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Xerocon hails growth surge and new tools for Xero

26th Sep 2013
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New Zealand-based cloud accounting developer Xero adopted an expansionist stance at its Xerocon in London this week. Rachael Power and John Stokdyk report on new product announcements, add-on launches and other news from the event.

The Brewery in the heart of the City of London was infused with cloud fever on Tuesday and Wednesday as Xero drew more than 460 accountants, software partners and commentators to its second annual UK Xerocon. 

Last year four add-on partners turned up. This year 22 attended with their own stands and more had to be turned away, according to UK managing director Gary Turner.

But the biggest attraction for AccountingWEB members was perphaps the company's preview of its forthcoming practice management launch, and an accompanying Workpapers module.

Coming in mid-October, the tools are part of a Practice Studio suite that Xero is planning to deliver over the next year. The full package is about a year away from fruition in New Zealand, Turner said, but once it is ready the roll out to the UK will happen very quickly.

“That’s a big one and we’ll try to have it ready by Xerocon next year. We’re also looking to build integration with some existing UK tax products,” Turner said.

The Workpapers preview also drew appreciative comments from accountants at the event and will be available for free to silver partner accountants (25 or more clients using Xero) from 2 October.

Originally developed by Xero add-on developer Spotlight, Workpapers will be bundled within the main Xero application and offers an online mechanism to collaborate with and collect information from clients. 

The system has 20 working paper templates to handle different client queries, review points, and documents, and has a built-in audit trail and communication mechanism to discuss the material with clients.

According to Xero, Workpapers brings a new level of control to the data collection process and can cut 10-40% off the time it takes.

Xero is working on new "inventory" (stock) features and a Dropbox-style section of the software that can be used for end of year accounts and other documents, CTO Craig Walker and product developer Andrew Tokeley announced.

In the shorter term, the main application will shortly get a quote-to-invoice mechanism, beefed up report packs with new sales and audit report formats, plus VAT reports incorporating non-EC purchases.

Other features coming soon to Xero include an update to the current Xero Touch app for iPhone and Android devices, which will be available mid-October.

After completing a Xerocon marathon taking in Australia, San Francisco and London, Xero CEO Rod claimed the company was starting to take off internationally and was beginning to scare its big rivals.

He was particularly pleased that as Xerocon was taking place, a negative note from Credit Suisse helped wipe £90m from Sage's capitalisation.

According to Drury and Turner, accountants will play a key role in Xero's continuing expansion. 

“Accountancy is the only cost effective channel to small business. To do that you’ve got to provide them tools which is why we’re developing them. Providing [practice] tools for free is a great way to disrupt the market. The cost is negligible compared to driving adoption and revenue per accountant partner.”

Turner added that the UK was seeing a quickening adoption of cloud accounting.

More than a quarter of accountants (28%) surveyed by Xero used cloud systems, and another 27% were planning to do so in the next 12 months. Of those who have moved to the cloud, 23% said client demand prompted the move

“In the old world you’d go to your accountant and they would recommend Sage,” said Turner. “We’re now in a situation where a quarter of practices say clients are pushing them to adopt cloud. The perception and reality is that a practice that works collaboratively with clients in the cloud is able to offer more value.”

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