By Guy Clapperton

I’ve seen something interesting.

Calendaring applications are nothing new, of course. Ever since Microsoft Office first emerged blinking into the sunlight the word ‘Outlook’ has come to mean the compulsory combination of your e-mail, contacts and diary. Other products are available of course, but Outlook is more or less industry standard — and when you’re sitting at your desk it works extremely well.

You’ll have noticed the little caveat in there: when you’re sitting at your desk. The problem is that the workforce is less and less deskbound, they move about rather a lot. Which is where the new product from Handstep, headquartered in Denmark, comes into its own. Called TeamCalendar it’s a piece of software that sits on your Windows Mobile hand-held computer or Smartphone and as long as you have an Internet connection it checks your calendar and your team’s availability for whatever meeting you need to schedule.

And no, not all calendaring applications do this in real time. Let’s take an instance they ran through at the demonstration. I’m at a meeting in Stockholm, for example, and the people with whom I’m meeting want to know whether we can have a follow-up with my sales director the following week, and preferably the finance director too (all of which is terribly grand for a freelancer, but you get the picture, do bear with me). At the moment I could check my calendar on the spot, and then I’m down to making a couple of calls to see whether people are available or more likely waiting until I’m back at my desk to look at the group calendar. I confirm availability only to find the sales director is actually out and has herself made another appointment.

We can scroll back a little and imagine I had TeamCalendar installed. I now get asked for the followup appointment, I open up my Windows-compliant smartphone, open up the calendar application and enter log-in details. It opens up the calendar and I can see, in real time, who’s available and when. If I’m in Stockholm and the sales director has made an appointment in Tooting only a minute before, it doesn’t matter — it’s on the system and I can see it. I make the appointment, the matter is dealt with in a much more efficient timescale.

Of course, it’s not perfect yet. If my office has standardised on one of the other phone platforms — Blackberry, Symbian, Palm — it simply won’t work, or at least not in the current version. And although it’ll tell me when the sales director is available, the space on the screen means it won’t tell me where she’ll be at the time: so if I’m in Stockholm and make an appointment for 4.00pm on Tuesday based on the premise that she finishes her previous meeting at 2.30pm, that doesn’t help if she’s in Paris at the time and so can’t get to the meeting regardless. But it’s a start, no doubt it’ll be refined and it’s potentially an amazing way to save some time.

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