Choosing the right coworking software is hard but necessary. From creating and building the operations of our coworking space from Day 1, I know the ins and outs of the intricacies, details, multiple juggling balls and demands that are required to build a strong coworking community. And frankly, we’ve all started out in a state of “custom” spreadsheets, organized post-it notes, carefully sorted emails, paper maps and lists. I did. And at some point, you’re ready for the next level to scale your time, yourself, or your sanity. But now you have to decide what to do next. You don’t want to over-invest time into building a process that is likely going to get torn down in a few months when things change. And things will change. And you don’t want to spend so little time that it doesn’t work or doesn’t get used. If you’re feeling this way, it’s probably time to look at coworking software. Or if your current software isn’t working for you and your feeling scattered, then it might be time to look at a new option. I’ve gone through two migrations of coworking software in eight years – here are my best tips for choosing the best coworking software for your shared space.
1) Identify the Most Critical Functions You Need
The first important thing to do is to really ask yourself, “what are my top goals in onboarding to a (new) coworking software?” This exercise should be focused on function, not design or brand. Answer these questions for yourself and, ideally, write them down:
- What does my current combination of software look like? Can I combine any of it? What do I like/not like about it? What cost saving opportunities do I have?
- What are the current activities of your (the main operations director) job role? List them all, but don’t think too hard. Categorize them if that’s helpful.
- What are the things you spend the most time on? Most annoying? Use the list of your job functions and assign a percentage of time to each to create a total that adds up to 100%. Add a rating to assign what you like or don’t like doing.
- Which of these activities can be automated? What has the biggest room for improvement? What works well now?
- If you already have coworking software, what are the biggest functional gaps and opportunities that need to be filled?
The compilation of these answers should give you a pretty clear set of priority goals for the operational software migration. Refer back to these goals throughout your process. It can be easy to stray when you get excited about something you didn’t even know you needed (and maybe you still don’t need it). These goals will also help play a quick elimination game when shopping around. Or a demo may be such a cool experience, that you commit time to something that doesn’t actually make anything better, functionally. Good software will know how to provide both: function and design.
If you are pre-launch or want to double check yourself, here is a quick checklist of the top functional activities you should be addressing in this exercise:
- Membership billing
- Recurring member packages
- One-off services
- Meeting room reservations
- Bookable resources (technology, projector, speakerphone, etc.)
- Resource credit system
- One-to-one and one-to-many communications
- Space layout and availability
- Membership portal and experience
- Policies and instructions
- Member directory
- Billing and payments
- Member-only benefits/discounts
- Event promotions
- Check-in system/tracking
- Integrations (accounting, payment vendor, keyless door access, CRM, virtual mail, WiFi management, etc.)
- Legal agreement signing and storage
- Mobile app for members
- Meeting room display
- Guest experience and process
- The onboarding and migrating process to the software itself
2) Survey the Current Coworking Software Market and Explore Features
The market for coworking software options is always changing. I’ve seen a lot of promising software companies come and go, and I’ve seen some stay on the market with little changes. It is hard to keep a list up-to-date but here is a sample list of current market leaders for coworking software, compiled here for your web-searching convenience:
- OfficeRnD (officernd.com – our recommendation)
- KUBE by WUN
- Optix by Sharedesk
- Satellite Desk Works
- Spheremail (for mail management)
3) Speed Can Kill: Don’t Demo Yourself to Death But Don’t Jump The Gun Either
Now that you’re surveying the current market options, be careful not to over or under invest your time. Keep the search light but deep. If you spend too much time on demos, they start to blur together and it turns into a procrastination of the real solution. If you don’t spend enough time on the coworking software search and pull the trigger too soon by getting overly excited, there becomes a point where it’s too late to turn back. Migration of coworking members and billing data is hard and you don’t want to do it twice or put your members through that. I have an operator friend with four locations that made the decision to switch to one choice, but two weeks later discovered a new one that they wish they chose but it was too late because the migration had already happened and still, 18 months later, they are waiting for the right time to switch but are still a while out due to the investment of time and member experience.
After three searches in eight years, ending up in two migrations, here are my best tips for the selection process:
- On a quick glance, choose the top three solutions that match the features you need
- Over the course of a week, spend one day or night playing on the demo account for each software solution (most of them will set up a demo account for free). If you need to dive deeper after that week, then do it but don’t let it drag longer than a month because you’ll start to forget important details (which can come in handy sometimes too because it helps you remember what’s actually important or not).
- Ask your owner/operator community for feedback and recommendations and why. Or ask me if you’d like! (email@example.com)
- Involve your partners and relevant team members in the demos (have them explore your top choices on their own first, then compare what you each like and don’t like).
- At the end of this process, you should have narrowed down a decision on which coworking software is right for your space. And if you haven’t, maybe there isn’t a software worth investing your time and money into at this time. Of course, some spaces build custom software, and for good reason, but it’s costly and there are fantastic options on the market that can meet your needs.
Think Big Recommendation: OfficeRnD
The best option for Think Big was OfficeRnD, hands down. And we recommend them to many of our shared space clients. Here are some reasons why:
They have the best balance of UI/UX and function – for both the admin and member portals.
OfficeRnD’s founder and CEO, Miro Miroslav, is dedicated to building the best coworking software there is. And they are doing just that.
They raised a $1M investment round in fall of 2017 that propelled them forward. If investors are putting money in, that’s a great sign of future growth, potential, the strength of business model and quality.
They have actual former coworking operators on staff who have been in your shoes! That’s huge because they get it.
OfficeRnD does good software development; they are always adapting the roadmap to incorporate new demands but stays focused on priorities.
It’s customizable enough to act as a SaaS (software-as-a-service), but inherently it’s built for coworking spaces so it still gives enough guidance for the main structure so you don’t end up overwhelmed with details when onboarding.
Not to mention, it works and works well! That’s a small but important detail.
- Fantastic UI/UX for admin and members
- Great billing functionality and customizable options that are reliable – this feature is good enough to save you major amounts of time
- Massive list of features that address most of the basic list we included in Step 1
- The space layout feature is very handy
- Member portal does everything you need it to
- They have both a mobile app (can be white-labeled) and meeting room tablet display (for room availability which is very helpful for policy enforcement)
- A plethora of integrations that work
- The credit system has all of the custom options you need
- Making a room reservation is easy
- Their support team is very responsive to requests for bugs and features
- Quickbooks integration* is very smooth and syncs with invoices seamlessly. If there is an error, the system will tell you. They have one of the best integrations on the market! *See cons on this.
- Their team is in a European time zone, which can cause delays in responses.
- They do not have a phone number to call for urgent requests.
- Like all software, there are small bugs. But they do prioritize bugs being fixed when reported. This just means you need to be tuned into your account and have backups.
- While Quickbooks/accounting integrations work really well in some ways, there is a point of frustration for accountants because the payment vendor is involved with the syncing and there is not a 2-way sync on all of those three sources (so that can mean that the processing fees are not reflected in accounts so it requires a manual reconciliation). While this is listed as a con here, it is the case with MOST software options in the market so it’s not going to get much better than this.
- Patience is needed! The future software features upcoming in their roadmap can’t come quick enough but they do release often.
If you do decide that OfficeRnD is the right choice for your coworking software, then Think Big offers Advanced Implementation services to help short-circuit the onboarding process. OfficeRnD already does help you implement the software but we help further customize your use case. If you are interested, please contact us through the web.