Innovation Depot implements Operate Workspace Management Platform by essensys to Optimize Business Operations

By Amanda Fanoun
09.04.18 ·

With efficiency and customer service a priority in their quest to optimize workspace operations, Innovation Depot chose to implement Operate workspace management platform by essensys. Innovation Depot is a non-profit shared workspace and accelerator organization that has worked for over 30 years with early startups and entrepreneurial organizations. On any given day, 900 people are working out of Innovation Depot’s 140,000 square foot facility of shared and flexible workspace. Dynamic, fast-paced self-starting companies ranging from the technology and biotech industries to engineering and coffee companies are just a few working from the center.

Workspace Management Efficiency and Ease of Use

For Devin Laney, President and CEO, and Molly LaBorde, COO, of Innovation Depot their objective was to find a one-stop-shop for managing the nuts and bolts of running the space and overseeing members. Prior to working with essensys, their customers booked meeting rooms through a barebones locally developed app, their seven-staff members managed the financing and invoicing piecemeal with Quickbooks, and, like many workspace operators, they tracked memberships, leads and the sales pipeline manually in Excel spreadsheets.

The booking app served its purpose for a certain period of time until, with a growing community, it stopped meeting their needs. Things got chaotic with 100-member companies and a lot of individual coworkers competing for bookings of five to six meeting rooms on a basic app. There had to be a more efficient, digital way to manage bookings while making the process easy and effective for their members.

Business-First Workspace Management Platform

For Devon and Molly, the right workspace management platform had to be robust and comprehensive. They also had to be strategic when it came to implementing the breadth Operate’s functionality. Working with a small team and keeping pace with business matters, implementing the software had to work for them. This meant rolling out the system in phases. On the one hand, to prevent overwhelming their small staff, and the other, to take advantage of the wide-range of capability within the platform.

Innovation Depot launched Operate by setting up the billing functionality first. Getting members and license agreements into the system and starting to bill customers monthly was essential. The meeting room component was next on their list, along with getting their customers accustomed to the member portal and migrating bookings from the old app to Operate. Members and staff are ecstatic with the accessibility and ease-of-use of the booking tool.

Innovation Depot’s next phase was to maximize all functionality that Operate contains by continuing to remove manual processes and replace with efficiency and accuracy. For starters, eSign for license agreements eliminates the tedious and manual print-sign-scan-send-process to close deals. It also makes the experience more comfortable and frictionless for new additions to the community. The following step in Innovation Depot’s thoughtful roll-out of Operate is the communication and announcement feature in the member portal. Combined with robust integration of third-party sales and marketing tools, their reach to both prospective and existing customers is boundless.

Streamlining Workspace Financial Functions

Moving to essensys was a game changer not only for Devon and Molly but their controller as well. She was able to simplify the previously complicated billing process that involved multiple, convoluted reports, imports and exports, and the time-consuming process of having to explain, adjust, and credit members for frequent errors on invoices.

The process was lengthy and laborious for the controller and frustrating members. Where billing previously took three to four days at the start of the month, with Operate, billing and invoicing is now completed within a single day. Standardized invoice templates enable the controller to deliver consistent messaging and explanation of charges to all members with minimal effort.

Comprehensive reporting capabilities within Operate also facilitated the controller’s billing and invoicing responsibility. Batch sheets, monthly ad-hoc charges, meeting and conference room booking reports are easily pulled from the system, improving billing accuracy and preventing errors. Services billed versus services charged reports makes it easy for the controller to check that all services are in fact being accounted for in the bill runs and to reduce revenue leakage.

From a management perspective, it was vital for Devon and Molly’s small team to have access to and visibility of job functions, reports and tasks across the business. Multiuser and levels of access in Operate give the executive team access to the same tasks and reports as the controller. This functionality and visibility within the workspace management platform were vital for them as executive decision-makers to have a view of balances, payments, invoicing and billing, especially in the event the controller is out sick or on vacation.

Opting for Operate

One of the deal-makers for Molly and Devon was the ease of use of the system. Compared to other platforms they scrutinized, Operate was a low-maintenance yet comprehensive solution to solve efficiency issues throughout the organization. From a processes perspective, Innovation Depot was seeking a platform that didn’t require extensive customization for it to meet the objectives of their workspace business model. Other systems posed a heavy lift that outweighed the actual benefits of the system, whereas, Operate was a comprehensive out-of-the-box solution. Thanks to its intuitive design, it doesn’t require tech-savvy employees to get the most out of its capabilities, enabling their small staff to navigate through it easily.

It was great to find a system that was built from the perspective of an organization like Innovation Depot.

Future-Forward Workspace Technology

Thanks to the availability and abundance of technology, incubator, and accelerator spaces are continuously evolving. For Devon Laney, technology is leveling the playing field and acting as a change driver in the workspace market and the economy as a whole. This can present operators like Innovation Depot a myriad of challenges, such as how to stay relevant and how to continue serving entrepreneurs of today and tomorrow. The dynamic nature of technology, however, also presents workspaces with opportunities to continue evolving the business model “beyond the brick and mortar facility”, according to Laney. What’s critical in today’s workspace market is implementing tools and technology infrastructure that foster a sustainable business operation that is malleable to the ebbs and flows of the market.


Innovation Depot is the epicenter for technology, startups and entrepreneurs in the Birmingham, Alabama region. Through their programs, Innovation Depot gives entrepreneurs a competitive advantage in attracting customers, talent, mentors, press and funding to grow their business. Learn more about Innovation Depot here.

Operate by essensys is for smart space-as-a-service operators. Run your workspace more efficiently, boost profitability, and differentiate in an increasingly crowded market. Operate with full efficiency and underpin your day-to-day workspace activities, front desk to back office, with task automation to provide a seamless experience for your team and customers.  For more on Operate click here