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Scheduling Software

Scheduling software automates the scheduling of events, employees, rooms and other resources. Organisations use job scheduling software to manage the planning of internal and external activities. Online scheduling software typically features tools such as a shared calendar providing real-time project, task, employee and resource scheduling as well as a variety of forecasting, allocation and resource management features. Often other details, such as resource categorisation, location details, timesheet records and employee skill-sets can be edited, updated and managed from the scheduling program. Scheduling software is related to Employee Scheduling software, Facility Management software and Appointment Scheduling software. Find the best scheduling software for your organisation in Australia.

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Scheduling Software Buyers Guide

Scheduling software makes it easier for businesses and their employees to manage events, such as meetings, deadlines, and other time-sensitive situations. This type of software is used heavily in project management and plays a crucial role in reducing the amount of paperwork with the time spent dealing with that paperwork. Crucially, scheduling software allows a company to manage the schedules of its staff in one centralised system, making it easier to manage everyone’s time.

Some of the core features of scheduling software include the ability for staff to enter things into their schedule as quickly and easily as possible, have that information be centralised, and allow the tracking of jobs and assigning of shifts. The software should improve the workflow of an organisation by reducing the time spent organising schedules, as well as reducing problems caused by miscommunications.

The primary benefits of this type of software are the ability to quickly and easily enter new items into the scheduling system, reducing time spent on this activity. It is also a single point of authority also reduces the possibility of scheduling conflicts. It also allows for the scheduling of resources and inventory, shift management and employee attendance tracking.

One of the main advantages of scheduling software is that its uses are applicable in most areas of a business. While appointment scheduling software is focused on appointments, and task management software on tasks, this software is concerned with all forms of scheduling throughout the organisation, from employee attendance to supply chain management.

The level of complexity needed by an organisation when it comes to scheduling will, of course, depend on several factors. These include the size of the organisation and its requirements regarding things like remote access. Organisations with a small number of employees working from a single location will have simpler scheduling requirements than large organisations with employees spread out around the country or even the world. Scheduling solutions will typically include many features that make time management easier, including:

  • Allow business owners to manage their employee schedules with real-time tracking of their calendars
  • Provide automatic reminders to employees about upcoming appointments using the available medium of choice
  • Provide instant confirmation or denial of a booking request based on availability
  • Provide resource scheduling, such as booking rooms or equipment for certain events
  • Allow business owners to manage employee work hours with time clock management features
  • Enable the tracking and managing of field service employees and resources

What is Scheduling Software?

Scheduling software is used by businesses to more effectively manage the time of employees and resources. This, in turn, allows the organisation to operate more efficiently by reducing the time spent on scheduling and eliminating things like scheduling conflicts. It also enables the automation of certain tasks—such as approval or denial of bookings based on availability—and tracking employee attendance.

In the past, businesses have used paper and, later, spreadsheets to handle schedule management. As flawed as these tools are for this purpose, their weaknesses become more evident as more parts of a business move into the cloud. Scheduling software makes it easier to keep track of everything happening in all areas of the business, providing a single point of authority for scheduling information. That single point of authority ensures that there are no “crossed wires” due to things like missed communications since bookings are entered directly into the system and are then immediately available to all.

As an organisation grows and becomes more complex, the use of scheduling software shifts from a tool of efficiency to one of necessity. The increasing number of ways in which business tasks can be automated essentially turns scheduling into a bottleneck that results in inefficient time usage. Automating certain aspects of scheduling itself speeds up the process but also helps to eliminate human error from the schedule. It also makes accountability easier since any booking can be easily traced back to a specific user. This level of visibility is not all about holding employees accountable for mistakes. Having such a degree of accountability enables a business to empower its employees to handle more of their scheduling, such as selecting their shifts.

What are the benefits of scheduling software?

The benefits of scheduling software are focused on the efficiency of scheduling, with a lot of the advantages stemming from the automation and visibility of the scheduling system. Making the system centralised and accessible at all levels of an organisation removes a great deal of opportunity for errors to creep in and scheduling itself to take longer than is necessary. Some of the benefits of scheduling software include:

  • Reduced workload when scheduling: There will be times when a booking needs authorisation, but the vast majority of bookings in a business are routine and can be made without oversight. Because of this, scheduling software can automate the process of approving or denying booking requests where appropriate. What is deemed appropriate can be configured in the software, but a common example is the denial of a booking due to clashing with an existing booking. For example, booking a particular room for a meeting at a time that it has already been booked for.
  • Ability to manage workforce schedules: One of the most readily apparent benefits of this type of software is the ability of managers and supervisors to track employee calendars in real-time. The centralised nature of the platform will allow managers to perform skills-based job scheduling, even when dealing with employees who are spread across multiple locations. It also enables said employees to volunteer for open shifts and swap shifts with coworkers without needing to involve a manager or supervisor to update the schedule.
  • Resource scheduling: Scheduling the right person for the job is important and often the first thing that comes to mind when discussing this type of software. However, the workforce is not the only thing subject to scheduling. This type of software will also allow for scheduling certain resources, such as rooms and equipment. This helps to prevent conflicting bookings of those resources from occurring since no one will be able to double-book a resource through the system.
  • Reduce missed appointments: Modern businesses have a range of communication tools to work with, from SMS and email to social media and internal messaging platforms. Software like this makes it possible to leverage those communication mediums to send out automated—or manual—reminders to employees or customers about upcoming appointments and events. By reducing the possibility of missed appointments, a business can cut out the inefficiency of having to reschedule meetings and re-book resources.
  • Effectively manage field service employees: Field service management has long been one of the most difficult aspects of schedule management for businesses. However, thanks to the interconnected nature of technology today, scheduling solutions can give managers and supervisors the ability to track and manage the schedules and activities of their field service employees. Crucially, this also includes real-time updates from the field, so any schedule done from the office can be fully informed. It also allows for location-based decisions, such as booking the nearest available field service employee for a particular job.
  • Complete replacement for traditional scheduling methods: Managing a single calendar is one of the key functions of scheduling software. Having all appointments and bookings stored in one calendar system makes it possible to eliminate double bookings and other conflicts. Moreover, this type of software will usually allow for synchronisation with third-party calendar management applications—such as Google Calendar—making it easier to ensure employees are kept up to date.
  • Centralised time management: The most significant benefit of scheduling solutions is the ability to keep a centralised calendar for the organisation’s time management needs. This has a range of benefits, from making it easier to eliminate double-bookings to allowing relevant parties to see what certain employee or resource schedules look like before making decisions. It also reduces the time spent organising things. In the past, arranging a meeting might have taken several phone calls and plenty of back and forth trying to find a time that works for everyone. With this software, the availability of everyone concerned is visible and easily referencable.

What are the features of scheduling software?

The features of scheduling software focus on the efficient management of time, both of people and resources. By making it easier to schedule and removing or reducing the opportunity for mistakes and accidents in the schedule, the software helps organisations reduce costs and work more effectively. The features used in line with that goal can vary from solution to solution, but several common features should be found in most scheduling solutions. Here are some of the most common features of scheduling software:

  • Calendar management: The core feature of any scheduling software is to manage a centralised calendar for the organisation. This calendar provides visibility throughout the organisation—permissions allowing—and is updated in real-time. It allows anyone attempting to make a booking to instantly see what resources and people are available at a given time. It also makes it easier for staff to see upcoming appointments. It is increasingly common for these software solutions to provide synchronisation with third-party calendar management applications, allowing employees to get work-related scheduling information in their calendar application.
  • Real-time automated scheduling: Most scheduling solutions will offer some degree of automation in their feature set. The most basic example of this is the automatic approval or denial of a booking based on the availability of the requested resources and people. Not all bookings will be so straightforward, but it is certainly the case that a meeting booked to take place at the same time and in the same room as a meeting that is already booked cannot go ahead, and the software can automatically inform the person attempting to make the booking that it is not possible. A related feature is the ability to manage a list of allocations that can be substituted if the requested resource was unavailable but later becomes available due to a cancellation or rescheduled event.
  • Workforce/shift scheduling: The use of scheduling solutions like this is not limited to one-off events like meetings and interviews but can also be used to manage employee schedules overall. There will typically be functionality for tracking employee schedules in real-time and setting those schedules in the case of shift employees. In these systems, employees will also be able to see the schedule and volunteer for open shifts themselves. It also allows managers and supervisors to schedule skills-based jobs over multiple locations, making more effective use of the available talent pool within the entire organisation, rather than just those employees in the building.
  • Automatic appointment reminders: While often seen as a relatively minor inconvenience, missed appointments are an expense and one that can become significant in large organisations. The cost associated with blocking off part of people’s schedules, operating any equipment and taking up a room is still there, but the meeting needs to be rescheduled because of a no-show. Scheduling software can’t guarantee this won’t happen, but automatic appointment reminders will significantly reduce the number of appointments that are missed because someone legitimately forgot or didn’t know they had a meeting. And, because they are automatic, they do not require anyone to actively send out the reminders.
  • Field service management: Schedule management becomes increasingly complex as an organisation grows, and that complexity exponentially increases when there are field service employees involved. Many scheduling solutions include the ability to manage the activities of their field service employees and resources with ease. This includes managing dispatch schedules, initiating service orders, and optimising vehicle routes. Location data also enables managers to make the most efficient use of their resources by scheduling the nearest available field service employee for a given task.
  • Time clock management: Time clock management is a crucial aspect of any organisation with a good number of employees. Scheduling solutions will typically have a provision for managing employee work hours, including tracking their check-in and check-out times. It will also allow for the tracking of paid time off. Information about employee attendance can be easily exported for reports about an employee being repeatedly late for work or missing days entirely. Some solutions also offer integration with third-party software solutions, such as payroll processing or human resources (HR) software.
  • Resource scheduling: Scheduling the use of resources is just as important as scheduling employees since there is only a finite amount of resources, and double booking them wastes time and causes internal conflict. It is common for scheduling software to allow managers and supervisors to schedule events and appointments along with the required resources. For example, an interview with a particular employee would also require the booking of a room to carry out that interview. A meeting would require a room and equipment, such as a projector. The software will allow the tracking of these resources so that they can be properly booked when needed, ensuring that they are always available for a properly scheduled event or appointment.

What should be considered when purchasing scheduling software?

When purchasing scheduling software, it is crucial to consider what features are important to the buyer. For example, paying extra for the ability to manage field service employees when the organisation does not have any field service employees is a waste of money. The buyer should also consider the flexibility of the software solutions being considered. Most Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions make it easy to upgrade a subscription anytime, making it less important to consider future needs when choosing a solution. Another crucial factor is the size of the organisation. The time management needs of a small business can be drastically different to those of a medium-sized business. Below are some of the more specific things a buyer should consider when looking for a scheduling solution:

  • What are the key features of the scheduling solution? When looking at a scheduling software solution, a buyer should always consider the key features of that solution, and more specifically, if those features align with the needs of the organisation. For the most part, vendors of this type of software offer comparable selections of features, but not all features will be considered standard. Each solution will be different, but some of the more common features that might be omitted are inventory management, online time clock management, and routing.
  • What are the costs of the software? The cost of the software is important, but can become a little complex when dealing with SaaS solutions, as there are often different subscription tiers. Some solutions are even free, but, as one might expect, free scheduling solutions are limited compared to their premium counterparts. It’s also important to weigh up the ongoing financial commitment. A one-time software purchase—something becoming less common these days—would mean a substantial upfront cost. On the other hand, SaaS is much less costly upfront but is an ongoing financial commitment. It is also crucial to consider the cost of deployment if the buyer intends to deploy the solution locally.
  • Will the business benefit significantly from the software? One of the most important things to consider when making any substantial purchase or shift in the way a business is run is whether that change will benefit it. Scheduling software undoubtedly improves the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of scheduling within an organisation. However, is the organisation at a point where those savings are substantial enough to justify the cost of the software solution?
  • Is the scheduling software suitable for the size of the business? Modern scheduling solutions—particularly SaaS solutions—typically offer scalable solutions. However, a buyer who is purchasing a solution for local deployment will need to assess the suitability of that solution for the business. For example, will it be possible to scale up the scheduling solution in step with the expected growth of the organisation?
  • Does the software integrate with other solutions used by the business? Interconnected systems are becoming a cornerstone of modern business. The ability of various systems to integrate is a big factor in reducing the time tasks take and the cost of completing them. If a buyer is already working with software solutions, it is worth finding a scheduling solution that will integrate with them if one is available. In the case of scheduling software, the most obvious examples would be the calendar applications used by employees, and things like inventory management.
  • How does the solution handle data? Data storage is an increasingly hot button topic in today’s world. Buyers will need to ensure their data is securely stored and all practices are up to the relevant regulations. This is generally not a problem for SaaS as the data storage will be taken care of in the cloud environment. For locally deployed solutions, care will have to be taken to make sure all data is secure, especially when the system includes customer information.
  • Does the vendor provide technical support? Anytime an organisation adopts a new system, there will be a training period. In many cases, that training may be limited to a relatively small selection of employees who will be using the system. In the case of scheduling, a large portion of the organisation will be using the system. Choosing a solution with good technical support can save significantly on costs, both in not having to provide the support itself but also in reducing time lost to employees struggling with the system.

The most relevant scheduling software trends centre around remote use of the software solutions employed. With remote work becoming increasingly common and cloud-native software becoming the solution of choice, business software solutions are moving towards more accessibility, with the range of options when it comes to supported devices growing. The most relevant trends around scheduling software include:

  • Mobile optimisation: Mobile phones have become an integral part of everyday life for business and personal reasons. Smartphones make up almost half of all online traffic, so it makes sense that vendors would put effort into making their software solutions work well on this platform. This optimisation is increasingly coming as part of a combination of native applications and mobile-friendly web interfaces.
  • Cloud-based management systems: The move to cloud-native software solutions has been underway for many years. As the coverage of internet access and the reliability of those connections improves, it is becoming more and more practical to run cloud-native software solutions. This trend is likely to continue, with more emphasis placed on SaaS solutions, pushing local deployment out towards the fringes of scheduling solutions.
  • Wider integrations: APIs are more popular than ever, and vendors are constantly looking to leverage the convenience and potential they offer. Integrations with other related applications are one of the main ways this leverage manifests. From integrating with calendar applications to inventory management systems, buyers should expect to see more emphasis put on how well a vendor’s scheduling solution works with other systems, including third-party solutions.
  • More intelligent automation: The more that can be reliably automated by a software solution, the more that software will make things easier on an organisation. Reliability is the key, however. If someone needs to constantly check an automated task to ensure it has worked correctly, there is no advantage to automating that task. Buyers should expect to vendors come up with more options for automation in the coming years.