TimeTrade Systems, which makes software that helps harried professionals schedule appointments, released a personal SAAS scheduling application for sales and service workers Aug. 25.
TimeDriver, available as a free beta on both Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac desktop computers, lets an individual worker who wants to book appointments with a prospective client set up invitations through his or her Google or Microsoft Outlook calendar. The application runs on Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox.
Like Salesforce.com, Zoho Applications or Google Apps, TimeDriver is one of many software-as-a-service tools designed to run on the Internet, instead of making professionals download yet another application that will clutter their already overburdened PCs.
It’s important to note that TimeDriver is not a calendar-sharing application. The application talks to a user’s Outlook or Google calendar to offer customers time slots from the inviter’s schedule, but the user’s calendar remains private to humans.
After an inviter sets up an account and puts in his or her schedule, TimeDriver embeds a button bearing the prompt “Schedule Now” within an e-mail or Web site that links to open time slots in the inviter’s calendar. Inviters send an e-mail to invitees, or the invitees see the offer on a communal Web site.
Invitees can choose the date and time that works best for them and make an appointment. TimeDriver then automatically streams the appointment to the inviter’s calendar and sends an e-mail confirmation to the invitee.
I used this application firsthand to accept a briefing with TimeTrade founder and Chairman Marco Peterson, and it worked perfectly. I received an invite, clicked the link and perused his briefing schedule.
I selected the time and clicked to book that time slot. The application offered to place the appointment in Google Calendar or Outlook. I chose the latter and the application reached out from the TimeDriver site to my Outlook application, where I saved the appointment.
Beyond the fact that it works, I think what I appreciated most was that I didn’t need to have a TimeDriver account. This is a break from, say, Web conferencing applications, which make me download a client application.
Perks and Drawbacks
Obviously, inviters have to sign in to use TimeDriver to input a schedule and set up details and specifications for how they want the application to work. Users view a dashboard of scheduled activities and availability, where they may access activity and e-mail invitation wizards.
One of my favorite perks of TimeDriver is that it presents appointment times in the inviter’s time zone, as well as presenting them in the invitee’s time zone, if it’s different from that of the inviter.
This is huge for me. As an East Coast journalist, two-thirds of my weekly briefings are with folks on the West Coast. I often find myself questioning whether or not I booked appointments in EDT or PDT. TimeDriver solves that issue for me.
Invitees may also ask questions of the inviters and see any message entered at the time the appointment was booked in the inviter’s Outlook or Google calendar.
TimeDriver boasts other features, including the ability for Outlook users to send e-mail messages directly from Outlook with an embedded link to schedule a TimeDriver appointment. Users may send the e-mail the same way as any other Outlook e-mail or send and track the e-mail through TimeDriver.
The application also includes color coding in Outlook calendars to distinguish TimeDriver appointments from other tasks, chores or meetings.
What’s the drawback? TimeDriver may port to Google Calendar, but Outlook is clearly favored here.
As you can tell from the latter two features, the application leverages Outlook for e-mailing, but not Google’s Gmail. TimeDriver should be ported to Web mail applications, starting with Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Microsoft Live Mail, to be truly useful.
I imagine the application would be a dream for salespeople who have already gone to the cloudy side by embracing Salesforce.com, SugarCRM or other hosted SAAS applications.
And you can’t beat free. Expect TimeTrade to monetize the application through some additional support services and, of course, the main way SAAS applications monetize when they don’t charge per user: advertising.