and bookkeepers see just how damn good Xero is and get on board.

I was lucky to sit on a partner panel following a great speaker session from Tania Titman (cue the jokes..:) the MD of Consolid8 who within the space of 12 months went from traditional firm to Gold Partner and industry leader. It shows just how easy it is to make it happen with Xero if you get the right people on board who believe in the revolution. She gave an insightful account of their move to the cloud and how they use the cloud to deliver a great service to their clients.

But that is not to say that us first movers are not still leading the charge. My great friends at Interactive Accounting continued in their award winning way, taking out the Marketing Innovation Award, their third award in a row. And the ninjas at Growthwise grabbed the 100% Xero award, their second award in two years. In both cases very deserving winners as they continue the revolution.

But there are new kids on the block. Poole Group took out the top gong for the accountants and they are an example of the firms shifting from the old way to the new way (like EFS). And the top bookkeeper award went to EyeOnBooks who are continuing the trend of a new age of professional bookkeepers using Xero to leverage off the efficiencies created by the program, but also of the opportunities created by Xero in being able to provide value added services to your clients, whether an accountant or bookkeeper.

On the accountant v bookkeeper debate…well that was in full swing and in the final Q&A the battle lines were drawn. Fortunately the heat was directed to the Xero leadership team and it was good to see the response that a new workable solution was needed to reward both sets of professionals and it would be looked at. Until this happens there will be instances of bookkeepers and accountants battling for position but in the end business is business. We are selling relationships and ultimately I feel the organisation that holds the greater relationship with the client will win out. Hence why we provide a full bookkeeping service to our clients, at the same rates as the top bookkeepers as we see a huge market out there using Xero to deliver the service. It makes good business sense and also means we aren’t having to go through this battle !

No awards for EFS this year but that is ok. Our time will come and we will continue to sit out there at the front leading the disruption in the industry using Xero as our platform. Our position in the market was reinforced when Chartered Accountants President and Deloitte Private Partner Tim Gullifer singled me out in his key note speech which was a pat on the back in itself and proves that we are on the right track as a business and as industry leaders.

My Highlight….

My highlight for the conference this year was being part of the Xero All Stars Band which provided the entire night’s entertainment for the Gala Ball ! With only one rehearsal on the Wednesday night before the conference the 16 member outfit pulled off what will go down in history and will be talked about for a long long time in the Xero community and accounting world !

A wrap up of the band’s experience from Andrew Whitelaw (Drummer, Guitarist and Singer) is here. And not too far away, on this page the video highlights package will be there ! But in the meantime, here is an iPhone recording from Harvee Pene from ChangeGPS to either remind you of the fun or get you wanting the full video highlights reel now !!

Rumour has it that CEO Rod Drury was so impressed that our next call up will be for Xerocon Auckland in Feb 2014 ! Lets hope so because the Xero All Stars Band are the real deal and it will be great to play with them all again !

So in closing Xerocon 2013 was a memorable one for me. I think that our industry is going to continue to change at a rapid rate and for those accounting firms out there that don’t get on board with technology they will start to see their clients make the move themselves. This is one risk we are not going to take as a business because it is these clients that will be looking for accounting firms in the Xero community to look after their ongoing affairs because we ‘get’ Xero and we ‘get’ technology and this is what they are looking for in true advisers moving forward.


Published by James Solomons

FCA, GAICD. Innovative Business Leader. Global CFO @Xref (ASX:XF1). Director at @business_Depot (formerly Aptus Accounting & Advisory @AptusAA). Former Head of Accounting @Xero Australia. Advocate, Entrepreneur & Educator #Family #Football #Fastcars!

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