“Should our coworking space use off-the-shelf software, no software or build our own?”

I get asked this question weekly, sometimes even more often than that.

 

It’s a question that’s also asked a tonne in coworking facebook groups, the coworking google group and to other coworking operators again and again. The question’s popularity is even one of the main drivers behind why I started the Coworking Software Questions facebook group and released the BIGBODACIOUSLIST of coworking software.

I wish I could offer a silver-bullet answer, but the honest response will always be a rage-inducing “it depends“.
And that’s a good thing, it means there’s a lot of choice, flexibility and opportunities.

As I run a tech company and have spent most my life solving technical challenges for passionate folks with great ideas, I thought it might be useful to share a bunch of the things you should think about or discuss internally, before making a coworktech decision.

In short, I’ll be running over 4 ‘things’ this decision usually ‘depends’ on. I hope that it gives you a few good examples about the kind of questions you should be asking yourself before deciding on a coworktech strategy.

  1. Tech Chops

    Do you have any/sufficient technical expertise in-house to take on a software development project?

    What’s the average wage or day rate for a top- or mid-tier developer (and designer) in your local area?

    Is your business revenue positive enough to divert operating profit into technical/sunk costs like servers, dev time, project management and handling technical support?

  2. Core Differentiation

    What are members joining you for? Is it your location(s), your community, your price or the whole experience across different touch points?

    Will investing in UX/Integrations/etc improve your customer experience or marketability by at least 2x? 5x? 10x?

    By developing any tech, you also shift toward becoming a tech company, as oppose to a community, real estate and/or hospitality business. Is that the right move or strategy in the short- or long-term?

  3. Data Portability

    In this day and age (and with data privacy/ownership laws evolving) good software vendors know that you need to be able to extract your data on-demand. Could a best fit solution be workable as you lean on their dev team to improve the functionality, UX, etc over time?

    If it does become a true bottleneck, or long-term funding (software development has a LOT of unseen costs) is made available, can you switch over when your revenue is healthier?

    Does having all your customer data in one place make it more vulnerable or more secure?

  4. Your Team’s Time

    If your team is there to support your members, run the space, coordinate marketing and cultivate a healthy community, should you be diverting attention to things like testing, debugging and tech support?

    Would there be a benefit in being able to offload as much tech responsibility (and possibly debt) as possible to a 3rd party for less than 10 hours of their time?

    On the flipside, what if your team is stuck with their hands tied waiting for 3rd party developers to fix a critical bug? Would that hurt your business more than picking up more technical team members?

I hope the above list gives you a good guide into asking the right questions about which coworktech route/strategy you should be taking.

However if you’re till stuck scratching your head, just get in touch and let’s schedule a chat. 

Whilst included.co works with many of the best coworking software vendors, and can get you great rates on either their services or great technical talent; a bunch of space operators have called me in to help them navigate the coworktech landscape as they plan, launch or grow out their businesses. 

2 Comments

  1. Nicolas Kint December 3, 2018
    Reply

    All 12 questions lead to only 1 answer: use off-the-shelf saas software. Even market leader WeWork answered the Make or Buy question with a clear Buy. In their case not just acquiring software user licences but also acquiring tech companies.

    • Hector Kolonas December 5, 2018
      Reply

      Appreciate the comment, but don’t agree that the questions always always always point to 1 answer (ie buy/rent). I’ve advised folks to go all three routes based their answers. The answers differ greatly in different geographies, with diff org/biz goals; and with communities of specific kinds of members. 🙂

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