July 17, 2019
The Complete Guide to Creating your Coworking Technology Ecosystem
Operating a coworking space requires you to manage a lot of moving parts. Payments, bookings and marketing to prospective members are just a few things likely to be top of mind. As you prepare to launch, you should consider using one or more technology solutions, such as a coworking management software, to help maximize your time and to provide your members with a seamless experience.
There’s no shortage of software and tools catering to coworking operators on the market – space management software, access control systems and CRMs are just a few. The tricky part is choosing the right ones for your needs. Faced with so many options, it can be tempting to choose an all-in-one technology solution, but these types of solutions often come with significant drawbacks for your coworking space. Not to mention, you likely won’t need all these systems the moment you open your doors.
To help you get started, this blog will outline the types of technology you should consider as your business grows to ensure you deliver the best possible member experience without drowning in manual work.
Getting Started with the Right Coworking Tech
When starting out, you should focus on introducing technology that supports the most time-intensive tasks. Typically, we see new spaces focusing their technology investments on member management, bookings, invoicing and payments.
At this early stage, you should seek out solutions that can scale with your business while remaining cautious of over-engineering your system. Overcomplicating your technology ecosystem can lead to overspending.
Here are a few technology solutions you should consider as you are starting out:
Unless you’re an accounting wizard, it’s unlikely you are excited by the idea of data collection and number crunching. Typically online and cloud-based, accounting software helps small businesses automate complex financial responsibilities. This can include logging expenses, tracking cash flow, creating invoices, managing bills and payroll, forecasting finances, calculating tax and more.
As you review your options, make sure you take into account your space’s specific needs. Do you need your accounting system to provide real-time currency exchange updates? Xero does this. Are you looking for the ability to customize your invoices? Quickbooks and Freshbooks can do that. Need to lower your cost with free features? Wave has good freemium tools, as well as a strong community help center if you have questions. Does your accounting system integrate with your coworking management software? At the end of the day, it really comes down to what your space needs most.
Optix now integrates directly with Xero and Quickbooks. Read more here.
Member Management and Experience
Member experience is the key to a thriving coworking space. We believe that a coworking space’s success is dependent on having happy members. Finding a coworking management software that not only helps you manage your members but also helps you to provide a top-notch experience that is an extension of your brand, is imperative.
A large component of most coworking management softwares and something you’ll definitely need out the gate is booking management. Members expect easy access to a wide variety of bookable spaces – conference rooms, hot desks, private offices, break-out rooms. Manual coordination of the booking schedule for all these spaces is not only time-consuming for you, but also a bad experience for members. Not to mention, the chances of mistakes, like double bookings, are much higher.
Optix seamlessly connects members with the resources offered in your space. Using our white-label app, they can see and book available spaces in real-time, from anywhere. No need for your staff to be involved. Optix also offers a host of additional features that are key to look for from a member coworking management software including community and communication tools, growth tools, membership management, issue reporting, analytics, and more. Beyond that, Optix supports the automation of invoicing by integrating with your payment gateway to automatically collect payment details and process invoices as they become due.
If you want to accept credit card and bank account payments, then this is the technology you need. In simplified terms, when a member enters their card details to pay for their membership or outstanding invoice, the payment gateway takes that information, facilitates the transaction and disperses the money to your bank account.
As you consider your options, make sure to evaluate certain features that differentiate them from each other. Some gateways provide both physical Point-of-Sale devices and online payments collection (known as virtual terminals). Others offer the benefit of developer tools, so you can customize them to your needs.
There are a number of great payment gateways to choose from, including Stripe, Authorize.net, and Paypal. Integration between your payment gateway and coworking management software will be essential to simplifying your payment processes. Optix integrates with over 100+ payment gateways to simplify member payments.
Improving Efficiency: Access Control, WiFi, Print Management and more
As your community grows, you may want to consider implementing technology to support other aspects of your operations. At this stage, we recommend talking to your staff to identify their key pain points and understand which tasks are the most time intensive (and costly!) as well as to your members to see if there are parts of their experience that could be improved. This will help you pinpoint the best technology investments to optimize your coworking space.
Some key areas where we see coworking spaces making technology investments include:
Freelancers, entrepreneurs, and remote workers make up a big portion of coworking space members, and often work on atypical schedules. This makes offering 24/7 access to your coworking space a big draw for prospective members. But it can also be a security hazard, especially if you don’t have night staff. If you give members physical keys, how do you monitor who’s coming in and out? How do you know those keys haven’t been duplicated?
Access control systems, such as those provided by Kisi and Salto, are the answer to this problem. Members use an app which works like a keycard to the space. Your coworking management software may also integrate with an access control system, making it that more seamless for your members and your management team. As the administrator of the space, you can easily configure who has access, when and to which doors, as well as monitor activity. That way night owls can work when they want and you can sleep easy knowing your space is secure.
In today’s digital-first world, providing WiFi to members is non-negotiable. Making sure it’s fast and easy to access is just as important. WiFi management software helps ensure you deliver both, by allowing you to control WiFi access while boosting your members’ browsing experience.
Some of the best options on the market today include Mikrotik, Muft WiFi and Cisco Meraki. Beyond just providing WiFi connectivity, WiFi management software offers a multitude of value-added features. One of these is the ability to create custom-branded WiFi login pages to maximize brand recognition. Another is session control, which allows you to set bandwidth and time limits for users. Blacklisting is also a very handy feature, giving you the ability to ban any unwanted users from your network, it speeds up your WiFi for those that matter – your actual members.
Offering members the ability to print is a crucial component of any coworking membership. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as setting up printers. As your community grows, it gets more complicated to control who’s printing and how much. As a result, your supply costs mount and the printer backlog increases, because someone’s printing 100-page documents single-sided for free.
This is where print management software, such as Ezeep and Papercut, comes in handy. Cloud-based solutions, they help you manage your printers and control their usage. Most software of this type lets you set quotas, rules and cost.
Print management software also offers a number of additional useful features to consider. These include automated error alerts to admins when printing issues occur, usage reporting and environmental impact data that can help encourage responsible printing. Some also allow printing from any device, including mobile, so you can make the process even easier for members.
Electronic Document Signing
A frictionless member sign-up and onboarding process is essential to support healthy conversion and retention rates. The easier it is for new members to sign up, the more likely it is they’ll do it. Electronic signature software enables you to prepare contracts that prospects can sign online and send back. No printing, photo-copying, scanning or in-person interaction required. As a result, they can make a decision to join and get set up, with very little effort on their part.
To help you start your search, here are a few of the top solutions out there – Adobe Sign, Docusign and Hellosign. Similar to the other technologies we recommend, there are great bonus features to keep top of mind. Customization is a valuable one, letting you stamp your brand on any contracts you send. Another is analytics capabilities. Some solutions notify you when documents have been opened or signed.
Conference Room Technology
Helping your members connect with clients and colleagues is another great way to add value. Conference room technology, such as video calling and real-time collaboration tools, help you do this.
Google Jamboard, for example, links users on an interactive, whiteboard-style canvas, so they can brainstorm and sketch out ideas together. The Meeting Owl video conferencing system enables 360° video and audio, so that meeting participants can feel like they’re in the same room.
The options out there are almost endless. The key to ensuring you choose the right ones is simple – ask your members what they need. What are their biggest communication pain points working remotely? Are there any collaboration tools they’d like to have? Once you know that, you can introduce solutions that serve their needs.
Scaling Your Brand: A Customized Coworking Management Software Solution
Your membership is growing, your revenue is strong and you’re ready to open new coworking locations. All indications suggest a healthy business, but with more locations comes more complexity. As you define the best approach to scaling your operations, you may realize you need a more customized technology solution for your business.
Optix’s platform capabilities enable coworking brands to create unique services and experiences to transform your coworking space using Optix developer tools and APIs. With API and platform capabilities, you can create your own functionality and house it within your Optix member’s app or administrator dashboard. You can also streamline operations by developing custom integrations between your coworking management software, such as Optix, and other technologies you’ve deployed in the space. As a result, you get a unified system tailored to meet the specific needs of your members, your team and your business as a whole.
With the wide variety of options on the market, choosing technology for your coworking business can be daunting. It often helps to first identify your most time-intensive or complex tasks at each stage of your business’ maturity and also align on what’s most important for your business – for our clients, it’s providing their members with the best experience possible. Then you can narrow your search to solutions which meet your criteria and you’ll be able to optimize your operations to efficiently deliver the best possible experience for your members.