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I have lot of clients over the world, internal and external clients. Your post is interesting but I did not understand well, because you are talking about meetings too. What do you are searching for? Just to comment, I am participating on debates that can give me the possibility to learn from people comments and I think this post can help me on that.
There are specialiced tools to help with that optimization problem. Like calendly or meetio. Or some collaboration tools include such functions.
In the age of upcoming AI and startups, there should be a digitalized solution for that mathematically challenging problem. Never expect 100%, but if you reduce from 25% to 5% this would be a success.
Good luck and please share if you found a solution.
Tools like those Thomas mentioned are useful, I agree.
Additional ideas could include... in no particular order of emphasis:
Can your team flex members' availability further (e.g. early mornings or into evenings... from home.. in their respective time zones)? [perhaps they do that already but you didn't say]
Could the number of mandatory participants (on your team or the clients' teams) be reduced somewhat, to improved the probabilities of finding matches? Some organizations are more effective at operating with "lean" or "representative" meetings, while others require (or believe) that everyone with any point of contact with a project should be invited.
Could "hold the slot" agreements be crafted so that each next meeting isn't a totally random slot search? e.g. Client X agrees to target Monday afternoons their time for when meetings are needed; Client Y targets Tuesday mornings their time, etc.
Tools are useful but getting commitment from key stakeholders is more important. Trying to schedule meetings when every stakeholder can attend is close to impossible. Concentrate in just the must attend stakeholders to decide when meetings will occur. Others should work around their availability and/or participate by other means such as Web Conferencing.
This has been a problem for as long as I have worked at my very large multi-national employer and we have never found a good solution.
Specialized tools work better when all the people are involved are internal to your company, as you have much more control over what software people can use. I personally can not install any non-authorized software on my work devices, so some of your clients may be in the same situation. Even with people in my own company, often they have many meetings on their Outlook calendar that they only attend periodically so it's hard to tell when they are actually free.
Meetings which occur at a regular frequency (hold the slot as Scott called it) are easier to coordinate. As-needed meetings are much harder.
As a PM who often does not have an assigned administrator myself, I agree that scheduling meetings is very time consuming. If you find a better way to streamline the process, I'm sure many here would be thrilled to hear it.
Until your organization can quantify how much concurrent work it can take on and institute some discipline around the intake and commitment process, a tool will only highlight the magnitude of the problem.
There is a fairly new feature on Microsoft Outlook called "Find Time" where you send a "Meeting Poll" with different suggested timing and days then people chose the most suitable 1 or 2 timings for them and get back to you and you will be able to see at the end which is the best time / day where most are available for a meeting.
Our meetings involves lots of stakeholders so this feature made my life easier.
Hope this helps.
I agree with Rami.
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