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Total Synergy view of Xerocon Sydney 2013

A CEO, product architect, product development manager and marketer walk into a bar… There’s probably a joke in there somewhere, but replace ‘bar’ with Xerocon and that’s exactly what we did last week.

Xerocon is the annual series of user and partner conferences held by Xero. Last week saw Xerocon Sydney take place over three days at the Australian Technology Park in Redfern.

Day one was for Xero’s community of add-on partner developers, an opportunity to meet the Xero team, hear about the ‘state of the union’, future plans and how the Xero ecosystem is growing.

Making up the team from Synergy was CEO Scott Osborne, product development manager Jon Devine, product architect Greg Swanson and corporate communications manager Jamie Millar.

Here are our four perspectives of Xerocon Sydney 2013…

Xerocon just getting started


The stand-out for me was that Xero is building an entire financial platform, not just accounting software. They’re working on ecommerce, quoting, developing deep relationships with banks as well as looking at other elements within the software that allows businesses to manage more than simply bookkeeping, payroll and taxes.

Xero’s growth is exponential suggesting the converted are spreading the word and converting others around them. This is telling with over 200 people in the room from add-on partners, all with their own clients and users who may well convert those people to Xero’s cause given simple integration opportunities with their own systems. We’re seeing the same with Synergy clients and a steady stream of enquiries and conversions to Xero from more mainstream accounting software options.

Xero is pushing the benefits of cloud heavily, as you’d expect. The software partners in the room see Xero not as a third party add-on but as a business enabler. Xero is also pushing the idea that they’re not targeting verticals specifically, suggesting ultimate success for vertical software providers when they integrate with best-in-class add-on tools to complement the business needs of their vertical users.

Xero add-on partnersThe product development manager

I really enjoyed the presentation from Atlassian founder and CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes. His view made it clear that selling cloud business solutions requires a different operational model to that of selling traditional products, where the lines blur between service and sales.

Xero is focused on building a horizontal engine and is looking for partners to develop the vertical line-of-business applications to cater for market niches, though Xero will potentially be adding generic functionality, such as projects, CRM and other features.

The product architect

Xero is building a basic feature-set for partners to build vertical integrations on top of. In Total Synergy’s case, this means we share key financial information direct from projects to Xero removing the need for double entry. While there are many ‘project management’ systems out there, our vertical specialisation is that our projects include key data required by architects, engineers and designers including rates, costs unique project breakdowns and contacts.

With that in mind, it’s important to keep integrations simple with as many common defaults as possible for the best cross-over potential.

The other clear message was to know who drives change in future customers.

The corporate communications manager

The repeated themes across the day were team, culture, vertical focus and scalability.

Interesting stats from the beginning of the day were that around 40 per cent of new Xero customers come from no accounting software (meaning that 60 per cent do… they have 200-300 new business customers every day).

Xero Australia MD Chris RiddXero Australia managing director Chris Ridd said their add-on partner network was “one of the most strategic pillars that Xero is placing its bet on”. Xero’s add-on partner website pages generated over 400,000 click-throughs in the last few months alone and the partner community now numbers more

CEO Rod Drury went on to say Xero was looking at opportunities around projects, quotes, time and jobs and gaining customer insights from financial systems to improve the product. This data will allow vertical app providers to develop and market better products in their own spaces – something Xero wants to help educate its market on. than 270. This is a significant lead generator for add-on partners and Xero alike.

The afternoon sessions split between API nerd-speak and sales and marketing streams. Xero Australia sales manager Trent Innes focused on the growing software-as-a-service market, one that will grow to become a $1 trillion market globally and will ultimately leave the client/server software behind.

Trent said there is a view that cloud is giving SMB’s the opportunity to “unlock IT spend” while the global volume of SMB’s (2.1m in Australia and 400m globally) is demanding enterprise grade solutions with SMB functionality. This, in turn, means cloud solution providers must innovate to compete and maintain relevance and differentiation.

There is a perception that building an innovative cloud solution means users and customers will simply realise and adopt it (build it and they will come), but this is not the reality. In order to ensure growth of users, brands must first understand their own stories, and those of their target users, and tell them. In knowing and telling compelling stories people will buy-in to the benefits and share their experiences – sharing grows advocacy.

This view resonates with us here at Synergy where we subscribe to a relatively new way of thinking about the traditional four ‘Ps’ of marketing: product, price, place, promotion (there are actually seven ‘Ps’ but four will suffice here). The four ‘Ps’ are reclassified as four ‘Es’: product = experience; price = exchange; place = every place; promotion = evangelism. It would seem Xero is thinking in this light — getting users and customers to believe in your values and culture, and experience the true benefits of your product (its partnership with your business and ability to scale and grow with you) will turn them into brand evangelists. There’s no better endorsement.