Whenever we are involved with delivering and installing what are basically shared assets to an organisation (desks, lockers, meeting tables) don't think we are blind to the fact that these shared assets need management.
Think about it - how will you know who is using what and how often ? How will you know if you have enough resources where they are needed? When people complain (which they will) what info do you have to assess the validity of their claims ?
So the answer would seem to be to turn to some software to manage this whole process.
We thought we'd have a look at what's available and give you our opinion (for what its worth).
The way we approached this is not to review 10 different brands of software. What we did was take a product we knew to be something of a leader in the field and looked at it from a point of view of; What are the hurdles for a successful implementation of this software ? We are trying to highlight the issues with any type of office mapping software ?
So starting with a quick overview- OfficeMaps from Australia provide you with a tool to help you manage the booking and reservation of shared office resources such as desks, lockers, meeting rooms and car parks. They seem to do this pretty well. There are two subscription levels - firstly what seems to be like a read only view of the office for $US49 per month per 100 users and secondly for $US79 for asset booking functionality (and other things). For a start, this would suggest you need min 100 users to get started.
Basically the way it works is, you load a map of a location/floor and place pins of different types to identify the asset and open it up for booking.
Our first reaction was to think about how people will use this. Users are supposed to book in and book out of the different assets. I can see a whole lot of people potentially booking in but NOT booking out ?
To collect good usage data you need to know when users are in the office, out of the office or on vacation which implies that they have to keep their calendar updated ? But wait, this is not connected to their Outlook or Google calendar ? Are they expected to update both calendars or just one because the calendar features in OfficeMaps will NEVER match the heavyweights.
The same data-integrity type problem would seem to arise from people leaving or new employees. The cloud based version isn't connected to Active Directory - the standard repository of all things "employee like". So is someone supposed to manually update the cloud based version with new employees and departees ? I can see this NOT happening ?
Most SAAS (software as a service) software tries to work as a stand alone product. Vendors are terrified of integrations because they know that means talking to IT and they will have 100 reasons not to use their product (mostly because they can). But a lot of software loses it's effectiveness without integration and this would appear to be a good example.
They do have a version that you can install on your own server and they whisper something about possible integrations with active directory but you get the feeling this is only there as a last resort to bring the tricky customer home.
So you are left with a few problems. How can users be certain that a particular desk is free when they log in ? Can we really expect a user to change their status as they move from desk to break-out area to meeting room and then back again ? What does the above uncertainty do to all the user data the organisation is collecting to make decisions about asset purchase and distribution ?
To me it turns it into a pulpy wet unintelligable mess ? The old adage "rubbish in - rubbish out" would seem to apply in this instance.
This is NOT intended as a criticism of the vendor (or the product) as such. It's more a criticism of the data collection mechanism. It's relying on people who are already sick to death of being "monitored" to embrace a new level of "monitorisation" ( I made that word up:-).
So for example, sensors on the desk that automatically monitor whether it is being used would appear to be able to produce reliable data even if it doesn't help you with WHO is actually using that desk ?
I'm not arguing it's intrusive or crosses some privacy line - I just don't think there is any appetite from the user for more activity and monitoring apps.
And without the user playing ball - I just can't see how it can work ?