Custom VS Professional Platform — Which Is Best for Your Coworking Space
Coworking space owners consider many things while launching and growing their business and powerful workspace technology is one of them. Sometimes building custom software to manage a coworking space seems like a bright idea.
Indeed, nobody knows your members' and managers' needs better than you. Maybe you have even reviewed a couple of workspace booking software options and their features didn't match all your requirements. If you believe that only a custom coworking app can make all parties involved happy (members, managers, investors), you are at the right place. Read on to avoid a costly mistake and massive disappointment.
The goal of this article is not to convince you to give up your development attempts immediately but to stop for a moment and think if you are aware of all possible challenges and risks involved. And the first question you should ask yourself is "How much of a geek I am?" Will you cope with months of crashing coding job, testing, and fixing bugs?
At first custom software seems an attractive option: more control over user experience, more field for experiments, and seemingly moderate upfront investment with a promise of lower monthly expenses. However, after several years running it, you realize the costs are just a tip of an iceberg. It's extremely expensive to continuously maintain it, update for new versions of iOS and Android, keep up-to-date. Without day-to-day improvement, just a few years after the initial release of a custom software it feels out-of-date and slow. Also, custom software isn't as integratable with the world's best visitor management, billing, access control, room display, and other software. Building and maintaining every integration is a vast job.
~ Coworking operator from Buenos Aires
One more question to consider is: Are your requirements so unique that nobody in the whole world can meet them? What problems are you looking to solve with coworking space management software?
If you are a software engineer and clearly understand the process of custom software development, if you are sure that your discourse app will be able to compete with world analogs, if constant maintenance doesn’t seem an issue as well, just go ahead and build it.
But if you can’t boast extensive technical skills and vast experience in software development, you’d better learn more about the mentioned pitfalls.
Unfortunately, most of the benefits associated with a custom coworking space management system exist only in the heads of ingenuous users. So, let’s debunk the myths and face the truth.
It seems that you just pay several dozen thousand dollars for your custom coworking software and don’t have to pay a monthly subscription afterward. This is an obvious myth.
In-house software engineers are just too expensive to hire and you have to pay their salaries on a monthly basis. Just look at the average salary of a software engineer. It's at least several thousand dollars per month for an inexperienced developer who can't build web, iOS, Android apps, and server infrastructure.
If you outsource your own software to a subcontracting company, they will take considerable monthly maintenance fees and every upgrade will cost extra.
Building software requires a long time from planning to releasing and field testing. It's not as simple as just drawing an idea in Sketch and giving it to a coder. It's a whole manufacturing process that requires planning, design, testing, staging, and finally production. Besides, the technology should be properly documented.
In fact, releasing new software always takes longer than expected even for big corporations. I am afraid that in your case, the delivery date is likely to become unpredictable.
Unfortunately, there is no chance for you to build custom coworking space software once and then just use it worry-free. Actually, it becomes obsolete by the day it goes live.
You need to maintain your system all the time to keep it usable. Every year Apple and Google release a new iOS and Android. Mobile apps need to be regularly updated for Apple and Google requirements. For example, Apple recently required everyone to provide "Sign in with Apple" functionality. Is it really something you want to worry about daily?
The number of cybercrimes is growing every year. It becomes not only complex but even dangerous to develop custom software as you expose your data to the world. This is definitely not safe and tempting for hackers.
You have two options here — increase your budget and develop your technology with security in mind or just hope for better and come to terms that you are investing your money and effort in technology that is far from perfect, expensive, difficult to maintain, insecure, etc.
Custom coworking space management software will never be as good as a professional system. You're going to be running behind always. Other software started years ago. They have already developed excellent meeting room booking, desk booking, services catalog, newsfeed, and other solutions. Now, they are working on introducing more advanced features, while you'll be stuck with reinventing the wheel.
The most efficient modern way to run a coworking business is to sync and integrate all the apps you already use or are planning to use with a single platform — your main coworking space management software. Such integration saves you and your managers many hours of time, replaces manual operations with automations, and drastically improves member experience.
Professional software for coworking spaces offers pre-built integrations with popular services like Mailchimp, Kisi, Hubspot, and others. As to custom solutions, you need to build all those integrations yourself (which is not always possible and always expensive.)
An integration requires an API or Zapier. Imagine you want a visitor management system, access control like SaltoKS, or Intercom integration. So you will have to pay your developers for integration and maintenance of every other software you use.
Modern consumers have a very high demand and expectations for software. They use hundreds of apps daily. They have the best and worst experiences with different technologies, so they will surely compare your coworking app. If they don’t like something about it, they won’t use it. There are many ways to improve member activation and engagement rate but all of them work only if the app is awesome and provides a great user experience. If not, this is an epic fail.
Building software isn't all about software engineering. It's about planning the user experience, putting thought into interface design. Coworking space software made by professional development companies like andcards assembles the best minds and the best technologies to make an ultimate software experience, which is almost impossible to replicate with a custom solution.
Well, everything said above doesn’t mean that you just have to forget about your unique requirements and buy a professional coworking space software you are not happy with. I’d say everything depends on the vendor. Some of them offer certain flexibility, others don’t.
So, if you choose a technology solution for your flexible workspace right, you will address all your issues and avoid all that fuss with development. For instance, you can try to approach the matter by asking a vendor not if they have this or that feature but how they can resolve this or that problem for you. If at the end of your demo call, you will figure out that you still lack some solution, ask them if they are ready to add it for you.
For instance, the list of andcards features is never final and even after you sign the contract, you can still make requests and track the activity on them.
To build or not to build. Is it still a question? From everything said above, we can arrive at the conclusion that building a custom platform for coworking space may be beneficial only if you own a tech company or have a team of skillful developers at hand.
Other than that, you’d better buy a quality professional coworking space system. It will be much more cost-efficient and member-friendly. You can opt for a white-label solution and nobody will ever guess that you didn’t develop the app yourself. It will be perfectly inline with your style and branding. I also advise you to discuss all solutions a vendor offers to make sure that all your unique requirements are met in some or other way.
Would you like to learn if andcards can become a perfect choice for your flexible workspace? Schedule a demo call with us!