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by Brian Westfall,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: August 16, 2016

Henry Kissinger once famously remarked, “There cannot be a crisis today, my schedule is already full.” Things might have been different, however, if he'd had access to scheduling software.

Organizations have traditionally used paper or spreadsheets to manage their schedules. But as companies grow, it becomes essential for them to use more effective means to manage and utilize time and resources.

That’s where scheduling software can help: Scheduling tools enable business owners to automate the process of scheduling in compliance with the company’s rules and standards.

This guide can help potential buyers find the best solution for their needs. Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Scheduling Software?
Common Functionality of Scheduling Software
Benefits of Scheduling Software
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Market Trends to Understand

What Is Scheduling Software? 

Scheduling software helps individuals and businesses across all industries operate more efficiently by enabling them to manage and track their own and employees' time create and maintain employee schedules, assign workers to shifts or jobs and track everything in real time. 

These applications also help with:

  • Customer service delivery
  • Managing appointments
  • Scheduling resources or inventory
  • Tracking employee attendance
  • Managing dispatch schedules for field service workers

Common Functionality of Scheduling Software

Most scheduling software solutions come with some or all of the following capabilities or applications:

Workforce/shift scheduling Allows business owners to manage employee work hours by tracking their calendars in real time. It allows managers to perform skills-based job allocation for employees across multiple locations and enables employees to volunteer for open shifts or swap their shifts with coworkers.
Real-time automated scheduling The software can instantly confirm or deny an allocation when a new booking request is made, based on availability. It can also manage a waiting list of allocations that can be substituted if an existing booking is cancelled or rescheduled.
Calendar management Users can create appointments or meetings on their calendars and share them with participants at multiple locations. This feature may also include synchronization with third-party calendar management applications used by the participants (e.g., iCal or Google Calendar).
Automatic reminders Allows users to send reminders to employees or customers about upcoming appointments via email notifications or SMS text messaging.
Resource scheduling Apart from scheduling the right person to the right job, the software enables customers to schedule meeting rooms. It also enables equipment scheduling.
Time-clock management Allows business owners to effectively manage employee work hours by tracking their check-ins or check-outs. The software helps to manage employee attendance and keep track of their paid time off (PTO) days. Some solutions also allow integration with third-party payroll processing or HR software.
Field service management Enables managers to track and manage the activities of their field service employees and resources, such as managing dispatch schedules, optimizing vehicle routes, initiating service orders and mapping service orders to the nearest available worker.

Benefits of Scheduling Software

Businesses can realize multiple benefits as a result of adopting scheduling software, including:

Improved staff efficiency. Service professionals often find it challenging to manage customer work orders during peak hours. Without the right software in place, they can risk double-booking service orders. Scheduling software enables easy scheduling, single-touch rescheduling and the ability to confirm service orders with customers.

Centralized information. Organizations where the workforce is spread across multiple locations often have problems with communicating job schedules to employees. Scheduling software centralizes data at a single location and updates it in real-time so everyone can view accurate information, and can send automated alerts in case of schedule overlap.

Increased accountability and visibility. Scheduling software helps promote transparency by automatically generating optimized schedules. The software also promotes accountability by letting employees select their own shifts, when possible.

What Type of Buyer Are You?

Choosing the right appointment scheduling software depends on the size of the business. Consider the following buyer types:

Small and midsize businesses. These businesses typically operate as establishments with up to 70-80 employees and focus on specific operational areas. Such companies might consider a "best-of-breed" system that specializes in a particular area as per their business need.

For example, a small salon or a dental clinic that primarily manages appointments should look for a solution that offers online booking, automated scheduling and calendar management. Similarly, a midsize organization that engages in manufacturing should buy a solution that offers shift management, resource scheduling and time-clock management.

Large enterprises. Big companies typically operate in multiple operational areas with employees based at different locations. For such businesses, schedule automation is key. These businesses may want to consider a solution that is a modular suite, allowing them to pick and choose modules according to business requirements.

For example, a cash management firm would require fleet management or field service management to track and optimize vehicle routing. They would also require a shift management module to automate the process of assigning the right person to the right service schedule, a time-clock module to track staff attendance or location and automatic reminders so employees don’t miss their shifts.

Market Trends to Understand

Customer service automation. Companies today strive to retain customers to maintain their cash flow, making customer service effectiveness a key metric. Integrated customer service management becomes even more difficult for organizations that have a sizable field service workforce. Scheduling software can help by providing alerts to customers about when their service is scheduled and providing them with details about the service professional visiting their home to enhance the customer experience.

Web-based solutions. More and more companies are adopting software that is hosted online (as opposed to on the company's own local servers), and is accessed via web browser. Such solutions are referred to as web-based, cloud-based, online or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Online scheduling software is especially popular among businesses whose employees are in disparate locations; online scheduling affords easy access to remote users, since all that's required for access is an internet connection.

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