Excerpt: Ensuring spaces can be booked by the public and other bodies can bring in revenue and create efficiencies, argues Chris Smith, Head of Community at Kajima.
As advances in technology transform the way we think about efficiency, it is crucial that public services do not get left behind. An obvious example is getting the best use out of public facilities – from classrooms, sports venues, and music rooms at schools, to libraries, community centres, and spaces in the healthcare sector. Though most of the fixed costs are already paid to maintain them all year round, they are often vacated out of hours – when they could be valuable to local clubs, businesses, or charities, or even other parts of the public sector.
Utilising the space during ‘downtime’ could potentially be a welcome alternative source of revenue, at a time when spending on public services is coming under intense pressure.
Why, then, are public venues so often underused?
One reason is that while many public organisations are willing to hire out their facilities, they don’t feel they have the resources to handle the administrative challenges, such as organising bookings and handling invoices and payments – especially if they have to devote a person full time to the job. Many are also unsure of how best to market their offering: to broadcast to their local community the types of facilities they have for public use, and the hours that they are available.
These are areas in which technology can make a profound difference – to streamline the process and reduce costs that might otherwise seem prohibitive. Manually managing bookings and invoices on a case by case basis can be cumbersome and time-intensive, especially with the potential for cancellations, and can easily result in misunderstandings and missed opportunities. Instead, organisations are increasingly seeking out technological solutions which help to automate the process.
Technology can also be a powerful marketing tool for matching community groups with the facilities that are best for them. At a minimum, institutions which hire out their facilities should have an engaging website, which can be easily found through online searches by smartly implementing search engine optimisation techniques. Effective integration with social media such as Facebook and Twitter is another potent way to drive the people most interested in their facilities towards their websites.