The Art of Scheduling

* Timetrade: Outsourced, Web-based appointment management that can handle complex business rules throughout the scheduling process

On the face of it, making appointments wouldn’t seem that difficult a thing to do, but as with many human activities it is scale that kills you. Add to that business rules, and scheduling on a large scale becomes something that only a computer can successfully manage.

This is the business that Timetrade is in: Outsourced, Web-based appointment management that can handle complex business rules throughout the scheduling process.

Timetrade, a 6-year-old company, handles over 60,000 appointments per week and it says its goal is “to make scheduling iPod simple.”

Amongst its customers is Quest Diagnostics, which has to juggle not only staff but resources as well, and correlate online bookings with customer service operations. Another Timetrade customer, the DMV in New Jersey, uses the service to manage appointment scheduling for its user base of some 8 million drivers.

One of the more curious Timetrade customers is Petco which uses Timetrade for scheduling grooming services. How hard could that be you might be thinking … actually, it is pretty complicated because the “pet parents” (yes, that’s what Petco calls them) could be divorced and have joint custody of Rover, or get divorced and one party has no rights – the scheduling system needs to be able to handle the registration and management of these issues. There are also details about pets to be considered such as their size and coat length, which act as modifiers to resources and staff availability.

Underlying the Timetrade system is custom scheduling code written in Java that manages XML data on Microsoft SQL Server. Projects such as Petco obviously involve a more complex implementation and Timetrade have an in-house developed framework to streamline rule building.

Not only can TimeTrade provide AJAX-driven Web user interfaces for customers and customer service representatives (CSR) (with full authentication service integration) they can also integrate with CRM, ERP, and call center systems.

As a hosted implementation Timetrade service starts at around $250 per month for a basic system to support a small business, while enterprise implementations with complex rule sets are billed at several hundred thousand dollars per year.

For enterprises that have more stringent security requirements Timetrade offers self-hosted implementations. Some of the customers in this group include the TSA who use Timetrade to manage issuing 5,000 to 10,000 credentials per week for over 170 U.S. ports and LA County Prison, which uses Timetrade to manage inmate movements and services.

For an overview of the features of enterprise solutions see Timetrade’s summary.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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