How easy is it to schedule meeting space in your organization?
If you have a paper-based system or one that requires asking a point person to make and change reservations, you may be unknowingly handicapping productivity. Migrating to an electronic reservation system that allows employees to book rooms or desks themselves can cut down on the time needed to book a space.
But there’s more to space management than booking meeting rooms and hoteling desks. Even the most basic software offers opportunities to boost productivity, but to derive the maximum benefits from space scheduling, consider passing over simple calendar systems for a more sophisticated solution that can save you additional time, energy, money, and effort.
Microsoft Outlook may function just fine for smaller companies that are based in one location and have only a handful of meeting rooms, but if your needs go beyond hoteling and room reservations, consider a beefier suite that offers more options.
An Integrated Workplace Management System, or IWMS, is a software suite designed to help users optimize their FM efficiency and real estate usage. Specifics vary by product, but such packages generally include space management and planning, project management, corporate real estate, maintenance and facilities tasks, and sustainability requirements, according to Asure Software. These features add another layer of functionality to the basic space reservation function.
“People struggle for a variety of reasons, including not knowing all of the resources assigned to each room, making sure it has the right kind of power, computer options, or audiovisual technology that may be needed for the meeting. It’s easy to miss out on those details,” says Greg Alevras, vice president of business development for ARCHIBUS, an IWMS package that tracks people, space, and assets. “Homegrown or basic systems are very effective for simple meeting requirements, but if you have a high-level computer demonstration to give, for example, there might be more resources needed than are provided for that meeting space.”
Such is the case at Iowa State University, a public university in Ames, IA, with just over 31,000 students. Instead of an IWMS, the university’s FMs use a scheduling suite by CollegeNET that allows departments to rank available classrooms by preference, then automatically places nearly all of the 6,000 course sections the university offers each semester.
Most classes are booked in the department’s first or second building choice, and the 200 or so classes that can’t be placed immediately generally require only minor troubleshooting before a placement is found – for example, a department might not have listed enough room or building options to cover all of the sections planned for the semester.
“I had one semester of scheduling courses by hand. What a challenge,” says Katie Baumgarn, program coordinator for ISU’s facilities planning and management room scheduling department. “Using Schedule25 to place the course is very quick. When you’re talking about 6,000 individual sections, and the software schedules all but 200 sections within three seconds and in each department’s top one or two building preferences – that’s pretty amazing. People used to spend months and months scheduling things by hand.”
To reap the maximum benefits from space-scheduling software, consider going a step further than the basic functions. Some of today’s offerings allow you to reserve resources and services at the same time you book a meeting room, lowering the risk of human error.
“Having a one-stop shop to set up meetings means you don’t have to go to the calendar, create the invite, contact the audiovisual group to see if they can provide a projector, and then contact the videoconferencing people to schedule,” explains Jeff Roof, vice president of product development for Asure Software, a developer of workplace management software. “There’s no value in having to learn that many different systems.”
All but eight of Iowa State’s 214 classrooms are dubbed “media-ready,” meaning that they have a base level of educational technology available in the classroom (video and computer projection capability, for example). However, a handful of courses require special furnishings and equipment to accommodate team-based learning. The system Baumgarn’s team uses makes it easy to place these classes into auditoriums with swivel seats or smaller rooms with group seating and hanging whiteboards on the perimeter.