Xerocon 2019 - all the fun of the fair!

Ewan Bolt

Ewan Bolt

Business Advisory Director and Head of Digital Advisory

This year’s Xerocon might have been my favourite yet – a helter skelter, indoor cricket and your face on a coffee, what’s not to love?!

As always, I am aware of how lucky I am to be afforded the privilege of attending this annual event and consequently the responsibility that comes with that to ensure that I absorb as much knowledge from the presentations, exhibitors and peers that gather at this conference - this year especially having just been shortlisted for two Xero awards: “App Advisor of the Year” and “Large Firm of the Year”.

Innovation that sparks joy!

Firstly, let’s get the fun stuff said – yes, the party after day 1 is as good as everyone says.  This year’s theme was Fairground and the helter skelter, merry-go-round and dodgems affirmed that concept. Every year the team at Xero manage to outdo the year before and with music, drink and food flowing, they nailed it. I do worry they’ve given themselves a massive problem because where exactly do you go after dodgems – 2020 will be certainly be challenging and interesting for the events team.

As always the conference space was filled with innovation and fun to keep the delegates involved – you could create your own phone cover, get your picture printed on your latte, or play a game of cricket (yes, I said cricket!!) with a group of lads paid to play the game for the entire conference on real turf, laid next to a faux pavilion with picnic hampers and rugs dotted around to relax on. Xero really know how to “get bums on seats” at their events.

As usual the presentations were slick. Clear, bright and engaging slides mirrored the speakers’ words and kept the audience engaged.  

Communities of purpose

Last year Gary Turner, Xero’s UK and EMEA Managing Director, spoke about how the next digital revolution isn’t AI, Machine Learning or Automation - it’s people, and this year continued that theme highlighting Xero’s concept of “Communities of Purpose”.

This concept doesn’t just focus on the digitisation of accounting records and processes, but rather the transformation and reinvention of the way that we work utilising the digital tools that now exist.  The community involved in the process allows us to share the knowledge and have the confidence required to make that leap into a new way of approaching jobs.

This was backed up by all the speakers who all had a focus around the people within the wider Xero “family” and was bought to a climax with an incredibly powerful presentation by Craig Hudson, Xero’s Managing Director of Aotearoa and former All Blacks Sevens player, who spoke about his own challenges with mental health and encouraged a room of 3,000 people to literally stand up and support themselves, their employees and their peers in a world where work and personal life can take its toll.  Truly uplifting and emotional.

New Xero products

Getting back to the tech, Xero unveiled a number of new products that have been in the pipeline for a while – CIS integration, XPM and Xero HQ all got an upgrade.  Xero Tax got a massive makeover and is now a real challenger to the other software within that space.  Xero also showed off their new short-term cashflow forecasting tool backing this up with five other breakout presentations over the two days about cashflow from the likes of GoCardless, Practice Ignition and Fintech Insider.

The biggest game changer they showed off – Xero Payments.  An integration with TransferWise now allows businesses to pay suppliers directly from Xero without having to go into their banking apps to set up separate payments.  This is the start of  the benefits open banking can bring and Xero are definitely showing that they can lead the way in this space making it as easy as possible for users.

Challenging the norm

Away from Xero, over 70 companies from the App Ecosystem touted their wares.  A real buzz around the likes of Float and Fluidly (the non-native cashflow apps), and the floor’s biggest draw was probably Xavier Analytics – the excitement around this data analytics app showing that all accountancy and bookkeeping firms using Xero are still challenged by ensuring clients post consistently and efficiently into the system, and Xavier give the tools to help manage this.

It was great to see so many of the challenger banks in attendance too showing that they are part of this change that is challenging the norm with their banking applications.

Networking with 3,500 people!

Overall though Xero got this right again. Ok, the hospitality and the merry-go-round helps, but more than that it catalyses conversations - 3,500 people were talking and sharing ideas on how they work and how they help their clients.

This year, more than the last three, I’ve found myself talking to more delegates than ever before and sharing how I am facing these challenges at work and hearing about the successes they are having – my LinkedIn and diary have never looked so healthy!

Xero have really created a community around their product with a clear purpose as to what they want to achieve. Roll on 2020!