This is a bit of a departure for us here, but its meant to hit on a larger idea that I see coming about to be a big issue surrounding CoWorking. CoWorking is a new concept of workplace with unique patterns of activity that come from the culture of CoWorking - the hybrid of cafe and workplace, and the interactions and collaboration that supports. CoWorking is also growing rapidly with new sites popping up in cities across the country. But here is the point: As a new workplace paradigm there are not really any products or services on the market yet that are aimed at supporting the unique factors of CoWorking. Scheduling products is a perfect example of this quandary. As CoWorking grows will supporting industries realize there is an opportunity to target the particular needs of this paradigm?
There are a lot of products for scheduling on the market, however none of them are explicitly made for CoWorking. Hotels and Inns, salons and hair studios, all these businesses can choose scheduling software products designed for their specific needs. Do they translate well to the scheduling tasks needed for CoWorking? There is also a class of web based scheduling solutions that are trying to be a solution for any business that schedules. Can these do the trick for CoWorking? There are scheduling products aimed at corporate users managing a range of assets. Can these big guns scale down for a modest CoWorking site? And there are some CoWorking sites brewing their own solutions. Will they unleash these for other sites to use?
Now we can't evaluate these for you. But we will point you to the resources, and we want to hear back from you coworkers looking for solutions.
There are literally dozens of scheduling solutions for hotels, inns, B&Bs, and the hospitality industry. I am not convinced that the lodging model will translate well to CoWorking. Lodging tends to juggle many different rates, often for the same accommodations, where as CoWorking is more membership based, with different classes of members. CoWorking also often requires an hours and minutes granularity for scheduling meeting rooms that hotel software may not be able to handle. You will probably be able to find these as readily as we have but here are a few that we looked at on the web:
Easy InnKeeping by GraceSoft They offer packages scaled to different size operations.
RezStream is again a hotel/rental property based package.
BlueClaw creates custom solutions for Charter and Tour operators, not quite hotels, but related industry.
MindBody offers a package for managing spas, salons, health clubs, and other personal service industries.
Next there are a range of web based scheduling solutions aimed a range of business types. Can these adapt to CoWorking? Sometimes by trying to generalize too much you lose the ability to handle specific details critical any individual business type. There are CoWorking sites using some of these now and they offer the advantage of a degree of self management. There does not need to be anybody working the phone taking reservations. Web based interfaces that can be embedded directly in the CoWorking group's site allow members to check availability and reserve space through the web site.
GenBoook appears to be oriented towards services and appointments.
Divvy includes reservations and billing, and promises its customizable.
Shiftboard is more oriented towards the internal scheduling of a business or hospital.
Google among others, offers collaborative calendars. Some CoWorking groups manage with this combined with a twitter alert.
Then there are enterprise level software publishers that create custom packages for corporations to manage all manner of assets. This crosses with our interest because along with scheduling work shifts, or employee schedules, they also schedule meeting rooms, and desk hoteling for on the road sales people, and other work paradigms used in the corporate world.
PeopleCube customizes solutions for big users, but have products for smaller businesses. These are likely to be capable of being customized for CoWorking's specific needs.
NetSimplicity makes a smaller product aimed just at scheduling rooms called Meeting Room Manager. But they have other products that are for hoteling of office workers as well called Mobile Workforce Manager, which may also be suitable.
Rolling your own has got to be a tempting option for many coworkers, as many seem to be in tech, web, or programming. If so you have the distinct opportunity to craft something that really works for CoWorking. If CoWorking continues to grow at the rate it has so far then I could imagine this option becoming a viable product for other groups to use.
LaunchPad, a CoWorking group forming in Austin TX is writing their own management and scheduling package.
Well, thats it for now. I'd love to see what other groups are using. And we look forward to other players - furniture makers, landlords, everybody making products for work - to begin aiming products straight at CoWorking.