How can I show group availability based on its members?
April 29, 2013 8:19 PM   Subscribe

I work with a team of engineers supporting sales people. I need a good way to communicate to the sales people when are times we are available for meetings and when are times we are not. What tools have people used to communicate this, quickly and effectively?

Sharing every team members calendar with them makes it impossible to sort (since they aren't looking for a time we are all free, just one of us), and we would like to prevent certain sales members from continually scheduling meetings with their 'favorite' engineer. The end goal is for the sales person to be able to determine when is the best time someone from our team is most likely to be available, so they can schedule a time with their customer really quickly (ie, they are on the phone with them right then) without having to wait on us.

What software (one time, subscription, or free, as long as it works) have folks used to accomplish this (if any)? What should I be googling for or what terminology should I be using to help solve this? In essence, we should almost be manageable like a google calendar resource (ie, a Room) but also as real people calendars as well (show up when available, disappear when not).

We've looked at the common scheduling portals (genbook, etc), but from what I've been able to glean, most of them are all aimed towards helping you find the one person you should book with (and therefore don't provide any abstraction). Building something for ourselves hasn't been ruled out, but if there are existing tools that do all of this (awesome) or part of it (slightly less awesome but still useful) but can be extended, then that works as well. I also realize that no software will fix a process problem, but being able to visualize our teams availability in real time will help us know when we are starting to over extend ourselves as well.

In a perfect world, the software would allow for a sales person to enter in a week or two of when they would like to hold a meeting, the type of meeting (onsite or just webex / phone / remote), and maybe specific subjects from a pre defined list. It would then parse the teams calendars and provide a calendar view showing from green (being available) to red (unavailable) for time slots around the length of the meeting needed.

Availability would be determined by who wasn't already booked in a time slot, with a 5-10 minute buffer around that existing meeting (if onsite, it would factor in half day travel the day before / after, when the last time a person had done an onsite meeting previous), if they were qualified in the subject needed for the meeting, and how many people were free for that slot.

So a 30 minute general technical call could be a bright green time slot across the week view during the times that two or more team members were available and met the criteria, while the times where no one was available would be bright red, and times where one person was available or it was close to other meetings would be something in between.

Other criteria:
Should be something that can be checkedul from a webpage
Has to be able source calendar info from google apps calendar
posted by mrzarquon to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe you could fake it by (ab-)using Outlook's room reservation thing?
posted by slater at 8:45 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

You need to look at Doodle. I haven't used it in almost a year so I imagine that the features are more robust now, but it was pretty useful when I used it to plan meetings and sign up for time slots. The ad-supported (minimally IIRC) version is free, and includes integration with Google calendar.
posted by radioamy at 9:05 PM on April 29, 2013

I was also going to suggest Doodle. I don't know if it has all the features you need, but it might work. I have found it very useful for coordinating meetings with multiple people.
posted by apricot at 9:14 PM on April 29, 2013

Response by poster: We don't use Outlook (google calendar / gmail / google apps for most everything).

Doodle's BookMe feature looks the most promising by far (select the type of meeting, get a list of folks who can attend availability, it picks the slot without telling you who has it), but better visualization tools or suggestions are still welcome.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:30 PM on April 29, 2013

I don't have a specific suggestion, but in case you don't know about this resource, the site is sometimes helpful in identifying possible substitute software/service candidates. Searching for Doodle on the site brings up a list of quite a few seemingly similar products.
posted by Dansaman at 9:50 PM on April 29, 2013

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