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Xerocon 2017 – A Valued Perspective

Back in 2012, we were among the few firms that attended the very first Xerocon in the UK held at ICAEW’s Chartered Accountants Hall or as was described on the day the ‘Hogwarts of Accountancy’.

We say few, but back in 2012, the first Xerocon in London was maxed out at around 230 delegates and a handful of add-on partners, some of which are still very much active in the space today.

We decided to pack a few of our team members off to the capital for a few days of keynote speeches and product updates and to have the immersion experience of what was until then, only ever experienced in the southern hemisphere. But still, for our practice to give up two days back in 2012 to attend an accounting conference – it was unheard of, it surely meant that you had to be one of the early adopters and party faithful?.

Yes, we undoubtedly were,  but we were an early adopter with the vision to see how using Xero in our practice could transform not only how we worked but also, what it meant for our clients.  You have to think hard and remember, back then Xero was not as well known here in the UK, it was a growing start-up, well funded, yes, but there were functional gaps, no payroll, and you couldn’t submit VAT returns online – all things that we all take for granted now.

You were not only on seeing a vision for the future of your practice, but you were also going with your gut instincts, and you knew Xero were going to disrupt the industry – and they have continued to do that unequivocally. 

Fast forward five years and the scene is completely different

250,000 UK SUBSCRIBERS

A quarter of a million businesses now subscribe to Xero, that’s incredible scale for a company that has only been in the UK since 2009, so huge credit to the Xero team and its community of partners for delivering such an amazing headline number.

40,000 developers in the eco-system each working on making the lives of small business owners better.

2,000 delegates, over 600 add-ons in the eco-system 70 of which were in attendance also at this year’s conference. Valued have been privileged to have attended every single Xerocon in the UK ever since the first one back in 2012, we’re even proud to say that we’ve won awards at a few, but by far the biggest reward is that every year we see more and more firms switching their practice to the cloud with Xero.

The community is growing every single year; we could once recognise every single person in the room, now we see so many new faces, new partners each with their own story and objectives for the conference; its validation in its highest form that the decision we and many other firms have made is the right one.  

Xerocon also presents us with an opportunity to catch up with our friends in the ‘add-on’ community and other firms, share insights discuss the challenges that we as a profession face. GDPR?, MTD? Recruitment and retention of staff?.  We find this one of the less recognised benefits of being a delegate at Xerocon amid all the product update and keynote speeches, but for us, it’s equally as valuable.

KEYNOTES

The talent of speakers this year was incredible, with keynotes not only from Rod Drury and Gary Turner who together provide great inspiration but also a complete understanding of the professional landscape and the vision for the future of accounting.  However, it was also wonderful to see their fellow ‘Xeroes’ Anna Curzon and Rachel Powell and Laura Cardinal taking the stage to deliver equally great content.

With the rise of AI and automation, where does this leave the role of the accountant in the client relationship?  While technology is making our lives easier as a profession we have to focus on how we engage with our clients and deliver more of the services that they want.  This was for us, a continuing theme with keynotes from Richard Susskind, Emma Jones of Enterprise Nation,  Tim Lebrecht and Matthew Syed. All presentations delivering powerful, resonating messages and of course who could forget Andy & Pete for their hilarious, yet thought-provoking insights on marketing – simply awesome.  

One of the highlights of every Xerocon is seeing what’s next on the development roadmap.

Xero’s product development over the last few years has been phenomenal – if you are unsure you can look at the timelinethis year’s Xerocon hasn’t disappointed, showcasing what is coming in the coming weeks and months.

XERO HQ – WHAT’S NEW

Xero continues to move gently away from My Xero Partner Edition (My Green Xero) and towards Xero HQ. While Xero HQ will eventually replace My Xero Partner Edition, their hope is to make this such an attractive offering that by the time the plug is pulled on My Xero Partner Edition, there will be very few if any, practices still using the older platform.

To this end, Xero has added more new and useful features to Xero HQ, namely ASK, Staff and Xero HQ Apps. All of these features are developed as a result of consultation with Accountants in practice and are aimed at either addressing a known pain point or elevating the ability to manage your practice better.

ASK:

Chasing clients for information is probably one of the greatest wastes of time in any practice. It is often a disjointed process, it isn’t standardised, and it can lead to duplication of effort or even omissions.

Xero has implemented a number of approaches in an attempt to address this ongoing problem including functions in Xero Workpapers and the discuss tab in Xero Bank Reconciliation. They have now consolidated this efficiency drive with the creation of ASK in Xero HQ. It is now possible to instigate and track client communications within Xero HQ.

Conversations with the client will no longer be scattered across the email accounts of various team members – Find them in ASK.

Documents need no longer be lost in random locations within the practice. Find them in ASK.

This is another feature designed to get the client list in Xero HQ working for you. Send queries and capture responses here where everyone in the practice can find them quickly and easily.

Staff:

Practice Administrators can now manage staff access to Xero HQ records very simply.

Using a very common sense approach, Xero HQ provides the ability to control access for a single staff member across all clients or conversely to manage all staff members’ access to a single client record.

Bringing together the control of both the Xero HQ client record and their related Xero organisation (if they have one) provides a comprehensive function which improves upon the capabilities of My Xero Partner Edition. Staff permissions are surfaced and easy to review at a glance.

Xero HQ Apps:

Xero continues to add to its suite of integrated apps for Xero HQ. We already had BOMA, Practice Ignition, Receipt Bank, Fathom, FUTRLI, Spotlight Reporting, SuiteFiles.

The two latest additions to this stable are Datamolino and Expensify.

Xero HQ will continue to develop and build on its already impressive features and will ensure that modern accounting practices have all the data they need right at their fingertips.

XERO EXPENSES

Expenses in Xero have always been fairly limited in their scope, but this is about to change. They have been given a major overhaul, and very soon you will be able to do more and get more with your expenses in Xero.

So What’s changing?

For a start, turn on auto submission and the updated app will enable you to take a photo of your receipt or bill on your smartphone and create the expense directly in Xero!

The inbuilt machine learning will extract most of the information, all you need to do is provide the account code, and you’re done. The submission will appear in Xero shortly afterwards

Furthermore, within the app, you will be able to edit and even approve expense claims so you can handle things while on the move. It’s also a good idea to add a label to your expense item. Even better, on IOS you can enable location services, and the app will tell you where the photo was taken.

Meanwhile, on the desktop version, you can now add expenses for other employees (with the right permissions of course). All the while you can filter your view by Status, Employee or Label. You can see what is still to review or what needs to be paid.

When you decide to make a payment, the relevant expense items will generate new bills which can be handled quickly by creating a batch payment.

All in all a much easier and more streamlined tool.  Xero are hoping to refine the machine learning to the point where it will predict the account code on the expense item so you won’t even need to enter that when adding an item.

For those of you that want an inbuilt mileage tracker, Xero is aiming to introduce a mileage capture element to expenses making all your claims easier to process along with Multicurrency expenses and non-reimbursable expenses.

As advisers, we have access to the new expenses tool right now, and other businesses can ask their accountant to invite them in – It’s free until the end of the year!

But Xero isn’t finished there, oh no.

XERO CIS

Calculating and handling retentions required by clients in the Construction Industry Scheme has been an awkward and time-consuming process. Until Now.

Xero can now do all the hard work for you!

In Financial Settings you will be able to turn on the CIS functionality within Xero. Doing so will create a number of new account codes, namely:

210 CIS Labour

321 CIS Labour Expense

322 CIS Materials Purchased

Once this has been done, then you can set any of your contacts as being subject to CIS rules. At present, you will need to add their CIS details manually, but very shortly Xero will be able to look these up automatically.

When you go on to create Bills and Invoices, as long as the new account codes are used then CIS will automatically be calculated and displayed in the subtotals. Xero will then be able to automatically produce your monthly contractor CIS Return as well as subcontractor payment and deduction statements.

At the minute statements can be sent out individually, but Xero is planning to allow this to be done in bulk. Xero is working on building in a CIS Suffered Report, Handling CIS deductions on cash transactions and filing your HMRC submissions in a single click!

You’ll also be pleased to hear that Xero is working on integrating CIS with their existing Payroll tool. Currently, the feature is in beta testing and Xero has opened this to anyone who would like to work with the new functions.

This is a very welcome feature from Xero, and we can’t wait to get this set up for our clients who need this functionality.

XERO PROJECTS

The latest big feature release from Xero is Projects.  For service-based clients and agency businesses, you now can track your project work in your Xero account.

The whole process is straightforward and is aimed squarely at those businesses with an entry-level project management need.

  • Set the hourly cost rate for your staff members.
  • Create a record for your project.
  • Add Tasks and estimate how long they will take to complete.
  • Record Time and expenses incurred.
  • Raise invoices against the project and report on your profitability.

It’s easy to see at a glance what time and expenses you have incurred to date on each project and what this has cost you. Track this against an overall estimate for the project as well as the estimates you have set against specific Tasks.

See straight away what you have invoiced against your projects so far and what invoice amounts still need to be raised. There is also the ability to raise a deposit invoice against a project and allocate this against invoices raised later in the same manner as a credit note.

For those businesses needing more in-depth functionality, there are many tools out there within the add-on ecosystem to assist such as WorkflowMax, SimPro and GeoOp.

Only the subscriber to your Xero account can turn on Projects so if that isn’t you and you think this would help your business, speak to us and start using Projects in Xero today.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Decompressing on a long train journey back to the North East, and reflecting over the past few days, we are super stoked and eager to implement some ideas that we have for both clients and staff, and this fills us with genuine excitement in the practice.

Post Xerocon Thoughts

As a profession; we have to engage better, as both a practice and as individuals. First of all, with our staff, recruitment and retention remain one of the biggest challenges for most practices, our staff should be engaged and motivated and vital for our client engagement.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel – Maya Angelou

We have to be different, back in 2012 there were a few hundred of us Xero partners in the UK, now there are thousands, we have to stand out from the crowd.  We have our own thoughts on what that means and looks like so watch this space for updates.  We have to try and keep some competitive edge

Do the unnecessary, Create Intimacy, Embrace the Other, Suffer (a little) – Tim Lebrecht, Xerocon 2017 The four pillars of running a beautiful business

We are already looking forward to Xerocon 2018