by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 2 January 2012
My order was delayed at a restaurant recently. That I was famished did not help matters. Irritated, I scolded the owner. "One of our workers called in sick at the last minute," she apologized. "It was difficult for me to schedule a replacement." Unfortunately, such problems are common rather than rare in the hospitality sector. Short staffing can be a serious problem in the service industry. It decreases efficiency, increases labor costs and translates into poor customer service thereby affecting business.
A cheap and inexpensive online scheduling solution can improve efficiency, save money, and provide strategic advantages to small businesses over competitors.
This week we will review a solution that promises to do just that. NimbleSchedule is a web-based scheduling solution that promises to take the pain out of scheduling. We will look at its features, interface and see how it can be of use to you.
BEGINNINGS IN A PERSONAL PROJECT
Nimble schedule is personal project for its founder, Peter Swaniker. He says the experience of watching a visiting family member determine her schedule the next day inspired him to design and develop the solution. "I realized there had to be a better way to deal with situations like this," he says. According to Swaniker, NimbleSchedule is an intuitive scheduling and labor management solution that provides immediate benefits to users in the form of increased productivity. He says that it does this by enabling your employees into the system within minutes. The idea, says Swaniker, is to provide clear visibility into weekly shifts and scheduled vacation or time off. According to Swaniker, NimbleSchedule also saves business dollars by improving employee productivity. Thus, you can cut down the amount of time you spend scheduling employees and spend more time on your business.
GETTING NIMBLE WITH NIMBLE SCHEDULE
Right off the bat, setting up NimbleSchedule is really nimble. Being up and running is a matter of four steps: creating departments, associating employees with departments and adding positions and locations for each employee. The first two steps are mandatory while the remaining steps are optional. At each step, you can either upload details or enter them manually. What's more the entire process hardly takes time. You can also maintain multiple schedules for employees and location within the system.
I thought the multiple location feature is an especially thoughtful addition to the interface. The feature enables you to configure shifts across multiple locations. That is where the value of the system goes beyond traditional Excel sheet systems that are good for simple scheduling tasks but fail during complexity. NimbleSchedule simplifies the complexity by adding user prompts. For example, you can view schedules for each location by simply selecting the appropriate location from a dropdown list.
Once details are configured, the system alerts users with text messages or emails. Each employee can enter his or her personal details. In addition, they can swap shifts based on their availability information configured in the system. According to Swaniker, NimbleSchedule also improves employee morale and efficiency. He recommends the solution especially for the service and hospitality sector. The system also comes bundled with nifty compliance and reporting tools. These tools enable users to generate reports. The default modes of report generation are location, schedule, and employer. However, you can also generate custom reports such as shift trades, overtime and open shifts. An added side-benefit of reporting is that you can track and save labor costs.
THE BASICS: WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
Swaniker touts NimbleSchedule's easy-to-use interface as one of its main advantages. I would agree. As I mentioned earlier, setting yourself up in the system hardly takes minutes. This is largely a function of an easy-to-use interface that strips away the clutter associated with scheduling (Remember messy, multi-colored excel sheets) and presents a clean and intuitive interface. The interface consists of a tabbed global navigation menu with each tab corresponding to a different view of the system. For example, you can view (or setup) schedules by employee or location. In addition, you can perform add, modify or delete schedules on each screen.
Each task can be completed in three screens, on an average. System-generated reports are clean and devoid of complicated patterns that are the stuff of standard report-generating software. Based on customer budgets and number of users, the solution offers four types of subscriptions: basic, plus, premium and max.
SUPPORTING YOUR SCHEDULE
NimbleSchedule offers telephone and email support. Based on the type of subscription that you have opted for, you can also get added support during and after installation.
If you want your business to be nimble, go for this solution. The only drawback that I could find during the trial was an average response time for certain modules within the system. However, knowing that NimbleSchedule runs on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, I am confident that they can scale up at a moment's notice and that speed issues are only temporary. Overall, I think the solution is great for taking the pain out of scheduling.