When we started researching for this article, we were optimistic to find at least top 5 free visitor management systems. But to our disappointment, we found none. Digging deeper into google search, we soon realised that there were many tools presenting themselves as free visitor management systems, but instead they were a simple visitor registration apps, simply described as a form. So, why are there no free tools?
Misunderstanding Visitor Management Systems
A visitor management system is not a straightforward digitisation of a physical visitor registration book. It is certainly a better approach to managing the workplace safety, and this is where many so-called free tools seem to miss the point.
Many of these basic visitor management systems have either a web interface or a desktop application (prominently windows), where a receptionist can enter the details of the visitor manually. Visitor management is more than simple records of visitors.
The primary problem that visitor management system tries to solve is workplace safety. It needs to allow organisations to have real-time access to the location of people in the building and alert them during an emergency.
The system should also have smart functions to identify visitors, who are not allowed in the building and alert respective security personals. None of the free software talks about security or has features that ensure workplace safety.
Technical Challenges with Visitor Management Systems
Visitor management systems are not as simple as making a productivity app. Though at hindsight, it might look like a simple storage of a personal information of visitors. But when you have workplace safety at stake, it cannot be a simple system.
The system needs to present a secure platform where personal information of visitors and employees can be protected against external threats. The system needs to have a robust communication platform so that visitors and employees can be alerted during an emergency without a fail.
Further, your system needs to communicate with multiple devices and systems like tablets and printers. Printers are by far the most stubborn devices out there that are difficult to connect to from various mobile devices. First of all, there are multiple different types of printers with different driver requirements, and it is painful to get it right.
Visitor flow is another ignored variable which adds more complexity to the system. If you have a workplace with only 4 or 5 visitors per day then it might not be an issue. But when your visitor count rises to thousands and more, you need to have your system able to take the load.
Stringent laws towards Personal data privacy and security (GDPR)
After Facebook’s global fiasco regarding the misuse of personal data by third-party agencies, the government rules around storing and processing personal data have become more stringent. Have you heard of GDPR?
GDPR, which stands for General Data Protection Regulation, is the most important change in data privacy regulation in the EU since 1995. The new regulation primarily affects all the businesses across the globe which provide goods and services in the EU, irrespective of where the data are being stored and processed. The penalties for non-compliance are up to €10 million, or 2% annual global turnover – whichever is higher.
Hence, it is a challenge for anyone to simply float a free app in the market, considering the hefty penalty that exists. It is also an area of concern for an organisation to simply use any free tool which isn’t compliant with GDPR. No one wants to risk the penalty.
Stakeholders of Visitor Management System
When workplace safety is a concern, the decision cannot be simply made by a single person. It concerns many departments from facility manager and security personnel to CIOs and CEOs.
No one at their right mind is going to select a free tool or a simple system for their organisation without validating and benchmarking them against all the other solutions available. It is impossible for any free tools to meet all the security criteria and convince the stakeholders.
The gap between developers and industry insights
The visitor management system lies in a complex ecosystem of enterprise software market. It is impossible for developers to understand all the requirements and challenges of the visitor management system without having the first-hand experience.
Unlike other applications like email marketing software, productivity applications and collaboration tools, it is difficult to try out the visitor management system. You need to set up a physical work environment to understand various scenarios, which is difficult.
More importantly, there is a huge barrier for developers to simply start building a basic free tool. The maximum you can get is a simple web registration app, which is what most tools out there seems to be.