You know how you always have this one friend going on about how Apple is sooo much better than Android — or the other way around. Just like those old Mac vs PC ads, where one would try to convince the other that theirs was the best software. Of course, objectively, both solutions have their merits. (Even though, as a heavy Google Apps user, for me Android wins hands down.)
We have a similar discussion popping up at Yesplan events and presentations around Europe. Usually, we’re greeted with beaming smiles, clapping hands or sheer relief at the fact that we have workflows and processes designed specifically for cultural venues. What a treat! Yet sometimes, a hand is raised and that same question arises:
“Why shouldn’t we carry on venue planning on our big black book / Excel / Gcal / free shared application of your choice?”
I’ll tell you exactly why not. In fact, I’ll tell you five times over.
Paper-based systems are notoriously poor at keeping audit logs. In fact, a ‘pencil’ event can be just that, written and forgotten with just a rub of an eraser. In come the questions: When did this change? Who changed it? And what was there before it was changed?
Of course, most of you have moved on from these prehistoric methods and are now avid Google Sheets user. If used correctly, these kinds of software packages can show you a version history in which you can unearth previous entries and solve the whodunnit.
However, you’ll agree it is not nearly as simple as with Yesplan. With us, it’s a piece of cake, really. Click a resource, select ‘history’ et voilà: history unfolds at your fingertips. In fairness, though: yes, other venue and event management systems have similar features. But I still have four more reasons to go.
Manual systems struggle massively with the concept of security — unless, of course, you lock that book in your office drawer. Spreadsheets and online calendars are a step up, offering up-to-date information and updates. Online documents can be made either read-only or be password protected, too, yet, these rights though cannot be dynamic, can they?
Unlocking a sheet of timings when the event is confirmed, but only to members of the technical team? Attempting such complicated security scenarios in spreadsheets and calendars is highly time-consuming. With Yesplan, though… You guessed it.
Attaching documents to an event? Sure. Done. What about linking one document to many events, though, or even dynamically producing documents like call sheets and contracts?
With manual systems — well, let’s not even get into those. The lack of security solutions is at odds with the need for secure financial information and the ability to instantly see what documents we haven’t received for an event.
Docs or Word do allow details to be merged from Sheets or Excel, but these solutions require organisations to design, build and maintain the flows, security and integrity of the integration. We don’t know about you, but we’re still to meet the first venue manager with enough time and money on their hands to fund custom research and development.
In events, calendars are key. To keep track of all your resources, a solution could be to make each one a calendar of its own. Good luck on modelling the complex structure interdependencies, resources and detailed scheduling in software not specifically designed for that process.
The workflows that exist in your business — from confirming and contracting an event, issuing call sheets for crew and staff, all the way through to settlement with a producer or promoter — need close attention. Smoothness and efficiency are what you’re after, not to mention a clear overview of every last detail.
Whereas technology cannot do much to improve books, Excel and Outlook keep adding on new features. Sadly none of these cater to the specific needs of event organising or the cultural sector.
You can hardly expect such general products to suddenly add a feature so you can specify a projector is needed for an event, that ‘Bob’ is to set it up and we are going to charge €24,50 per hour plus VAT for it as this is a commercial hire. We, on the other hand, are more than happy to oblige you on every new turn of events — pun intended.
Working in an industry that thrives on creativity, we do appreciate the resourcefulness users display is finding solutions in (mostly free) software. Yet general tools, or even the old black book, have gaping holes in functionality that will never be filled, offering short term solutions only. Welcome to an age of modern, well-thought and superbly designed SaaS solutions, offering secure hosting and continuous delivery of new features and functions. No time like the future, right?