The growth of shared workspaces has accelerated rapidly over the last decade. This period of rapid growth meant that service, technology and software providers to the workspace industry struggled to keep up with the requirements of both experienced multi-site operators and new single site startups. This in turn, resulted in operators who are confronted with manual processes and generic software which damages both their operational efficiency and overall customer experience. Historically, the lack of management tools that facilitate tasks, meeting room bookings, customer relationship management, billing, invoicing, and IT service provisioning caused operators to find solutions on their own. Meaning they built their own technology, and in some cases, outsourced it to multiple vendors. Many larger operators have developed their software tools in-house or worst, continue to manage critical business processes and reporting manually in Excel spreadsheets. This approach has proven to be growth-prohibitive, resource intensive and costly.
In a three-part series, we will break down the reasons why operators should forget software development and patched IT systems, and instead leverage technology services that have been developed specifically for operators to run their shared workspace business. The final part of the series will focus on the importance of service experience and quality when selecting the right flexible workspace technology partner. From our Chief Product Developer to our Chief Marketing Officer, our company’s leaders explain the benefits of outsourcing to a tried-and-true system developed by industry experts.
Implementing Shared Workspace Management Software Managing a workspace company in today’s competitive market demands the use of software and platforms that solve business needs and challenges. They must deliver reporting, insight and a 360-degree view of the business and they must ensure that the core processes of operating a center are simplified and automated, where possible. Piecing together multiple software tools and applications will invariably create problems and fall short of delivering the value that a fully-developed, integrated and well-thought out software platform can bring to workspace operators.
For both single-location Coworking centers or multi-site business center operators, workspace management software can – and should – fulfill the necessities of running a workspace. Desk and meeting room bookings, billing and invoicing, reporting and CRM capabilities should be a necessary part of your strategy. Many operators approach this with in-house teams or third-party developers, some have even employed the services of a hobbyist software developer to build business critical applications. The results are mixed and varied – but rarely do they stand the test of time – especially when long-term growth is the objective. If that alone doesn’t convince you, here are the top reasons why operators should leverage a comprehensive solution built by industry experts to run their workspaces.
1. It’s Complex Software development requires time, money and dedicated resources, expertise, and cash. Additional management overhead will be necessary to make sure the development project or team is on track and going in the right direction. A commonly missed fundamental is a product owner – someone to clearly articulate the business problem and act as the customer of the development team. This role is critical – developers will develop something – but ensuring that it fully answers your business problem will need someone who will prod, persuade and push developers in the right direction. Let’s consider the process: analyze the requirements, understand the specifications, design the software to meet the requirements, implement the code, test (and re-test!), document the process for reference, create training and support resources, and carry out consistent maintenance and updates. Not to mention continuously innovate and develop new features to meet changing challenges, customer requirements, and market trends.
2. It Gets Expensive It’s an overwhelming undertaking that requires a guiding vision of the necessary functionality. As mentioned earlier, a product development manager will be needed to keep the roadmap on track, and a troop of developers focused. The tools and kit developers need come at a premium. The talent required to build the software must be well trained and experienced, which comes at a high cost, often out of budget for a workspace operator. Hiring developers in the main metropolises could be 30 to 40% more expensive than other markets.
3. It Distracts from Running your Workspace Business Workspace operators already juggling multiple aspects of their business will quickly be distracted from their primary focus: profitable growth. Many operators are currently investing in building their community app – which is a distraction from actually building a highly engaged online and offline community of real people. The distraction of creating a booking interface for desks and meeting rooms is draining resource from innovating and creating new services to upsell to customers. All of this functionality is delivered and consumed quickly and easily from platforms and software providers. Focus on your customer and what’s core to your business. If it’s not core, find a partner to whom it is core, and the combination of your activities will lead to success.
4. It Doesn’t Scale A workspace operator may want to put their sister’s husband’s friend’s software development skills to work (or their skills!) to create simple tools that help manage an individual aspect of the business. It happens all the time with website projects – the most frightening phrase is ‘I know a guy.’ It may fulfill an immediate need for the task in question, but it is almost always an ineffective solution for the long term and won’t scale with the growth of your business. If increasing revenue and expanding your workspace are priorities, in-house software solutions simply will not survive the long-haul or scale with growth.
5. It Doesn’t Integrate Creating your own tools may solve a clear need or problem. However, planning integration into other software instruments and platforms is complicated. If you develop an invoice generator that doesn’t sync with your billing system, you leave yourself vulnerable to mistakes and time wasted correcting invoices. By having a holistic end-to-end view of the business from a single source, information will put your business in a position to speed up decision making and automate any manual tasks that don’t add value. Think of all the tasks that you and your team do every day – do you ever stop and ask why? If not, you should. However, make sure it fits part of the bigger picture.
Focus on Your Customers A software platform that provides an integrated set of tools to manage a shared office and its members gives you a competitive edge. By employing the right software and platforms, providers can address the multiple moving parts of a shared workspace operation, free up resource and extend added benefits and services to their members. Most importantly, operators can concentrate on customer satisfaction and encourage collaboration within their member community.
Up next in the Outsourced Flexible Workspace Technology 3-part series: Part II: How workspace operators benefit from outsourced core IT services
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