Free Your Data: What Space Operators Need Most From Management Platforms

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At a recent Global Workspace Association’s 2022 FlexForward panel, Upflex’s Ginger Dhaliwal called out one make-or-break need for flex and coworking space operators in the current tech landscape: They need free and open access to their data.

Last week, Upflex CPO and co-founder Ginger Dhaliwal joined four other product leaders from across the workspace tech stack in a panel discussion on the past, present and future of workspace tech. The talk, moderated by Syncaroo‘s Hector Kolonas, took place at the Global Workspace Association‘s 2022 FlexForward conference in Frisco, Texas.

Kolonas asked panelists to share the biggest changes they’ve seen since 2017 in workspace technology — in five words or less, if they could. Dhaliwal said that to build a sustainable business, space operators have one big need in the current tech ecosystem: the “need to partner and integrate.” Here’s an even more succinct call to action for space operators today: Free your data.

What does it mean to free your data?

Kolonas suggested that if workspace software was the competitive advantage of the last decade, then data will be the superpower unlocked in the next decade.

But, in today’s flex space industry, most space operators rely on a third-party space management platform to manage their inventory, membership, and other core aspects of their business — and Kolonas, Dhaliwal and colleagues are seeing an alarming trend: “Those platform now are saying, ‘Oh, in order to access that information, you have to pay,” Dhaliwal explained in a conversation recapping the panel. Coworking management systems are upcharging for or limiting the ways space operators access and leverage their data.

Many of these systems see a competitive angle in exclusivity: They want space operators to be available only via their own platform. But for this ecosystem to work, Upflex believes everyone needs flexibility — especially flex space providers.

In order to leverage third-party space aggregators and workspace platforms to drive demand and grow their business, space operators need to be able to provide their inventory availability data in real time. Grabbing hold of this data and limiting its use through charging for it or through preventing third-party integrations, Dhaliwal says, is failing to consider the customer.

“It’s completely unfair to the operators who trust [these management systems] to help them create efficiencies in their business,” she said.

The answer, Dhaliwal said, is for space operators to tell the management systems they use not to limit their ability to integrate with other platforms and tools. Today, space operators need interoperability, integration, open access to data, and the ability to allow the movement of their business’s data across the sites and tools they use.

“One of the things that I’m really hopeful for is the
ability to unlock this inventory information, make
it available, so we can drive demand to our co-working
partners — so that we can help build a
sustainable business for you.”
–Ginger Dhaliwal, Upflex cofounder
and CPO at the GWA panel 

“We wouldn’t have WiFi or 3G if telecom companies refused to come together and agree on protocols that would help all their customers connect, no matter their service,” Dhaliwal said. “We have to do the same thing in the flex space and coworking space industry. We won’t be able to make the industry stronger and better if we don’t all work together on the tech side.”

Dhaliwal relayed an anecdote from the conference about a woman got purchased a franchise and is now an operator. “She lays out $100,000 per month just on rent, to operate a space,” Dhaliwal said. “She put her her entire livelihood into this, and the management system she’s using is trying to limit who she can share her real-time availability with, which limits her ability to generate demand for her space. They’re not enabling her to share that data so she can monetize it.”

To survive and thrive, Dhaliwal says, operators need a tech environment “that’s open and accessible for everyone.”

Read Kolonas’s great recap of the panel here.