I tipped up at Xerocon London (live blog) not knowing what to expect. I knew that I would be in the ‘coconut shy’ with Rod Drury CEO Xero and Richard Anning who leads the ICAEW IT Faculty. I also knew I would have a panel of Xero customers. Beyond that I was flying blind. There were no pre-prepared softball questions and I had not met any of my panel before today.
As with all conferences, there is an element of vendor selling but I was surprised to see either live customers or video interviews peppering the whole day. That is something I’ve never seen before. It speaks volumes to the confidence Xero has in its progress that it can get customers on stage willing to speak candidly about their experiences. It also speaks to the hunger among attendees that the room was still around 80-85% full by the end of the day. The questions with which they peppered Xero management were top quality and incisive.
A good example was the short debate around the use of bank feeds and how some UK banks are highly resistant to services like Yodlee scraping feeds. I have written about this but I agree with Rod who said: “If your bank isn’t going to play ball then change banks. That gets their attention.”
As expected, Xero talked about roadmap about which VAT online filing and reporting, both management and fiscal, were top of mind among panelists and customers.
Then there was the enthusiastic Tweetstream. But it was the customers who blew me away.
There is a certain sense of satisfaction when you hear your own words played back to you – albeit some years after they were first uttered and nuanced for where the industry is today. Rod talked about futures (for which see upcoming video) and the enormous value that Xero sees in the data it is managing on behalf of its customers. This provides the basis for benchmarking, something that Freshbooks has been doing in limited fashion for some years but which has yet to hit the mainstream. If Xero can get the right analytics engine in place, then it will have a goldmine of information at its fingertips. This is something I first spoke about more than four years ago.
Then there was the way in which Paul Bulpitt of WOW, Dave Jessep of DJCA and Steve Paul of Valued Accountancy Services talked about new business models and collaboration among professionals of a kind that would have been unheard of even five years ago. The discussion around how you onboard ‘shoebox’ clients was excellent and I will be writing about this in detail a little later. Heady stuff.
One topic that is worth mentioning: ALL panelists and people I spoke with at the event believe that in today’s world – you have to use EVERY social channel available to you. That includes LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. That will irritate some people I know who think Twitter is a waste of time. Here’s the proof. Steve talked about Tweeting he is providing complementary access to Xero. Within a short time (like a few minutes), he had takers.
What a difference a couple of years make. As the day came to a close, I said to the audience that looking back, I recall being on stage with Gary Turner, Xero’s UK MD for an ICAEW event some two years ago. At that time I guess there were maybe 80 people in the room. They were a tough audience with few expressing genuine enthusiasm for cloud accounting. This audience of around 230 (<10% dropout from some 250 registered) had the ‘look and feel’ of one that was engaged most of the way.
This group is doing something I have long advocated. It is ignoring everyone and building a new type of practice. More on this later as well.
I came away energised. I felt that I have seen the future that I have been talking about for a long time. It is taking the kind of shape I anticipated but there’s a lot of fresh thinking out there that is proving to be highly disruptive. Those that don’t get it will be left in the dust.
More to come from video content I am feverishly processing.
Disclosure: Xero paid a part of my T&E.