Thursday, 25 August 2011

Appointment Management System

I am in the middle of work crisis here so I visit some free lance websites. On one of them I saw a task to create an appointment booking solution. That triggered something in my head and soon I came up with following idea.

Let's assume you have a small business and you even have a website. And you are working alone. Working with people. And you can handle only one customer at a time. Without proper organisation you might end up with situation when at some point you have more client than you can handle and at others none clients at all.

The easiest solution is to hire an assistant who will manage your schedule. Of course, you need to accommodate that extra person in your office, not saying that you should pay for her/his services.

Is there any other way to solve this problem? Luckily there is. Imagine that you have assistant working 24x7 and it only cost you £10 to £50 per month. You might say that is not possible. It is All you need to do is create an account in Appointment Management System (AMS), create slots (they could be recurrent). And that it!

Than you can integrate AMS into your website using API or even use ready to use jQuery widget if you are not picky.

Now image that you are running small business with several employee. It could be anything from B&B to Garage. And you need to manage slots for several professionals. Let's consider simple example. 5 employees, 5 slots per day for each. During a week we need to manage 5 x 5 x 5 = 125 slots, e.g. 125 clients.

It looks like hell of a lot of work. But it is not. Yes, you need to create slots and assigned employee to each of them. But you can delegate making appointments and notification of the clients to the system.

Clients can do to your website, pick a date, time and even a person or simple find nearest available slot and make an appointment. You, as business runner, will get notification, so does the person new appointment was assigned to.

If you do not have your own website, you can use AMS portal to manage slots and appointments. We even can create customised web page for you for symbolic fee.

The all above is simple and obvious. But what about innovations, technologies and algorithms? As a service AMS can provide some unique capabilities. For example, there is change in resource availability. So you need to reorganise slots, update appointments and notify all client about changes. System can do this in mania, semi-auto or full auto mode. Notification for the client can, or rather should, contains confirmation mechanism like confirmation link. If client agrees with new appointment details he/she needs to click on that link. Otherwise the status of the appointment will remain unconfirmed. You can provide your clients with an option to book new appointment.

Cancelling an appointment could be optional for client. Sometimes clients have to call you to cancel.

Now let's talk about business model. If we assume that find a hundred clients to run system like this we will need about £2,000 per month. To make things going we can try to charge £50 per client per month. That will give us £5,000. Or we can introduce progressive rate. It is not fare to charge the same fee company with 2 employees and other with 20 employees. It is clear that they will generate different load for AMS.

Now, when I am writing this, I realised that this is not a bad idea. I might give it a try later on. If use proper technology this can be implemented in a month time. Which is not bad. Technology wise I am thinking about Sencha for web part and Java and Guice and PostgreSql for server side.

The application can be hosted in Amazon EC2 or even on my own home server. Thank to BT infinity the incoming and out coming speed is more than enough.

So all in all, one month of development and £500 running cost per month and you will have functional service for small business. Another area for improvement integrations into other applications like Google Calendar, Facebook, Twitter.

Also to make even more viable there is a room for mobile version as well. I am not sure about native application for iOS and Android but writing a mobile web version totally make sense. Again Sencha is a good candidate for that.

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