The key benefits of technology in a coworking or flexible workspace are to increase sales, reduce costs, improve operational efficiency, enhance member experience and increase the profitability of the space. Whatever your business model, technology is key to executing your strategy.
Yardi regional director Justin Harley spoke with GCUC UK to discuss how flexible workspace operators should approach technology adoption. “Operators need 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,” Harley said.
In his experience, many spaces had focused on using coworking software exclusively and as a result, found themselves having to use as many as eight different tools to manage their other operational needs. Those disparate systems tend to have little to no integrations and therefore are not interconnected. This leads to greater manual effort and time spent synchronizing data, creating the possibility of human error as well.
As your business grows, processes naturally become more complex, taking you away from client-facing and strategic initiatives. Administrative tasks take up more of your workday, operational efficiency decreases and Excel spreadsheets become the go-to solution.
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 rollouts. At the core of a flex space is the building and the space itself. This must be the starting point of any operation, whether a traditional commercial office, a residential complex or flexible workspace.
When approaching software and technology solutions, the Yardi philosophy is that you consider five key areas, according to Harley.
1. Build your foundation with property management and accounting software.
This is the most essential element of running a coworking space. The accounting and property management tool will be the single source of truth for financial information about the space and the business. It is more than a tool to manage your general ledger and management accounts – it is the system that manages your company structure, your buildings and the spaces within them. 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 workflows for expense approvals
- Create management reports, P&L statements, balance sheets and cashflows
- Manage all your facilities and planned preventive maintenance
- 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 lease information and automate IFRS compliance
2. Provide top tier Wi-Fi and be smart about managing bandwidth.
The internet is the lifeblood of most businesses. Make sure you have the technology to manage your bandwidth, provide fast and reliable connection speeds and offer a frictionless and secure service. Paul Orrock, a Wi-Fi specialist for Yardi, explained how to monetize bandwidth in a recent interview. He stressed the importance of tiered service levels for corporate clients and noted that private offices take up large portions of your bandwidth. Tiered plans guarantee a level of bandwidth for those willing to pay for it, but that bandwidth remains available for use by others when not needed.
Make sure you have the technology to:
- Deliver reliable Wi-Fi coverage throughout the space
- Provide tiered bandwidth packages
- Provide secure internet access
- Quickly identify and manage issues
- Allow secure roaming for users around all of your centers
- Reduce interference from users bringing their own tech into the workspace
3. Provide cloud-based access control.
Whether you’re a small coworking space with a single location or a larger coworking brand with many locations, security and access control is a key aspect of running a flexible workspace. One of the most unique perks of coworking is that members are not confined to traditional business hours. Provide 24/7 access and keyless entry whether that’s via a mobile app or a card.
Make sure you choose cloud-based access control with integration to your booking system or an open API.
4. Improve member management with coworking software.
Coworking software helps you automate your day-to-day activities for the front of house team. This includes invoicing, billing, contract and membership management and meeting room bookings.
Using a management platform removes the need to operate manual spreadsheets and perform mundane, repetitive tasks that take time away from member servicing. Ultimately, this saves you hours each month that you can dedicate to profit-building tasks such as marketing strategies and member retention. Automating front of house processes enables you to work faster and more efficiently, removing human error or disparate systems.
When choosing your coworking software it is critical that there is complete integration with your property management and accounting platform from pillar 1.
Coworking software can also provide a member portal for increased and simplified communications, self-service room bookings and desk reservations, automated payment options and for purchasing additional services. A prospect portal will help non-members find your properties, get in touch and sign up, all with an intuitive process.
5. Gain detailed visibility into key business metrics.
Lacking visibility to key performance indicators (KPIs) not only prevents you from scaling, but could be harmful to your business. You’ll need these KPIs for on-time decision making, budgeting and IT resolutions, rather than spending valuable time manually building reports.
Your property management and accounting software provides deep insights into profitability, but also reporting and business metrics that will drive operational decisions. Create required reports, cashflows, valuations and business forecasts. Track both expenses and revenue by occupied workstation or traditional metrics such as occupancy and turnover rate.
“Focus on these five 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,” Harley concluded.