Coordinating times for meetings or calls is one of the most persistent headaches, and one that wastes time and energy. The best strategy is the following:
- An organizer picks a bunch of possible times — presumably times when she is available — and sends those to others she wants to attend
- Each of the invitees indicate which times they can make (perhaps penciling in the options to avoid later conflicts)
- The organizer picks a time that all — or as many as possible — can attend, and sends out the chosen time to the invitees
- The invitees and organizer put the appointment on their calendars (deleting the penciled in appointments).
This is theory, but in practice all sorts of wrinkles come up, and even in the best case the organizer is left leafing through a chain of emails trying to figure out who can make what times.
Invy is a sleek looking and easy to use iPhone app that is designed a mobile-first solution to this problem, or at least most of it. (Note that there have been a long series of other solutions, like Outlook, but leave that to one side).
The organizer has to use the Invy app, but the others do not: they can be contacted via email that links to the Invy website, where they can do their part of the dance.
Here’s the landing page on the iPhone:
I’ve created a Invy with two possible times to another of my email addresses to test, one not registered with Invy. I acted as both sides of the negotiation, turning down one time and selecting the other, and tried the chat: discussion is essential in these cases if you want to avoid email. At the end, on the iPhone side as the organizer, I picked the final time.
Here’s the web UI:
Invy added the event to the calendar on my phone automatically, after I — as organizer — selected the time/date for the meeting. I also received another email as the invitee with an .ics calendar file as an attachment, so invitees without Invy could import that to their calendars.
It all worked perfectly, aside from some minor UI issues. For example, when presented with just a single option for a meeting, it wasn’t clear how to say no. Turns out you have to agree to the time/date by clicking on a checkmark, and then unchecking it. Otherwise, smooth.
I would like to see a slight enlarging of the use case, if only for those with Invy installed. If I have proposed a variety of dates for a pending Invy I’ve organized, or if I have said that some time/dates are possible in an Invy I have received from another user, I’d like those to appear on my calendar as being ‘penciled in’. I use the convention of putting a question mark at the end of the event’s title, like ‘Dinner with Carlos?’, as a way to indicate penciled appointments. This would help me avoid booking something in one of those penciled spots while the Invy negotiations were still in process.
Also, there is no way as yet to indicate any preference across various time/dates, which is very common in coordinating meetings. Yes, a lot of that could be embedded in the chat, but a simple way to click on ‘better, good, worse’ on each might be helpful.
At any rate, leaving that elaboration aside, Invy is great, and I will be using it immediately. I am involved in a series of interviews for a project, where I am trying to schedule times with a long and growing list of brainiacs in the social business field, all of whom are just as busy as I am. This will help me immensely, although it’s a use case where the penciling feature would be extremely helpful, so I can avoid double bookings.