A couple of weeks ago I had a panel at the Churchill Club talking about the differences between Exporters and Global Operators. One of the speakers was Simon Baker (he was great), recently of REA Group who had bought multiple on-line real estate operations while building REA into a global player.
Anyway Simon and I agreed to catch up a week or so after the event to chat about the Churchill Club member offerings. Fixing an exact date with Simon’s assistant proved to be a little difficult though. Simon had left an environment at REA Group where he was supported by lots of technology (read run his diary), and now operated in an environment where his assistant needed to have a chat with him first to confirm availability.
So I said, “why don’t you just use Google Calendar?”, and she said, “Brendan you are brilliant” – or that’s what I heard anyway.
Since moving my IT infrastructure over to be web based, I have been using Google Calendar as my calendaring system. What I like about Google Calendar is:
1. You can own one or more more calendars in your account which you view through a web browser.
2. You can natively view other people’s calendars or even public calendars in your account.
3. You can keep your calendar private or authorize others (or the public) to view or even edit your calendar, making it great for collaborating.
4. It can seamlessly sync to other devices, including Outlook, Thunderbird and even my iPhone, making it 24/7 solution.
5. Because it uses web 2.0 technology, the calendar is quick to respond to changes you make.
6. Its supported by Google, not a pimply IT geek. Which means it doesn’t end in tears and missing appointments.
7. Its free.
Inside my Google Calendar, I have:
– My own calendar (which my wife has the right to edit)
– A calendar I own for each of my kids, so I know where they are/where they are supposed to be :) .
– Visibility (and the right to edit) into my wife’s Google calendar. So I can enter in “date night” if I feel up to it. My wife uses a closed diary system at work but the detail of her day doesn’t interest me anyway. She uses her Google calendar just for the stuff that is of interest to me such as “I will be late home because we are having drinks after work”
– Public calendars such as “Victorian Parliament Sitting Days”. So I don’t try to book time with Ministers when they are guaranteed to be unavailable.
– A separate calendar I own with information of interest – eg when business partners are away.
Depending on what view I want, I then make calendars visible or invisible. Because I want this information on the move and have an iPhone, I use Nuevasync to synchronize my phone with the calendar. My wife has an HTC touch phone which uses Windows Mobile 6 as the operating system so she uses Goosync to synchronize the information.
I generally don’t sync the calendar with my email client because I always have a phone with me. However I have done this in the past but the sync process with Microsoft Outlook tended to slow things down and pissed me off (alot). Because of that experienced though I know there are good sync options for both Outlook (my old email client) and Thunderbird (my new email client). A quick search shows that syncing to a Mac isn’t a problem either with plenty of solutions on offer.
This concept of using Google as your backend, isn’t just for small business either. Serena Software of California has just transferred all its staff over to the enterprise version of Google Calendar and GMAIL. It was forking out around US$500,000 in licence fees to Microsoft. The new costs from using this solution are around $40,000 a year.
But for a small operation, using Google Calendars is a powerful but free solution. I hope Simon’s assistant convinces him.