Last week we attended Xerocon 2017, Xero’s annual UK conference and whilst it may have a delegate list of accountants, it’s far from an accounting conference. It’s about tech and small business and that’s why we’re sharing our findings with you.

For us it was Xerocon #4 and it was great seeing the reaction of those who had never been before, no-one attending for the first time can believe they’re in a room with 2,000 accountants, not an abacus in sight!

We saw some fantastic guest speakers including; Richard SusskindMatthew SayedEmma Jones and Tim Leberecht.  The overriding theme was Artificial Intelligence and how at a time when headlines are filed with scare stories about losing jobs to robots, it’s important to remember the importance of humanity in small business.

There is no doubt multi-national companies like Amazon are ever increasing their market share, however, there is also a very real trend in people wanting to buy from local businesses.  A desire to receive a service or product that provides the consumer with a sense of the humanity, skill and love that goes into it’s creation.  Those little touches that make the experience feel more intimate.

So as the current digital revolution progresses, it will be vital that small businesses continue to embrace new technology but also increase the level of humanity and intimacy that customers feel.

Updates and add-ons

It’s Xero’s headline UK event and so of course there is the usual flurry of new feature releases to cover but there was also a fantastic exhibition hall of Xero add-ons and it’s from here that we actually take two of our main highlights for small business owners.

Curve – One of the most exciting add-ons we’ve seen for some time, Curve is one card to replace all your existing business debit and credit cards.  An intelligent app allows you to select which card is used for each purchase, including the ‘Go Back in Time’ feature which lets you change which card was used up to 14 days after the purchase.  Transactions still go through the original card so there’s no additional credit checks and anyone with a rewards credit card continues to accrue rewards in the usual way.  Further still, the Curve card comes with it’s own cashback rewards scheme.  As the final piece of the puzzle, the app links with Xero to push transactions and photos of receipts straight into your accounting software.  Honestly, we can’t think of a small business that shouldn’t use this.

Fluidly – This app is looking to tackle the most pressing issues faced by small business, those of credit control and cash flow management.  Unlike previous software solutions, Fluidly will use Artificial Intelligence to learn how your business receives and spends it’s cash over time before forecasting future cash flows.  Fluidly has just launched and will start with a credit control solution only but a rapid release of additional features is expected over the next few months.

Xero itself

As mentioned there were a number of Xero updates which we will cover in more detail as they are released but two key features for creative businesses are:

  • Xero Projects – Users of Xero may be aware of the Tracking feature which allows you to track transactions against a particular job, category, production.  Projects takes this functionality a lot further and quashes a few of the limitations of Tracking at the same time.  It will be a hugely powerful feature for agencies and production companies.
  • Xero Discuss – Some may be aware of the feature in the Bank Reconciliation screen where users can leave comments for their accountants and bookkeepers.  Xero have given this some much needed modernisation.  Discuss will now be on all pages, more like a live web chat you may be used to seeing (on our new website – !) and will give immediate notification to your advisor of your query if they are in Xero (and we are…all the time!)

The future is here

We started our journey with Xero and the cloud seven years ago.  It’s incredible to see how far technology has moved in that time and that talking about AI is no longer speculation of what may be.

However, the message we take from this years conference is the one with which Xero Co-founder Gary Turner started it, “The next big thing isn’t Artificial Intelligence, it’s people.

We strongly believe technology should create more time for humanity in business, not replace it.

Get in touch if you’d like a demo of any of the features or add-ons mentioned.

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