Workspace technology and automation are buzzwords that excite the minds of operators all over the world. How will I benefit from investing in current technology? What to automate in the first turn? What solutions are trending now? Can small coworking spaces that cope with paper and pen neglect automation?
Would you like to get an expert opinion on the above and many other tech-related questions? This is the reason why we have Hector Kolonas here today.
I believe Hector, who is co-founder of Syncaroo.com and founded included.co, with his 10 years of close cooperation with hundreds of flexible workspaces across Europe is the best person to address them. Hector has extensive experience in solving difficult technical questions for spaces at different stages of their development and guiding them to higher occupancy, growth, and revenues.
Hector has a lot of great tips on managing your coworking space efficiently, so don't miss out! Read on to learn more.
Helga: You are communicating with coworking operators for more than a decade. What are their most common pains/complaints in terms of tech?
Hector: I’ve worked alongside coworking spaces, their operators, their teams and within their tech in some way or form since 2013.
The common pains for coworking space operators regarding their tech has changed drastically over the last 8 years, and that comes down to a few things. The market is maturing, so are their business models, and so are the professionalism of the tech options that exist.
First, the pain was getting software that understands the original coworking business model. Then it became getting affordable hardware and IT solutions for shared spaces. Then the complaints shifted to supporting the newer coworking business models in 2017. In 2019 the number of complaints I heard about how “disconnected” the best solutions were from each other rapidly increased, so integrations became more and more important.
When 2020 gave a lot of operators a (completely unwelcomed) break to reassess their Ops Stacks, the demand for connecting the best solutions for each challenge or touch-point together into one cohesive and manageable ecosystem became even louder.
Helga: How does automation help coworking spaces earn more? Could you please share some numbers (real-life examples)?
Hector: Firstly, automation in itself won’t magically make workspaces more money. It’s when automations are used to handle repetitive and tedious, but important tasks (especially across different systems), that operating teams time becomes more impactful.
For example, instead of having to copy customer data from one booking app, into the management system, then book the meeting room, and manually make sure there are no conflicts with existing events, an integration that automates that would save 20-45 minutes of manual work. For just 10 bookings (and assuming a low hourly wage of $15 p/hour), these bookings have an additional overhead cost of between $50 and $112.50 in manual work.
With tight margins and the volume of transactions growing rapidly, those minutes quickly become hours and thousands of dollars of lost resources.
Secondly, with time being so constrained,operators are having to make decisions about how to promote, partner and fill their space based on past performance, not incoming innovations around marketing, reach and discovery.
Essentially operators were leaving money on the table or allowing their competitors to build reputation, trust and exposure into new niches, markets and decision-making groups by not being listed on upcoming or ‘challenger’ platforms.
Automations with updates and booking remove the overhead and allow platforms to list and partner more, getting more exposure and boosting revenues.
Helga: What would you recommend to automate in the first turn?
Hector: The Ops Stack framework helps operators think about their tech, external services, and internal activities into 4 distinct categories: Marketing, Lead Generation, Sales and Hospitality.
I find it is useful to think of these categories as layers of an onion with Hospitality at the core (just like in the best coworking spaces). That layer is then wrapped in Sales, which is wrapped in Lead Gen, which in turn is wrapped in Marketing.
Thinking about it like this helps as the outer layers are usually the largest, touching multiple platforms and reaching the most people. As you move in, these numbers come down.
I say all this to highlight that automation works best when it removes as many repetitive and tedious tasks as possible. So we often see workspaces automating in the Marketing and Lead Generation layers first.
Great examples are Automating outbound messaging (like to social media) and updating platforms that are important for discovery, but not lead-generating or involved with closing sales (like Google Maps). Each automation should keep or boost the current reach, but remove manual work.
Helga: Do you recommend every coworking space automate the workflows? What about small coworking spaces? Will they also benefit?
Hector: Whilst it’s obvious that multi-location or even multi-national, coworking space companies gain an exponential benefit through automations, they also have bigger teams and possibly dedicated resources for Marketing, Lead Generation, Sales, and Hospitality.
Smaller spaces often run on far smaller teams (or even by one person), and so automations are even more critical so that revenue, reach and other resources can stretch even further.
Helga: What apps are an absolute must for every coworking space?
Hector: As with any tech advice, the right answer is always “it depends”, followed by questions like “what kinds of products/offerings do you sell?” and “what repetitive tasks could get messed up or exhausting?”
For a long time, smaller spaces could operate without a management system, a community layer, or door/mail/on-demand control systems. As the way the world works is shifting, so are the ways coworking spaces are leveraged, and by who is changing too.
Those looking forward to these challenges are exploring & implementing management systems that integrate with internal apps like community and mail platforms, as well as their wider marketing, lead gen, and sales operations.
After all, everything comes down to the Hospitality layer and being able to better serve members more efficiently.
Helga: How does technology impact the member experience?
Hector: Increasingly the question should be “how should technology improve all the different kinds of members’ experiences?”.
Coworking in particular, and flexible workspaces in general, are being utilized by so many different subsets of customer profiles, and whilst each will want to book, access, and leverage the space in different ways, the only way to provide a superb experience to all of them is through a creative combination and architecture of technology.
Long-term (in flex terms) members may want to engage with other businesses, attend events, get local perks and deals, and invite in guests for meetings. Drop-in members will care more about seamless and professional checking in and out of themselves and their guests.
Employers may want to track utilization, popularity, employee requests, and centralized billing across operators. Government agencies may need certain security and privacy measures and technologies to be in place.
It all comes down to who the space serves, and how they’ll want to interact with the space, your staff, the local community, and other members.
Helga: What technology trends can you identify in the current coworking space market?
Hector: There’s so much I can say here, as the workspace and office technology sector is changing daily, so instead I’ll re-share the 2 tech trends from my summary of 2021’s biggest trends from my weekly newsletter.
The first is that workspace discovery is changing rapidly. As mentioned earlier, there are whole new markets, niches, employees, and organizations who will, for the first time, be able to choose and access coworking spaces to work from. That’s why we’re seeing so much movement towards providing platforms for workspace discovery and booking from global brokerages, startups, established tech companies, and governments around the world.
And the second is this shift towards an “operating system” for coworking and other workspaces. The idea where one platform “runs” the core, and other services, apps, platforms, and middleware are added that do ‘one thing really really well’. I think you can compare it as a shift from the old Nokia operating system (where everything is built and provided by one company) to iOS (where one company builds the operating system, and 1.96 million apps are built and made available from developers around the world).
Helga: What’s next for workspace technology? What new solutions can we expect?
Hector: I’m still working on my predictions of where tech will go, but there are a lot of interesting things happening in tech right now.
The best I can say is check out or subscribe to my weekly newsletter where I often share upcoming tech trends like hologram rooms, DAOs, crypto memberships, and more.
Helga: What technology products are not available in the market but the market is ready for them?
Hector: At Syncaroo, we’re working with a tonne of our partners, including andcards to enable a whole new set of tools, automations, and more. As soon as we can share more about those we will, over on our blog and social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter).
I invite all developers, entrepreneurs, and tech visionaries who are building tech for the future of work to reach out and chat with our dev team about how our data infrastructure can help speed up implementation, go-to-market, and scaling.