The key benefits of technology in a coworking or flexible workspace are to increase sales, reduce costs, improve operational efficiency, enhance member experience and above all increase the profitability of the space. Whatever your business model, technology is key to executing your strategy.
GCUC UK caught up with Justin Harley, Yardi’s Regional Director to discuss how coworking and flexspace should approach the use of technology. At the outset he was quick to warn operators “to be careful not to focus on individual silos at the expense of other areas of your business and make sure you have a business wide technology strategy.” In his experience, so many spaces had focused on using coworking software and as a result, were now having to use between 8 or more different tools to manage their other operation needs and those tools are not interconnected or at the very least have some Api connections. This leads to wasted time trying to synchronise data and opportunities for human error.
As a rule of thumb, the more you are scaling, the greater the potential impact technology can have on your business, because with scale comes a higher degree of business challenges driven by higher volumes.
As you grow, processes become more complex taking you away from client facing and strategic initiatives. Administrative tasks take more of your workday, operational efficiency reduces, and the natural go to solution is manual workarounds using excel. Challenge yourself now if you’re using Excel to automate processes and ask why and what is the true cost to your business. Excel is difficult to analyse, not real time, can’t be easily shared and above all is not consistently updated.
Historically, tech solutions in the sector focused on customer facing activities and the industry is littered with stories of failed App developments and costly CRM roll outs. Complex CRM solutions are implemented in the hope that they may solve all the problems. The sad news is they don’t’. The reason being is that at the core of a flexspace is the building and the space. This must be the starting point of running any building whether it is a traditional commercial office, a residential complex or a flexible workspace.
When approaching software and technology solutions for your centre the Yardi philosophy is that you must consider 5 key areas.
1. Build your foundation with property management & accounting software
The first Pillar is your accounting and property management software. This is the most essential element of running a flexspace. The accounting and property management tool will be the single source of truth for financial information on the space and the business. It is so much more than the tool to manage your general ledger and management accounts because it is the system that manages your company structure, your buildings and the spaces within them. Your property management and accounting system is the very bedrock of your space. The following key activities should form part of your core:
- Manage capital expenditure when setting up your business
- Create budgets and financial forecasts
- Manage all supplier invoices and the workflows for expense approvals
- Create management reports, P&L, balance sheet and cashflows
- Manage all your facilities and planned preventative maintenance
- Simplify centre walk arounds and centre checks
- Simplify the application of deferred income
- Automate credit control
- Simplify direct debits
- Provide automated reports to landlords or investors if you manage multiple properties
- Manage deposits
- Store and track your lease information (if you lease your buildings) and automate IFRS compliance
- Comply with making tax digital
Once you have decided on this technology address pillar 2 – Your Wifi & Bandwidth management solution.
2. Provide world class Wifi & be smart about managing bandwidth
The Internet is the lifeblood of most businesses. Making sure you have the technology to manage your bandwidth, provide fast and reliable Wifi and offer a frictionless and secure service is essential. Surveys last year by Deskmag and Workthere (Savills) of members simply reinforce this. Poor Wifi is the main reason that people leave workspaces and a reason that Corporate Occupiers won’t rent your space. Make sure you have the technology to:
- Deliver 100% Wifi coverage
- Secure and reliable Internet access
- Easy to spot and manage issues
- Secure roaming for users around all of your centres
- Stop customers bringing in their own technology to reduce interference
- But don’t pay over the odds
3. Cloud Based Access Control
Access management is different for every business. Whether you’re a small coworking space with a single location or a larger coworking brand with many locations. Security & Access control is key aspect of running a flexible workspace. Increasingly members demand 24/7 access and keyless entry whether that’s via an App or a card.
Make sure you choose cloud based Access control with an integration into your booking system or at least an open API. Tools like Salto KS lead the way as they are open and simple to use.
4. Improve your member management with coworking software
Coworking software helps you automate your day to day activities for the front of house team. This includes but is not limited to invoicing, billing, contract and membership management and meeting room bookings.
Using a management platform removes the necessity to handle tens of spreadsheets and deal with mundane, repetitive tasks over and over again. Ultimately, this saves you hours each month that you can dedicate to working on your strategy or finding new clients, for example.
A management platform will help you achieve this. By automating and streamlining your front of house processes, it enables you to do your work faster, more efficiently and more precisely.
Increased efficiency means more value with fewer resources and input, allowing you to focus on other important processes like working on your strategy, selling more desks, etc.
When choosing your coworking software it is critical that there is a deep integration with your Property management & Accounting platform.
Coworking software can also provide a member portal or a white label member App. DON’T try and build this yourself unless you have all your data organised.
5. Get visibility on key business metrics
Lack of visibility on key business metrics, or KPIs, not only prevents you from scaling, but it could be harmful to your business.
It can lead to identifying critical problems too late, wasting valuable time to manually build key reports and making inadequate budget decisions.
Property management & accounting software provides the deep insight into profitability, creates statutory reports, cashflows, valuations and business forecasts, track both expenses & revenue per occupied workstation (REVPOW) or simple metrics such as occupancy which reduces guesswork and allowing you to rely on data for important decisions.
Justin finished by saying, “focus on these 5 areas and the right technology can supply accurate and relevant data for your space which will help you make the right strategic decisions to successfully run and grow your business”.
An original GCUC Blog.