Highlights from Xerocon San Francisco

Wow. That was a blur! Xerocon was August 15 to 17 at Pier 27 in sunny San Francisco this year. Over 500 accountants and bookkeepers were in attendance. 

For videos, photos, and stories, visit the Xerocon San Francisco homepage. Xero's also compiled a selection of top #xerocon tweets and a photo album on Flickr.

Xerocon US 2016

Additionally, Seth Fineberg of AccountingWEB wrote up summaries of Day 1 and Day 2. He also did video interviews on the expo floor (including one with yours truly). Be sure to check them out!

Here are some highlights from my own experience at Xerocon this year:

The Big Picture

In his keynote, Rod Drury said that Xero has processed over $1 trillion in transactions in the past 12 months. One of Xero's long-term goals is to start leveraging all that data to improve the app in innovative ways.

To achieve that goal, Xero has been migrating over to AWS (Amazon Web Services) and expects to complete that move by the end of the year.

This move will allow Xero to start to apply machine learning and AI to the dataset in Xero.

What does that mean? It means, for example, that Xero will one day be able to code 9 out of 10 transactions automatically with 99% accuracy.

It also means that Xero will have the power to enable users to interact in new ways with their financial data.

As an example, Rod did a live demo of a new Facebook Messenger bot that allows users to interact with their accounting data via chat using natural language.

One way you can interact with Xerobot is to ask "How much money do I have?" The bot will reply with your bank balances without you having to load the Xero application. Or you can say, "I need an accountant," and the bot will help you find one listed on the Xero directory.

In the future, Xerobot could go even further and complete tasks rather than just returning information.


Women in Accounting

Amy Vetter, Xero's Global VP of Education and U.S. Head of Accounting, sat down with an all-female panel of leaders to discuss the challenges faced by professional women in 2016. You can watch a recording of the live stream on Facebook.

Joanne Cleaver, who spoke later in the day, gave us some figures from the Accounting MOVE Project, a project that's using benchmarking data to quantify to firms how well they're doing in terms of advancing women in the profession.

Specifically, the drop off in women advancing within firms is happening between senior manager (47% women) and partner (23% women).


Challenges in Recruiting

When I talk to other accountants and bookkeepers and I ask them about the challenges facing them in daily practice, the number one challenge that they mention is recruiting. It's really difficult to find and retain excellent employees in the accounting profession.

Jeff Phillips, CEO of recruiting site Accountingfly, gave us some interesting stats, including the fact that 70% of those who leave public accounting cite lack of work-life balance as the top reason.

There's an opportunity here for forward-thinking firms: Those that allow their employees to work remotely get 8 times more applicants than firms that don't!

It also makes me wonder โ€” could a good chunk of those 70% leaving public accounting for lack of work-life balance be women? Enabling and supporting employees who want to work remotely on flexible schedules could do a lot to improve the lack of gender diversity at the partner level of the profession.


Featured Keynote Speakers

Dandapani

Dandapani grew up in Australia and studied electrical engineering before leaving it behind to become a Hindu monk in a cloistered monastery. After 10 years, his vows expired, and he decided to venture out into the world and teach what he had learned. At Xerocon San Francisco, Dandapani spoke on "Conscious Accounting." 

Mel Robbins

Mel Robbins' TEDx Talk on "How To Stop Screwing Yourself Over" has been watched over 3 million times. Her book, โ€œStop Saying Youโ€™re Fine,โ€ about how the brain impacts productivity, is a business bestseller.

At Xerocon, Robbins shared her simple trick called "The 5 Second Rule" (no, nothing to do with dropping food on the ground) that can help radically interrupt our self-destructive behaviors and encourage positive ones.


New & Upcoming Xero Features

Report Templates

Report Templates are coming to the U.S. at the end of September. Report Templates will give accountants and bookkeepers the ability to design reports on a practice-wide level based on Report Codes, not individual Chart of Accounts. This is in addition to the latest improvements to Report Layouts.

PayPal Express Checkout

Xero and PayPal are teaming up to create a tighter integration. Xero is adding PayPal Express Checkout to invoices, meaning that clients won't be directed to a separate website to complete payment. Payments and fees will also automatically be recorded in Xero.

Cloning bank rules

Soon you'll be able to close settings from one organization to another, including the chart of accounts and โ€” even better โ€” bank rules!

Finishing Xero Payroll

Xero Payroll will have a new direct deposit experience and will be in all 50 states by the end of the year.

A big upgrade to Xero certification

A new Xero certification course is launching at the end of the September. The new course is a massive investment that will include real-life scenarios, interactive hands-on activities (rather than an exam at the end), and a "challenge out" option for experienced users to move more quickly.


An amazing ecosystem of apps

One of the perks of attending Xerocon is getting the opportunity to discover new apps and reconnect with my favorite developers. There was no shortage of love for apps that integrate with Xero by partners this year.


Xero Partner Awards

What conference of any sort would be complete without some awards? They went to some very deserving individuals and vendors this year:


Even a Pokรฉmon stopped by


See you next year!

It was great to reconnect with old friends and make a bunch of new ones. Hope to see you at Xerocon in 2017!

Blake Oliver

Los Angeles, California, United States