MJF’s trip to Xero Con 2015


Mike Flynn

Mike Flynn, on his way to Xero Con

Mike’s trip to Xero Con

It was with a sense of reluctance that I agreed to go along to the Xerocon event in London on the 10th Feb 2015. You see, an event aimed at accountants and bookkeepers, based in London and lasting two days was not my idea of good time. Never the less I was convinced to go against my better judgement and do you know what? I am glad I did!

Xerocon is not everyone’s cup of tea. A company that has come out of nowhere to compete with tried and tested accountancy software providers, preaching idealistic practices to a long established profession.

This is not how we do things. We are a well-respected group of people who have been doing the same thing, again and again, for generations and making a fantastic living from it. And now we have Xero telling us we are all Dinosaurs. That our systems are obsolete and that our clients will leave us in droves if we don’t embrace the future. Who do they think they are? Xero…………. That’s who.

Straight from the off Xerocon was impressive. I likened it to the launch of an Apple product. Slick and modern, populated by trendy geeks wearing jeans and a tee shirt. The venue, based in Battersea Park, was open, retro with neon lighting ensuring guests could find their way around. It was filled with cutting edge technology even to the extent of having a microchip in your name badge so that when you attended a session, you were automatically sent the session notes to your email address.

I popped along for the pre-event drinks on the Monday night and was immediately impressed on how many people were there. I downloaded my Xerocon app and spent an hour chatting to fellow Xero users and Partners over a beer.

Xerocon was presented by Michael Rodd from Tomorrows World. A great compere who through his journalist background was able to engage with the guest speakers about current topics.

Our first speaker was Rod Drury, the CEO and Co-Founder of Xero. He welcomed everyone in his enthusiastic New Zealand accent and talked us through what we could expect from the next two days. His main point was the cloud. To me, the cloud is just another way of saying ‘online’ but it seemed all the rage over the next two days. He explored the opportunities emerging for Accountancy Practices and how working together these could succeed. N

ext up was Karren Brady, guest speaker number one. I didn’t know what to expect from Karren based on what I had seen of her on the TV and in the papers. On the one hand she had come across as tough and business like but on the other she also came across as a normal likeable person. This observation turned out to be spot on. She talked us through her background of a woman in business (a male dominated business at that) and made us all laugh with a ‘dick’ joke here and there but she also carried herself with an air of confidence and control. She demonstrated this during the Q&A session when she took control of the questions and answered them in a clear and precise way. All in all, Karren was a very inspirational speaker.

Gary Turner now took to the stage. Gary is Xero’s UK Managing Director. It was nice to hear Xero being represented by a Brit as it gives you the confidence that national issues as well as global ones are being heard. Gary’s pitch was all about moving forward. If you stay still you will be yesterday’s business before you know it so we all have to move forward just to ensure we are not left behind.

Moving into the afternoon, I was excited to see David Rowan from Wired. Being a bloke of a certain age, I love gadgets and new shiny electronic things. David didn’t disappoint. He talked us through future technologies which are now being adopted by the real world. A flying car, a robot nurse, a drone selfie (called a dronie) were just a few of the science fiction reality we are now living with. The main word I took out of his presentation was mobile. Everything is mobile. Mobile banking, mobile accounting, mobile communications and even mobile hairdressing (OK only joking about that one) but the mobile premise remains. An excellent presentation but I did tweet about still not having my hover board!

Andy Lark (Xero Chief Marketing Officer) was next up. He chatted about change and how new businesses sprung up from these new areas. New and exciting opportunities are presenting themselves every day and the people that jump to fill in a void in the market are the next generation’s power houses. What other business can reference the example of a one person start up from a bedroom being sold to Google for multi millions only a few years later. The internet is here to stay and there are people making serious money from it.

Finally, with my head spinning with facts and figures, Oliver Furniss (Xero Product Development) talked through the actual Product. This was a welcome relief whilst although all of the strategic motivations speeches are useful, it’s always nice to hear how these long term changes will be implemented. The main areas of product development revolved around Inventory (stock for us Brits) and Payroll.

Day one wrapped up with Michael Rodd thanking us for our time and then telling us to get out quickly as the room needed to be turned around for the evening award event (I chose LFC v Spurs in the hotel over the awards evening).

Re energised after a great 3-2 victory the night before, I headed into day two wanting to chat to the Xero Partners more. The main stalls that I visited during the day were Crunch Boards, Metro Bank, XU Magazine, Accountancy Web and Xero Practice Studio. It was a pleasure meeting the exhibitors and gaining an invaluable insight into what they do and how it may benefit our Practice.

First up for day two on the main stage was a pretention by Rita Clifton. Her speciality is branding. Rita explained the how’s and why’s regarding branding your firm, she even called the brand the most important asset a Practice has. I’m not entirely convinced about this but the presentation was impressive none the less. The area where I did buy into Rita’s presentation was opportunities in the digital age. She argued that the playing field is now level for all sizes of business due to the online areas where an SME can advertise in the same arena as a long established titan. With Facebook, Twitter and the likes, you can be heard no matter what your size of business.

Rachel Bell from Shine was then joined by Rod Drury and Andy Lark for a Q&A session about direct actions we can take to grow our Practice.

In line with the whole event, this session was an open, laid back way of looking at the financial world. Don’t get me wrong, these guys are very professional but they also tear down the stuffy stereotypes for our trade by making the technology attractive.

Rob chatted about bank feeds and how frustrating it was for the UK banks to be dragging their heels over simple bank feeds into Xero. I did chuckle when Rod asked for a show of hands for people who want a Barclays Xero feed. 95% of the audience put their hands up so he then asked the Barclays representative to stand up and embarrassed him to embrace what the customer wants. Beautiful.

More product was delivered next with cool new features in Xero such as ‘Inbox Attachments’ and ‘Find and Recode’. These brought cheers from the audience. That’s what Xero is all about, listening to their clients and then implementing their suggestions. Eat your heart out static SAGE.

The final afternoon was all about breakout sessions where you could learn more about a certain aspect of Xero. I chose Enablement and Payroll. I’m not going to bore you with the details of Enablement and Payroll but let’s just say this, it gave users of the product a chance to tell their own stories to fellow users and then for us to take the best bits from these stories to implement ourselves.

And that’s a wrap……………………. It gives me great confidence that the future of accountancy software looks to be in safe hands.

Thank you Xero, looking forward to seeing you next year.

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Added by Mike Flynn