You may have been following with interest the recent articles about usage and occupancy in today’s offices. These articles find that conference space and even desks are utilized less than half of the day. In today’s world of mobile apps, airline wireless access, flexible scheduling and telecommuting, your colleagues could be anywhere. This makes finding a common time for meetings extremely difficult, resulting in double-bookings, endless emails, and no-shows. It may be time to let scheduling software make your job easier.
First of all, isolate what you need your software to do for you. Do you need to make sense of the schedules of many busy, far-flung and on-the-run team members? Do you need to find that perfect time that works for everyone? Once you find that time, do you need some help to find the right meeting space? What about trying to reach your collaborators across the world?
Next, identify the characteristics you’re looking for in your platform. You’ll probably want one that:
- will work with your calendar of choice (Outlook, Google, iCal, etc.)
- will be easy to navigate for you and the people you’re trying to wrangle
- won’t limit your guests’ calendar preferences if different from yours
- might or might not offer extra functionality. Do you need to be able to sell tickets? If not, simpler might be better.
- has both mobile and desktop functionality
- can work with multiple time zones
Piece of cake, right? There are many apps, online tools, and web-based scheduling platforms available in a range of prices and functionality. We’ve outlined a few of the most popular ones.
Doodle is a classic and easy-to-understand program that has a free and a premium version. The meeting scheduler or organizer suggests a limited number of available times. There’s no need to sync your calendar (although you can) and could be applied to one-time-only or occasional meetings with outside clients or contractors. It includes extras like automatic reminders and the ability to designate a time as an ‘if I need to, I can make it work’ option.
NeedToMeet is also good for group scheduling but requires participants to register and input all their availability. It works well with Outlook but requires a couple of extra steps with Google and iCal. This may work best for teams who often work together, as it shows everyone’s choices for availability in a familiar Outlook-style format, which may be too much information for those outside the company.
ScheduleOnce helps individuals book appointments; a user can sync his or her calendar or enter a range of availability, then ScheduleOnce generates a simple link that anyone can use to schedule themselves an appointment. Great for small business client interactions, it also has Google and Outlook compatibility, and can take additional steps to help your team make a conference room reservation once you’ve decided on a time.
Pick will please teams who rely heavily on Google calendars and it works well on mobile devices. It automatically finds and books meetings when participants share their availability in the app. It’s on the democratic end of things, so if you need to be in charge of when the meeting happens, it might not be for you.
x.ai is for those who love Siri, Joachin Phoenix movies, or any sort of artificial intelligence. Your digital assistant, named Amy or Andy, responds to requests like “find 15 minutes for Jim on Thursday” by mining your schedule, setting the conference time, and emailing Jim an invitation. It might get too far into the uncanny valley for some, though.
Assistant.to is great for those who like to schedule through email instead of switching over to another site or app, but just want to do it faster. Clicking a logo within your Gmail message will allow the assistant to access your calendar and schedule a mutually convenient meeting.
Lucid Meetings is similar to Doodle, but offers an app-based agenda feature so you can share the meeting agenda with the participants...no emailing required!
World Meeting Time allows colleagues across the world to find a time for a phone call or videoconference, avoiding the syncing problems that come with a well-traveled team. It also offers Google Calendar compatibility.
Once you find the right date and time, Roomzilla can help you with your meeting room scheduling. Ultimately, this will all lead to a less stressed workday, but you will have to invest some time and research to find the right collaboration solutions for your office and team