Long before office-related software became a staple of business life, managing meetings boiled down to simple instrument - printed paper calendars. Some were kept in a personal notebook (or meeting planner), some pasted on rooms’ doors or within the office manager’s reach. The tasks handled nowadays by machines were assigned to personal assistants, office managers and/ or reception desks.
Personal calendars contained information about the individual’s schedule and availability, while room calendars dealt with room bookings. At their core, they were strikingly similar, but the processes involved in producing them were kept separate even then. There was some overlap, but their ultimate goals differed greatly - personal calendars helped an individual organise their time, room calendars helped a group of people efficiently use a resource (the room).
Spoons and Spades
Modern meeting scheduler apps evolved to serve a broad audience and be very flexible (just like spoons), while meeting room managers have been designed for a narrower niche (similarly to spades). Due to their similarity in shape and function, they can be tentatively used interchangeably. However, if you wouldn’t dig a hole with a spoon or sip soup from a spade, why would you book a room from a meeting scheduler and plan your schedule in a meeting room manager?
What a meeting room manager does
A meeting room manager’s primary purpose is office space optimisation. It aims to ensure proper room usage, so that there’s little overlap or waste. It’s also used to enforce hierarchical rules (e.g.: an intern should always have their supervisor’s approval when booking a room) and usually comes into play AFTER a meeting date has been agreed upon. It can be used to validate a chosen date/time combo or suggest alternatives based on reported availability.
What a meeting scheduler does
The main confusion arises from the use of the word “meeting”. Appointment scheduler is way clearer; you can use an appointment scheduler without needing to book a room. For instance, if you’re seeing someone over coffee or online, in a conference call.
Why not merge them into a single product?
There are several reasons for which you’d keep a room manager and appointment scheduler as separate solutions:
- It makes the end-product (either one of them) easier to explain
- It improves usability (fewer sections, fewer buttons, fewer choices)
- It ensures the existence of fewer bugs (fewer moving parts = fewer things that can break)
- It allows room for growth (e.g.: a room manager can get a resource-management add-on that would not make sense in a personal calendar)