Earlier today I had a neat discussion with Rajesh Setty, one of the co-founders of iPolipo, an online meeting scheduling service. Finding better ways to schedule meetings outside of email is a big professional interest of mine (eg, see the Messaging News (May/June 2007) cover story on calendaring), and it was fascinating to learn about iPolipo’s approach. iPolipo offers something of a different model to others I’ve looked at, and it is highly appropriate for some situations. See if you can see an opportunity or possibility in the description below for your work or for those that you work with.
Here’s some of the notes I took during the call:
- In their preliminary research, Raj and Hari (CEO and the other co-founder) discovered that when two people want to set up a meeting, they exchange 5-7 emails to do so. This is 80% of cases … one-to-one meetings … and is the initial focus of iPolipo. The other 20% is multi-party meetings, and is something that iPolipo doesn’t address at this time.
- In order to think correctly about meeting scheduling, they engaged some psychologists to help them understand how people think when a meeting invitation is received. In traditional free-busy calendaring environments, the situation is modelled for “do I have available time?”. However, the psychologists said, “the first question is whether I want to meet with the other person or not”. This is very similar to what Yori and other found in the early TimeBridge research (see the Messaging News article cited above).
- The second question someone asks, according to the psychologists, is what type or class does this person belong to? Are they my boss? Are they a client or prospect? Are they a friend? According to who they are, the person will have a different profile of free/busy times available for them.
- The iPolipo service works by permitting people to highlight times in their calendar, and mark them as being available for meetings with certain classes/types of people, eg, colleagues, clients, prospects, etc. Specific people are then added into those different groups; there’s a plug-in for Outlook that enables the selection and flagging of time slots, and it also enables the addition of people from the Outlook Address Book into one of the user’s iPolipo user groups.
- Everyone who wants to share their calendar has to be a member of iPolipo (have their own account). In general, the people they are scheduling meetings with do not need to be an iPolipo user too, because of the design construct to set up a limited time invite for people that are not iPolipo users. Eg, for a one-time-only-and-ever “meeting” with the fridge repair company. Obviously anyone can have an iPolipo account, but you don’t have to have one to use the system. People that set up meetings with other specific users on a regular basis generally ask them to become an iPolipo user too.
- Free / available meeting times are published to the iPolipo web site, so others who want to meet with another iPolipo user visits the site and sees what times are available for them.
- The iPolipo meeting scheduling clearinghouse features two components: a server-side, and a client-side plug-in. There is only a plug-in for the Outlook client today, but iPolipo is working with IBM on a Notes plug-in, and after that, they’ll do one for Google Calendar.
- Translations between time zones are handled automagically. An iPolipo user sets their time zone in their iPolipo user profile, and anyone visiting their free/busy time on the iPolipo site has the available times translated into the time zone as set by the computer the person is visiting from.
- Security isn’t an issue … all that’s being shared is potential free times. There are no meeting details stored on the iPolipo servers. As soon as a meeting is confirmed for a specific time slot, that available meeting time is removed from the iPolipo servers.
- iPolipo is working on tailoring their broad platform to a number of specific verticals where meeting scheduling between two people is very common, and where great value could be obtained in speeding up the meeting scheduling negotiations.
- The company has been going for 18 months, and is about ready to release Version 2.2 of their offering.
I’m meeting with the CEO of iPolipo in a couple of days for a follow-on discussion and a demo … I’ll share more as appropriate afterwards.