The dust has now settled on Xerocon 2014 in Sydney and having recovered from the jet lag, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on and share my first impressions and experience of an accountancy conference.
It was a conference unlike any conference I’ve ever been to and in this post, I want to reflect on what it meant to go to Xerocon as an outsider (I am a lawyer turned developer here at Float) and especially on how Xero has turned my (admittedly) stereotypical view of accountancy on its head!
The accountancy conference scene is new to me. Like most people, if you’d asked me to describe what I thought an accountancy conference would be like, i’d have pictured a stuffy, waistcoat-y, curmudgeonly affair. The thought of attending involving mentally preparing for a painful grilling on the finer points of accrual accounting, exhibition stands awash with incomprehensible spreadsheets and the stale smell of antiquity in the air. If you’d asked me a year ago what I’d be doing at an accountancy conference, I’d have quickly replied, ‘looking for the nearest exit…!’
If you build it…
The misconceptions I’ve held for so long about accountancy conferences made a dramatic u-turn last week. I doubt anyone would believe me if I spoke about fairground rides, skateboards, ice-cream and live rock music in the same breath as an accountancy conference…Cue Xero and Xerocon Sydney 2014.
Xero does things differently. In a good way. It’s not about an idealised way of doing things, or software that’s bloated, overly technical and cumbersome. It’s about engagement and building an ecosystem – Xero is putting the users, partners and developers front and centre and went to great lengths to ensure everyone got the most out of the conference.
For the accountants and bookkeepers, there were genuinely interesting sessions that focused on topics of real-world utility in practice, from better pricing of advice, to remaining relevant in the changing marketplace and how to embrace the opportunities presented by the next generation of accounting platforms. This is all focused on giving clients and users the best possible experience by embracing the change and, more importantly, the new opportunities and diversification of business models that Xero’s platform is introducing to the profession.
The Developer Day at the start of the conference kicked-off the theme of ensuring all stakeholders would get the most out of the three day event. Xero shared their roadmap for the future, and for developers it was an opportunity to meet, discuss and share ideas with the Xero dev team, fellow add-ons and users. It was a collegiate rather than adversarial atmosphere and there was a real sense that everyone was in it together in a bid to nurture the emerging ecosystem and to flourish within it.
Xero do things differently. In a good way. It’s not about an idealised way of doing things…
A common thread running throughout the 3 days was relationship building. Xerocon became the ideal opportunity to build rapport amongst developers, add-ons, accountants, bookkeepers and the Xero-team. I had expected exactly none of this.
A Spirit of Co-Operation
Returning to Edinburgh from Syndey, it feels like we’ve found our place in a thriving community. There’s a distinct “social contract” operating in the Xero community, and its benefits continue to bubble to the surface; from the relationships and partnerships we’ve built, to learning from other add-ons, accountants, bookkeepers and users. There is a great deal of understanding amongst everyone involved and it’s played out in a spirit of co-operation.
This notion of co-operation is what strikes at the very heart of the revolution that’s taking place in the accountancy world, spearheaded by Xero. The polemic shift in the relationship, from software vendor to partner-collaborator creates community ‘buy-in.’ To me, this is what separates Xerocon from any other accountancy conference.
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