Xero Poised For Partner-centric Improvement
Xero Poised For Partner-centric Improvement – we have been seeking a chance to start a post on this topic with a positive slant for quite a while. There was a period last fall when we have significant concerns about the direction that Xero seemed headed in with its US Partner Program. The commitment to, leadership of, and alignment of the Xero Partner Program to the core product, the add-on marketplace and the role of professional accountants [which is CPA’s the US, ACA’s and CTA’s around the world, not the generics – they serve a purpose but, aren’t the “go to” role. ]. We were “robustly vocal” some might say shrill in voice concerns and displeasure.
Our efforts have produced heightened interaction, incredibly constructive dialogue, and provided an opportunity for us to share our confidence, if not outright enthusiasm that Xero has committed and started taking the steps that will provide traction, and begin the creation of a Partner Program that could make a substantial contribution to the development of their brand. We had initially been focused on their US Partner Program, but it has become clear that the vision of a “GLOBAL” partner program with appropriate localization [means properly modified for local country markets] is the way to go.
Many of you would appreciate a long time client describing me as [“the attention span of a small sea animal, the spirituality of a cobra, and the gravitas of a belt sander” – think IDF Armored Bulldozer with reverse gear removed] which is great. The experience and technical skills are what matters, if you like remember me as the “Schlong CPA” rather than the “Radical CPA”. Here is a summary what I am seeing and why it matters much more than an endorsement from the Radical CPA [how do you like them Zenefits, any way].
- Russ Fujioka – the US-CEO of Xero took notice of our gentle prodding, and we have had a fair amount of direct interaction over the past three months. We don’t agree on everything, but for a guy to go back to work the same day he got hit by a bus makes him our kind of CEO. Our conversations have convinced me that Xero’s global leadership is focused on learning what I call the “General George S. Patton Principle” about not extending beyond what your supply lines can handle. The US Partner Program at the moment is perhaps 18-24 months behind the ANZ Partner Program and 12 months behind the the UK Partner Program in its evolution. The condition makes sense given the concentration of revenue generating clients which are requisite to fuel the investment that “upscaling” a Partner Program requires. The necessary modification to the US program include
- Identifying, Tiering and Screening Partners in a meaningful way for the US market.
- Alignment of the Partner Program with the Add-on marketplace such that Xero customers can easily identify the partners that have the actual verifiable [not merely self-reported] skills to service their needs
- Creating a mechanism where partners are encouraged to and rewarded for engaging with other partners whether by seeking support, or providing support to other Partner Program members with the ultimate goal of providing the end customer user with the best experience that they can provide.
- Creating the culture and providing the resources within Xero to allow the above to happen.
- Doug LaBahn – is new Global VP Product and Partner Marketing with the responsibility for shaping the Global Partner program and tailoring it for specific markets. We have spent several hours speaking with Doug, sharing our thoughts and experience. He doesn’t agree with all of it, but it’s VERY clear he has a number of ideas and more importantly specific initiatives underway that WILL have positive long term impact on that program. The specifics of what we found to be particularly attractive are:
- He has quickly demonstrated that he has the commitment of the CxO Global Leadership’s attention to his effort, and this engagement is a critical component the the long term viability of his efforts.
- He recognizes that the customer success needs to be aligned for Xero, its technology partners [the people that develop apps, and larger platforms like bill.com] for interoperability with core product, and that Xero Accounting Partner are a different species from Cloud Integrators, and while a single Parnter may be capable of doing both, deeper vetting and validation of partner skills and their verification is critical.
- Doug has demonstrated that he “gets it” ….not by sharing anything that I would call a “roadmap secret” but, rather through his follow up with relevant questions regarding “how to” that telegraphs that he is thinking about implementation and validation issue. A recent exchange regarding some new assets being made available to the Partner Program in ANZ demonstrated that he understands the importance of managing partner expectations about availability of features in various country marketplaces [At this point, I am giving Mr. Fujioka a POKE regarding “practitioner toolkit” in the US]
- My understanding is that Doug has hired an individual to coordinate and control the localization efforts such that one hand will know what the other hand is doing.
- We spoke about some specific efforts that are aBIZinaBOX – centric in that we are uniquely positioned to assist with several efforts [that will be of benefit to the entire Partner Program not merely our practice] which included:
- Leveraging our long term involvement in major Partner Programs with Enterprise vendors like Google for Work, box.com, salesforce.com, Zendesk.com and workato.com where we can assist other Xero partners with architecting and deployment where required.
- Sharing experience with practice risk and operations management that one acquired by “hands on” management of a large practice unit.
- Deep and extended involvement with the AICPA and US state societies, membership and qualification with ICAEW and CAANZ which is almost certainly unique in the Xero ecosystem. Our intention is to be able to offer “Practical Training” opportunities for ACA and CTA candidates from those organizations others as part of an effort to assist in the globalization of the Xero ecosystem at a professional level.
It is important to stress that this isn’t about aBIZinaBOX….we don’t get any special treatment or compensation for sharing these thoughts. However, what we understand and truly wish that a greater number of the participants in their program understood is the title is “Partner Program”, NOT “Gimme Program” and we certainly would like to see a greater level of participation from the Partners that claim though leadership to be active participants and act through example with respect to regulatory compliance, licensing and participation within the profession [more on this aspect for another day].
In closing, many at Xero have noted my ability to be critical, hopefully all understand that the motivation is designed to facilitate a higher quality and ultimately a more profitable outcome for all involved. In closing a thank you to Joel LaCayo for being so easy for me to “manage”.