Xero flexes its muscles at London event

Xerocon 2017
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Around 2,000 accountants and software developers turned up for Xerocon 2017 at the ExCel in London Docklands on Tuesday for the London leg of Xero’s global roadshow.

The 120ft video screen surpassed last year’s by some distance and the same could be said for Xero’s burgeoning user base, which now exceeds 250,000 according to European managing director Gary Turner.

Cloud accounting developers including Xero and expenses capture developers such as Receipt Bank and AutoEntry have been the most visible beneficiaries of the Making Tax Digital effect. AccountingWEB’s analysis of cloud use among entrants to the 2017 Practice Excellence Awards grew by more than 50% in the past year, which closely mirrors Xero’s 55% UK user growth rate.

In spite of being scaled back to VAT only for 2019, the MTD boom has also stimulated interest in practice management tools during the past year. Xero catered for this trend at the show by announcing Xero HQ, a platform that brings together none preferred apps to meet the needs of its practice customers: datamolino, Receipt Bank and Expensify (data capture and expenses processing apps), Futrli, Spotlight Reporting and Fathom (forecasting and reporting tools), Practice Ignition, SuiteFiles and BOMA.

Xero updates HQ practitioner pack

“We believe these are the best of breed tools that lead the pack to allow you to offer digital [accountancy] services,” Xero CEO Rod Drury told the audience. “They have all been engineered to work really well together.”

While Xero HQ represents a triumph for software co-existence, the expenses app developers were a little less thrilled at the announcement of Xero Expense, a mobile app that can capture images of invoices and squirt the data through to Xero – just like Receipt Bank and Expensify. None of these vendors were particularly enthusiastic about the launch, but neither did they feel overly threatened by it.

After leaping from obscurity to centre stage as part of the Xero HQ suite, BOMA attracted a lot of attention at Xerocon. The digital marketing app comes from a company founded by former Saatchi executive Ian Christie, who is a neighbour of Drury’s in New Zealand.

“He said wanted to show me his new software,” said Drury. “I’m usually really sceptical, but when he showed me BOMA it really blew me away. We were thinking about trying to solve the the same problems.”

BOMA is designed to help accountancy firms market to their practices and after agreeing to bring it into the Xero HQ fold, it was adapted so that it can pull in news and advice from Xero.

“We can inject content into BOMA. We can now be your virtual marketing departments,” said Drury. “We can create playbooks, and content that allows you to go out to market with work we’ve done.”

Another Xero HQ member new to the UK is SuiteFiles, a document management system built on Microsoft Office 365 that integrates with the other applications in Xero's user environment. According to Callum McNeill from SuiteFiles, the benefit for users of Xero HQ is that they can access all the different components from one place rather than having to jump between practice apps.

Xero HQ also has an activity feed that pulls in alerts from the different parts of Xero HQ. So the practitioner can see if a client is late authorising a set of accounts in SuiteFiles. “It's one way to see other things you need to know about - it really makes sense,” said McNeill, adding, “It's been a great way for us to launch into the UK market.”

Putting the tools to good use

Even as the cloud accounting market booms, there’s a downside for Xero as practices that have turned to cloud accounting systems as a solution to the challenges of MTD are less geared up to move into the “trusted advisor” role that Xero advocates.

Many firms are also rushing into digital marketing without having clear objectives or plans in place and apart from expense capture apps, many not equipped to implement apps from the ever-expanding Xero app marketplace, which now features more than 600 software tools.

On Monday, ahead of the main event, Xero invited AccountingWEB to present early findings from the 2017 Practice Excellence Awards entrants to illustrate some of these key growth areas and to share insights about what the best performing firms are doing to keep ahead of the pack. This information will be shared in a separate article, and will be the focus of the Digital stream of Practice Excellence Live on 18 October.

About John Stokdyk

John Stokdyk is the global editor of AccountingWEB UK and AccountingWEB.com.

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04th Oct 2017 22:55

Hi John - 9 preferred apps not 10 ;o)

No-one up in arms about Xero's new expenses functionality - well there's a surprise - they don't want to cut off their noses...

BOMA - this looks like an excellent product.

Xero HQ developments - this sounds the death knell for quite a few of the new Practice Management software packages. I expect to see some of these gone within 12-18 months.

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to Kent accountant
05th Oct 2017 13:17

Hi Kent Accountant

Interesting that Xero are planning to offer an in-built expense receipt processing system which will presumably obviate the need for Receipt Bank or AutoEntry. I wonder whether QBO will follow suit. Their roadshow is on next week, so I will ask them!

As for Xero HQ, you say that you think it's the death knell for some PM packages. How so? Does HQ include any practice management tools such as task and deadline management, or is it just a dashboard with easy access to nine other packages?

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to charliecarne
05th Oct 2017 18:18

Charlie the Xero HQ pulls through data from the 9 connected apps so if your clients have sent bills to Rb that need processing it will show in Hq it also has task management in there which will be developed out a lot if you a Xero practice and you hook practice ignition, XPM and Xero hq up I cannot see much point in putting time in elsewhere for a pm solution as this will be all you need

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to charliecarne
05th Oct 2017 22:01

Charlie - yes it has tasks and deadline management. The Xero HQ dashboard also has alerts to notify you (via an activity feed) of vat returns due/late/ready to prepare, large numbers of unreconciled bank transactions, no client access to Xero for an extended period etc. All designed to enable you to 'keep an eye' on clients from a single screen.

You can set standard or custom alerts

The integration with Suitefiles and Office365 offers a huge part of the functionality that PM products are doing but with better integration and a lower cost. These two combined with XeroHQ (and BOMA) will give practices a far more streamline process over client engagement, communication and marketing.

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to charliecarne
06th Oct 2017 10:03

Hi Charlie,

I spoke to a QBO rep. back at Accountex who said they were quietly preparing integrated expense reading/processing functionality. The likes of Receipt Bank will be much more concerned than they are letting on.

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to Kent accountant
05th Oct 2017 19:24

Kent accountant wrote:
Xero HQ developments - this sounds the death knell for quite a few of the new Practice Management software packages. I expect to see some of these gone within 12-18 months.

ROFL. Just like Xero Payroll has killed off the other payroll suppliers? I think not!

So here's my prediction for PM products based on my years of watching them come and go: we are currently in a PM boom period, and there will actually be MORE practice management products in 18 months time than there are now.

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to Tim Vane
05th Oct 2017 21:44

Not a worthwhile comparison.

For any practice which is heavily into Xero the developments taken place within Xero HQ will mean that other PM products won't be able to compete.

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05th Oct 2017 09:03

Thanks for the extra sub-editing help, KA. I was confused about whether AutoEntry were in or out of the club and forgot to adjust the number after I checked.

It was great to see you and Glennzy at the event, and thanks for the tip-off about BOMA. That was a new one for me too but looks worth a follow-up. The fact that they have Rod Drury as a champion within Xero will surely help.

As you suggested, Curve, Fluidly and Pleo are also attracting a lot of attention at the show.

Elsewhere, I'm surprised that there aren't more app developers at the show, which is populated mostly by familiar faces. There are several hundred more out there to find out about, but it looks as though many of them don't have the resources to commit to something as big and glitzy as Xerocon yet.

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to John Stokdyk
05th Oct 2017 17:54

John I was disappointed not to see you at the party on the night which is as good event as I have ever been to.

The AWEb lads professional as ever bailed out early so they were fresh the next day

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to Glennzy
05th Oct 2017 18:50

Maybe the boys from Accounting Web did not what to be filmed Dad Dancing and then put on twitter. That Twitter post of dad dancing gave us a good laugh.

I hope you had a good time.

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to sarah douglas
06th Oct 2017 09:49

I can report there were no outbreaks of Dad dancing from the AWeb team (this time).

Glenn, great to see you as always :-)

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05th Oct 2017 12:50

Anyone care to explain why Xero feel the need to charge to attend what is in effect a large marketing exercise for their product.

If you want me to use the product then make it easy for me to find out about it and don't make me pay for the privilege!

BTW I am already a Xero user but don't attend XeroCON due to the fact that they charge for me to be there.

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to SimonLever
05th Oct 2017 19:26

SimonLever wrote:

Anyone care to explain why Xero feel the need to charge to attend what is in effect a large marketing exercise for their product.

That's why they put the Con at the end of XeroCon.

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to Tim Vane
05th Oct 2017 20:31

Alongside Xerocon we have also always hosted annual roadshow events across the UK which are free to attend and easier to get to for those for whom a 3 day trek to London is too much.

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero
@garyturner

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to Tim Vane
05th Oct 2017 21:41

Simon, Tim.

I was very sceptical about paying to attend the event. I have to say it though it was excellent value for money and I will be going to the next one.

You two can sit on the sidelines and bleat like a couple of grumpy old men while those around you take action.

Easy for you to refer to it as a 'waste of money' or a 'con' when you have no real knowledge of the value of this type of event.

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to Kent accountant
06th Oct 2017 09:19

Kent accountant wrote:

Easy for you to refer to it as a 'waste of money' or a 'con' when you have no real knowledge of the value of this type of event.

So what gives this event value?

If you're going to say the event is worth paying for, you could at least explain why.

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to stepurhan
06th Oct 2017 09:51

a free pen...CPD credit....?

I guess it is a good business model where the company marketing a product has its budget subsidised directly by its users. But I see as with IRIS and others they are going down the integrated route making it difficult to move away once you find that the 'best of breed' only applies to one or two of the elements they offer...

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to Kent accountant
06th Oct 2017 11:38

I agree when you say the others "take action"

This was our first time for the Accountex team, and although our original agenda was very different to most delegates (accountants), the end result I believe was the same.

We all came away with lots of up to date knowledge of Xero's plans, we met some really exciting new companies (ones of which we hope will exhibit at Accountex next year). In addition to this we met lots of our loyal supporters (thank you John for my T-shirt!), visitors and other exhibitors, it was great networking with the profession.

To stay up to date and be a progressive practice you NEED to understand and know what products and services are out their to take your practice to the next level, and Xerocon most certainly will help with that!

And from one event planner to another - Congratulations Xero!. You put on a fantastic looking conference! The exhibition hall and stands looked great, the main stage looked really impressive, the demo theatres where educational also. The content was good and inspiring, the offering of food and drink and even ice cream was great too. Topped off with a smart bag and tshirt.

Accountants may not appreciate the work load and cost involved to make a show run and look that good and Xero did themselves proud.

Now I am an Event Director for Accountex, I am not an accountant, but I wish I was for that one day. Because if I had a practice there is so much that I would have taken away form Xerocon

Well done!

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to Zoe Lacey
06th Oct 2017 12:24

Spot on Zoe.

Quite happy for the naysayers to stay away and grumble - if they leave it too long before they join the Xero 'gang' they'll miss the boat...

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06th Oct 2017 17:55

For over 20 years in which my practice put all its practice eggs into the Iris basket the annual Iris World event was a must with reviews of recent developments, demos of future plans, guest speakers from government and industry, breakout sessions for current accounting/tax issues, related product exhibitors, good lunch and, in latter years, the great Twickers venue for the London event.

So, if you have put all of your eggs into the Xero basket, I can fully understand why you'd get the same benefits from attending Xerocon but I honestly can not see the justification in being charged to attend.

This is a global company with an eye watering marketing budget so call me a naysayer (aka cynical) but I suspect corporate hubris to match the ever increasing size of Gary's video screen

Iris's screens were perfectly adequate and the event was free.

"Less is more" Gary.

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to Paul Scholes
06th Oct 2017 18:37

Again, because the point seems to getting overlooked by commenters, we also run a free to attend series of events around the UK every year. There’s also a practical aspect to screen size as a proxy for the size of the room and number of delegates.

Accordingly, the free regional events are smaller and so are the screens.

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero
@garyturner

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to garyturner
08th Oct 2017 11:27

Hi Gary

So if I were to watch the monthly updates with Ashley (which I do) and attend the free events around the country what extra would I receive for my payment to attend Xerocon each year.

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to SimonLever
08th Oct 2017 20:46

>2000 people saw enough potential value to pay close to £200

Make of that what you will.

I think there was less than 2000 accountants in practice who attended QBO Connect and Sage Summit combined, which were minimal cost (and in Sage's case reverted to FOC shortly before kick off) - I didn't count obviously, but I attended both.

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to Paul Scholes
06th Oct 2017 20:37

Naysayer...

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08th Oct 2017 23:22

I have clients using Xero, I have clients using QBO, and the majority use other software and systems.
I follow the trends and developments of all software providers, I also treat them all with a large amount of scepticism, as I do with HMRC and MTD. What I don’t do is blindly follow 1 supplier, which I feel is what a lot of people seem to do.
Having chosen that supplier, it would be a huge dent to someone’s pride (not to mention a huge inconvenience and cost) to then have to explain any subsequent change of mind to clients and peers.
This isn’t a dig at Xero or its tribe, i’d say the same thing about any software company, I just hope that people keep their options open and follow developments in the industry as a whole.
It’s an exciting and fast changing time right now.

Lastly.......ouch, I hope my best mates don’t ever stab me in the back like Xero appears to have done to ReceiptBank, sounds like QBO May do similar but they weren’t quite the same dynamic duo.

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09th Oct 2017 09:16

The quibbling over the charge for the event detracts from the fact that is was a very good event hugely enjoyed by those that attended. I spoke to a lot of people when and I was there and have seen a lot of social media since and yet to see anybody say it was not worthwhile.

Regards the charge the general census is that by making a charge it shows commitment from those that pay that they:
A. Intend to turn up.
B. Genuinely interested in the subject matter and want to do something about it.

If the event was free Xero could not cater for an open ended amount of attendees so numbers would have to be capped on a first come first served basis. If its free many would have dropped out due to work commitments etc so many who wanted to go would have missed out. By charging people are much more likely to turn up.

I was at a Digita event 2 years ago they charged, I went to a single day ICPA event 2 weeks ago (which involved at least half of time heavy sales from my firms app etc) and it was more expensive that Xerocon.

MY gast is well and truly flabbered that Iris do not charge.

I have a client who is a management coach and he used to to run taster seminars free but now charges £20, not to make a profit from them, but to make sure that those who attend and genuinely interested in what he does and want to improve themselves, the cost deters tyre kickers.

For me the cost was not small to attend but the ticket price was the smallest part of the cost. In the scheme of it the money raised from ticket sales against the size of the event would not have even paid the catering bill, and it certainly not a case of Xero users bank rolling the event.

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to Glennzy
09th Oct 2017 09:50

From one Event organiser to another I can safely say that when I walked around, there was a lot of money spent at the Xerocon.

And Glenzzy you are absolutely right about charging to ensure commitment for delegates to turn up. We only have 50% of people who register for Accountex London that turn up and we had over 7,000 this year. But this is common for free to attend trade shows across all industry sectors.

With our new one day Accountex Summit North (Manchester (6th March) it is free to attend but we will be charging a small non-attend fee if they do not turn up and give us notification that they cannot come. As we are feeding and watering the delegates we cannot afford to order food and drink for those who cannot attend, and venues charge a fortune so we have to safe guard ourselves some how.

I agree, I do not know how IRIS do it all for free as they put on a fantastic IRIS World a few weeks ago. Again you can see that a lot of money was spent and their was an increase in numbers this year too.

Well done to all the software companies and the associations that put any of these trade shows on - free or not. I have worked in many difference industry sectors and this profession is very lucky with the wide selection of good conferences on offer.

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to Zoe Lacey
09th Oct 2017 10:20

If I based my practice around Xero (or any other software supplier) then personally I would quite happily pay the £200 as long as there was something useful to be learnt and taken away. For those people who are just curious then it would probably put them off, but as Glennzy says the ticket price is only a fraction of the cost, you'll be losing say £500 a day in fees, travel, food, accommodation etc. So would be £1,500 for a 2-day event easy. You have to see it as an investment, I have to spend that amount of money on audit-related CPD each year, so £1,500 for an event that will (hopefully) enable you to generate a higher return on your everyday (non-audit) client isn't so bad if you put a positive spin on things.

@ Zoe - I think there's a difference between paying a nominal fee (say £20) to try and encourage people to turn up, and paying £200.

In respect of Iris - have you seen the prices they charge? I think you'll find that's how they fund their events!

Great to see that Accountex are doing a 'northern' event, I'm midway between Manchester and London so I shall be attending both.

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to Sheepy306
09th Oct 2017 10:58

I like your positive spin indeed! @Sheepy306

Really pleased that you will be attending both ACX London and Manchester. Its means a lot that we have the support of the profession when launching a new Summit like this.

I look forward to hearing all the positive and hopefully not too much negative feedback on the new Summit launch so we can development it and make it better also!

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to Zoe Lacey
09th Oct 2017 15:21

Are you not going into crowded market. I am going to accounting live in November. Which is covering all the same.

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to Sheepy306
09th Oct 2017 12:13

@Sheepy - if you're at the next London Accountex let me know - it must be 5 years since we last had a beer!

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to Kent accountant
09th Oct 2017 13:39

Indeed I shall, that would be great. 5 years ago under the clock at St Pancras, it was a lovely evening :-)

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09th Oct 2017 12:38

As I used to have with Iris, and still have with Accweb, there is a club/cooperative feel about associations with these companies. Your business, and sometimes personal life, become entwined with them and, as with any community of which you feel a part, there is a warm glow from sharing and participating with the supplier and your fellow users.

But, Xero and other suppliers are not clubs or coops they are commercial corporations and so you have to be constantly on guard that you do not end up giving far more than you receive.

Sheepy306 commented on Iris's prices to explain, presumably, how they can afford to run their annual event free of charge, but we are talking about different products here. No matter how good, at the moment, I could not regard Xero, or any other bookkeeping software, as core to my business as, unlike Iris, it doesn't do tax returns or annual accounts. Iris became core to my practice when it added practice management and company secretarial to accounts and tax over 15 years ago, ie it then ran everything "client" for us.

It also has to constantly rewrite its complex compliance software to comply with changes in accounting and tax legislation and, considering the cost per client and how it could handle anything I threw at it, the cost was OK. Xero et al have to keep an eye on VAT and, let's face it, Xero's record in that has not been great.

Things have changed alot, there's now growing competition from Cloud products to handle both the clients' and the firm's affairs and so Iris is now looking antiquated to me and, with add-ons, Xero is able to expand it's basic product.

My cynical approach to Xero is born, I think, out of my experience with Sage starting about 30 years ago and then through its club approach and ending up feeling that all my eggs were stuck and that I was being milked by a corporation that did nothing but flex its marketing muscles telling me how lucky I was when asking for the next £XXX just to keep paddling.

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to Paul Scholes
09th Oct 2017 13:00

Really well put.

We use Xero. I also have, in the main, good experience with Xero.

It is the complete loyalty to a profit motive organisation that I question. Further, I do NOT think event organisers of Accountex are an independent party praising the event.

I am sure, it was a fantastic event. Not for me. I can get the same information in cost and time-effective way.

The internet age we live in, is there a need for me to get off my backside and give up my time in the office? It does not work for me. I understand, it turns on 2000 accountants.

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to FirstTab
09th Oct 2017 13:25

2000 turned on accountants? Surely worth the ticket price alone FT.

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to Glennzy
09th Oct 2017 13:36

Makes you wonder what they were showing on that giant screen.

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09th Oct 2017 13:34

my healthy amount of scepticism for Xero (as with any software provider) comes from using various software products over the years....and is probably slightly affected by Xero's unrequited support of MTD (perhaps showing a little less understanding of their client base, and a lot more to the potentially money in it for them). Its all perception of course....but if it quacks like a duck....

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to justsotax
09th Oct 2017 17:01

justsotax - "...Xero's unrequited support of MTD"

Actually, not really.

I can see how it might suit a certain narrative that I would naturally be a strong supporter of MTD but the fact is, as has been covered editorially a few times on AccountingWeb over the last 18 months, that I have always held reservations about the prospect of free software being viable as well as and concern about the initial scope and timescales.

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero
@garyturner

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to garyturner
10th Oct 2017 09:56

garyturner wrote:

I can see how it might suit a certain narrative that I would naturally be a strong supporter of MTD but the fact is, as has been covered editorially a few times on AccountingWeb over the last 18 months, that I have always held reservations about the prospect of free software being viable as well as and concern about the initial scope and timescales.


Surely reservations about free software actually supports that "certain narrative". Assuming you mean the assertion that you support MTD because you expect to make money from it.

If you'd said that no commercial company could do it, but the government should provide a free basic tool, you might have had a point. As it stands, your reservations are simply saying that people will have to expect to pay more for MTD whether they like it or not.

So, whilst unrequited support might be a little strong, you could hardly be said to have spoken out against MTD in any serious way either.

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to stepurhan
10th Oct 2017 14:02

"you could hardly be said to have spoken out against MTD in any serious way either."

Sorry to disappoint but if you spoke with HMRC, interested parties at ICAEW, other software vendors and the editorial team at AccountingWeb (or other publications) and picked through past comments on here, you'd likely be surprised.

I can hold positions as a commercial software business and technologist, as someone with 25 years of practical understanding and experience of the difficulty in convincing SMBs to move to software and finally as a taxpayer keen to ensure our taxes are put to the best use possible.

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero
@garyturner

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to garyturner
10th Oct 2017 10:32

as I said, that to me was the 'perception'....

As for not charging....well the irony of a software provider being against providing 'free' software is not lost on me.

Presumably you sat down with HMRC and put forward your reservations? Did you at any stage filter this down to your clients or indeed consult with them (given they would be using this 'new' software)...?

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to justsotax
10th Oct 2017 14:04

Well you did also say if it quacks like a duck. :)

Yes to all.

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero
@garyturner

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to garyturner
10th Oct 2017 16:49

Which I think means the same thing....?

That said, I guess I must have missed the article where you suggested MTD was not good for small business, that it added an unnecessary layer of cost/complexity and the only reason it was put forward was to solely benefit the Revenue.

I accept however that you don't like the idea of providing free software and that you are worried that business owners will not readily take up the software. (although not sure either really address the problems that have led us to where we are now).

The evidence (well that available to the small business community) would suggest it also walks like a duck....but we aren't privy to the no doubt more 'select' details which may indicate otherwise...you can see the problem....

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