Choose the Right Software Solution for Coworking or FlexSpace

Learn how to make the most out of technology. Finding the right software for your workspace is not a simple matter. That’s mainly because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all software solution. The best fit for your workspace depends on your business, your processes, and your objectives.

Choose the Right Software Solution for Coworking or FlexSpace
Choose the Right Software Solution for Coworking or FlexSpace

In this article, you’ll find our learnings from working with hundreds of workspaces and industry experts worldwide. What you’ll learn?

  • How to identify your business needs
  • How to set your operational priorities
  • How to evaluate software vendors
  • How to make the most out of demo and trial

Hope that this article will help you set your business objectives more efficiently and select the best software for your workspace.

Content Summary

Introduction
Step 1: Preparation
1.1. Start with your business model
1.2. Then, identify your processes
1.3. Define your objectives in the software search
1.4. Define stakeholders
1.5. Plan your time and resources
Step 2: Research and Shortlist
2.1. Explore the product features and capabilities
2.2. Explore the pricing options
2.3. Explore the onboarding and support options
2.4. Explore the vendor as a company and team
Step 3: See the Shortlisted Vendors In Action
3.1. Go into details about your tasks
3.2. Learn more about the software implementation
3.3. Ask about the total price
3.4 Take advantage of the trial

Introduction

Finding the right software for your workspace is not a simple matter. That’s mainly because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all software solution. The best fit for your workspace depends on your business, your processes, and your objectives.

But if you have the right approach, you’ll be able to identify the product that fits your needs best. Ultimately, this will save you plenty of time and resources and will allow you to make the most out of technology for your business.

Below, you’ll find our learnings from working with hundreds of workspaces and industry experts worldwide. We hope that this resource will help you set your business objectives more efficiently and select the best software for your workspace.

Step 1: Preparation

Software evaluation starts even before researching the options on the market.

First, you need to identify how your business is making money, and what are your essential processes and needs.

Taking time to reflect on this will help you understand which solution is the best fit for your business model because no two spaces are identical. And also, it will make the process easier and will save you much time down the road.

Before you start, we want to share with you this checklist worksheet. We believe it will be a useful tool in addition to this guide and will help you keep track of the process.

We have also included 2 more worksheets which you’ll find in the next paragraphs.

Process Checklist
Process Checklist

1.1. Start with your business model

Who do you want to attract as members?

Are you targeting freelancers, subject matter experts (SMEs), startups, enterprise remote office locations, non-profits, students, etc? Next, think about where these people work now, or look at your current members and ask where did they work previous to coming to your space? Furthermore, how do they work?

It’s important to consider these factors in software evaluation because some people would need 24/7 remote access while others would appreciate more of a great community app that helps them connect with other coworkers throughout the workday.

What are your revenue streams?

Are they private offices, open coworking areas, meeting space, events, or additional services such as catering, retail goods, or virtual mail? Being clear and thorough about your revenue stream sources will identify the requirements for the functionalities of the software you need so it can cover all of your business needs.

How do you charge for your services?

Do you charge monthly, per day, per hour, as a one-off fee, etc?

More than likely, you charge members in multiple ways, so identify all of your payment terms.

And then think about how you collect the money now, and how would you like to collect it going forward? Do you have any country or business-specific payment procedures? Having a good understanding of these terms will be key to evaluating software that works for your business.

What do you offer that competitors don’t?

Consider your current or future competitive advantages. How can the software help you be better than your competition? Can you enhance your member experience?

Can you introduce a mobile app? Can you automate check-ins or bookings for more seamless experiences?

1.2. Then, identify your processes

Start by describing your key processes.

Think about the key processes that are the most essential to keeping members and collecting fees. Capturing the knowledge about your procedures and writing it down will play a critical role in your decision-making as the software you choose should support and enhance your business operations What are the tasks (member questions, issues, inquiries, etc.) that you go through on a daily or regular basis? What are my most complicated tasks and the ones you usually make many exceptions with?

Evaluate your processes’ efficiency

Technology is used to increase both the efficiency and effectiveness of business processes (i.e. reporting, billing, customer journey, community engagement) so take advantage of the modern world to make your business run more smoothly. In which business operations do you or your team spend the majority of your time? How can the software decrease that time?

Define your processes
Define your processes

Pro Tip: Identify any country-specific regulations and limitations. These are mainly linked to payment gateway integrations, processing fees, privacy policies, etc, but may apply to other areas, too.

1.3. Define your objectives in the software search

In addition to clearly defining your business model and processes, setting objectives for search is essential for finding the right software solution. Your objectives are mainly based on:

The current problems you want to solve: This will help you set your priorities and identify the key functionalities you are looking for in software.

Your vision for the business and where you’re heading: This will allow you to make a smart investment and buy a solution that will enhance your growth and work for you long-term.

Define your deficiencies

Look back at the processes that you wrote down and focus on the ones that are the most painful because of time, effort, impact, etc. Those are your deficiencies. If there are other known or potential deficiencies that aren’t on your list yet but concern you, write those down now.

Prioritize those deficiencies and you will know which are the critical features you’ll need in software, the nice-to-haves, and evеrything else.

Next, consider if there are other processes you’d like to change, processes that must be fully supported by the software of your choice, or processes that you are willing to tweak to work following the software’s best practices.

Also, to what extent do you want to automate? Is it vital for your space operations or is it just an add-on? Can you automate more processes to gain time for you or your team that allows you to scale? Identify the best opportunities for automation and it’s a priority in your time investment.

Pro Tip: If you’re moving from another software, define your current biggest functional gaps in addition to the functions that are essential to your business for when you make the switch.

Define what you want to achieve with this software

Based on your deficiencies and processes, define your goals and what exactly you want to achieve with the software. The answer will help you identify the functionalities you should be looking for and find a vendor that can support your goals. Some of the reasons to buy a software might be to:

  • manage multi-locations
  • automate your billing process
  • provide a better member experience
  • manage your locations with fewer people
  • manage meeting room bookings
  • manage day passes
  • manage wifi systems
  • automate door access

Define your community’s needs

Consider your community needs, too! Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Have your members asked for anything in particular that you think you might be able to deliver with software?
  • Do your members need a highly automated environment in the first place?
  • Do they need autonomy when booking a meeting room? Do they need to book meeting rooms from outside the office?
  • Would your member experience improve in a way that would address common complaints?
  • Do they require autonomy when accessing their invoices or changing their billing details?
  • Do they need a quick way to report issues to your staff members?

1.4. Define stakeholders

Outline the key stakeholders that will be using the software

If you’re not a solo show, think about all the people in your team whose work will be affected by the adoption of coworking software. How many people and what teams will be using the software? Who are the key decision-makers in the different process divisions such as billing, meeting room bookings, community management, events, etc?

Ask all key stakeholders for their requirements related to the software

Each stakeholder might have specific requirements for the software. For example, your finance manager/accountant/ bookkeeper/controller might require a particular payment integration or feature based on their bookkeeping. Ask all people that will be using the software to write down their function requests and requirements, and to prioritize them.

Define each stakeholder’s role in the decision process

Be clear about to what extent stakeholders ing software or are they decision-makers? This will allow you to outline how their opinion would influence the final decision.

If you’re running a multi-location business with a larger team, we would even recommend building a responsibility assignment matrix, also known as a RACI matrix.

It should list all stakeholders along with every stage of the software evaluation and adoption, and it should distribute the four key responsibilities in the project: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.

This matrix will later become an important asset during your onboarding process.

Stakeholders
Stakeholders

1.5. Plan your time and resources

Set a budget

Identify how much you’re willing to spend and to what extent you can make compromises with the price and value of the product. In most cases, you’ll need to jump on a demo call to learn how much the software will cost you. Keep in mind that the new software is likely going to improve process and efficiency. As a result, you will likely be able to scale through new revenues, more time for member experience, reducing lost revenue capture, and more.

Set a deadline to choose a software and stick to it

As with any process that requires time and effort on top of the usual day-to-day activities, there’s a chance this might stay forever on your To-Do list because of other priorities popping up.

However, when the implementation of coworking software becomes critical for the success of your business, you need to prioritize this as a task. Postponing the decision for too long might ultimately negatively affect your business and will lead to a more complex implementation.

Step 2: Research and Shortlist

Get to know the solutions on the market and filter them based on your needs. There is no doubt that there are a plethora of options so make sure you filter them by your needs and objectives.

2.1. Explore the product features and capabilities

Validate if the software solves your current problems

Do the market options offer features that may help you address your most common operational issues through automation? Focus on looking for the features that solve your deficiencies and top priority process improvements first.

Likely, many of the top market options will have those main features and functions. Then, look at the smaller headache-inducing processes and features/offerings that could help alleviate that.

Check what integration the software supports

In most cases, billing is the most essential integration you should be looking for. Once you evaluate the billing capabilities of the software and how it integrates with your accounting system, the next big question is how the software can help you gather your payments.

Make sure to explore all payment integrations supported by the vendor and ensure that the payment providers you already use and love, are supported. Or, if you’re on the market for a new payment provider, make sure to ask the coworking software vendors for recommendations. Of course, evaluate the integration opportunities with any other essential apps and tools you use such as door access, marketing systems, CRMs, etc.

Pro Tip: It’s easy to get caught up in the variety of features that software solutions offer. Taking the time to reflect on your goals will help you sort through the clutter and focus on the features that matter.

2.2. Explore the pricing options

Define what’s the pricing model that fits your needs best

There are 2 main pricing models in coworking software – per member and location. Depending on your needs, one of them would be a better fit for you.

Per-member pricing allows flexibility based on your occupancy and would be a better option for you if you’re just starting your business. Another case in which this would be the better option is if you’re still not maintaining stable occupancy levels and every desk makes a huge difference to your revenue.

Per location pricing, on the other hand, allows precise cost planning and budgeting by having a fixed cost with no limitation on the size of your community. This pricing model would be the better option for you if you are a well-established space that prefers annual contracts and easier and predictable budgeting.

Check what’s included and not included in the plan When evaluating the pricing, consider all add-ons and extra charges. The total price you’ll be paying as a customer could often be different from what you see in the pricing calculators or plans stated on the vendor’s website. To get a realistic idea of what you’ll be paying as a customer, make sure to check if the vendor applies any additional charges for:

  • processing fees
  • any add-ons such as mobile app
  • integrations
  • onboarding

2.3. Explore the onboarding and support options

Does the vendor offer onboarding services and training?

It’s worth it to invest in onboarding so that dedicated implementation specialists can help you with the system configuration and adoption. If you have a smooth onboarding, you configure the system correctly, you’ll save yourself a lot of struggles.

Make sure to check what training opportunities the vendor provides for your current team and future additions to your team.

What types of support does the vendor offer?

Review the support response times and working hours to ensure you will receive prompt responses in your time zone. Find out the support channels – is it over email, do they have online chat agents, do they have a ticketing system where you can log tickets and indicate their business severity? The more channels they support, the easier it would be for you to get in touch.

Review their documentation help portal – is it easy to navigate, can you quickly find topics in it, do they provide video tutorials?

Check if they provide additional support services such as phone support, troubleshooting web assistance calls, and dedicated support specialists that can work with your team.

2.4. Explore the vendor as a company and team

Look for success stories

Search for case studies, customer reviews, or other validation from product users. Such resources will help you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the product from firsthand users.

What level of data security does the vendor offer?

How important is data security for you at the current stage of your business? Does the software provider own any of the international security certificates?

Where does the vendor have offices?

A vendor that has a presence in your country (or close nearby/in the same time zone) will be able to be more supportive and cover your needs faster and more efficiently.

How does the vendor plan to develop the product in the future?

On top of what the product looks like now, it’s worth considering how the vendor is planning to develop the product. Try to find more about their priorities as a company.

Regular releases indicate how fast new features and bug fixes are introduced. A public roadmap is another way to find out what the vendor is planning. Also, consider if the vendor is open to feedback or suggestions from customers.

What’s the team like?

The bigger the team, the bigger the capacity they have to deliver in terms of product and services. Another aspect you might consider is if there are people experienced in the coworking industry in the team (e.g. former operators, real estate experts, etc.)

Is this company stable, growing, and well-funded?

Vendors that invest significant resources in research and development would be more able to deliver and adapt the product to your needs. Also, it’s a good sign of growth and potential and quality of the product when investors are putting money in the company.

Step 3: See the Shortlisted Vendors In Action

Your aim here should be to validate if the product is worth the investment. Seeing a demo of the product and trying it yourself is the best approach. Below are a couple of tips for this step.

3.1. Go into details about your tasks

During the demo, go into details about your most common tasks. Ask to be shown how the features described on the vendor’s website work. Also, try to see if your most unusual tasks, or the ones you make most exceptions with, can be solved.

3.2. Learn more about the software implementation

Depending on the complexity and the size of your business, the onboarding time with software can take between 1 and 6 months. In most cases, the implementation duration depends on your involvement. The more time you dedicate, the faster it will be.

If you have specific timelines in which the software should be introduced to your team and your community, make sure to choose a software that also provides a dedicated onboarding service. The onboarding specialists will be your partners and they can help you meet deadlines and better organize your team and efforts when you start configuring and using the software.

Make sure to also discuss with the vendor what training opportunities they provide for your current team and future additions to your team.

3.3. Ask about the total price

During a demo call or immediately after that, you’ll receive a price quote. This will allow you to clearly understand if the product will be a good investment. Don’t miss to take into consideration the total cost for the subscription period, additional charges, implementation time, and efforts, the total cost of ownership.

3.4 Take advantage of the trial

Trying the product yourself is very advisable. You can do it either before or after a demo call. If you’re not feeling confident in tech, it would be better to have some explanation first (book a demo call) and start a trial right after that (so you don’t forget the things that were shown to you during the demo).

If you’re tech-savvy and/or you have specific tasks you want to check, you might consider starting a trial first, writing down particular questions, and asking them on a Demo call later on.

Also, let important stakeholders (e.g. your accountant, or operations manager) test the system themselves, too.

In all cases, a trial is something that’s an essential part of the evaluation process, because it allows you to see the product in much more detail.

Source: officernd