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Scanlily as an Alternative to Cheqroom





Scanlily and Cheqroom represent two fundamentally different approaches to an equipment management system. Although Scanlily is dramatically less expensive, it contains all of Cheqroom's core features and involves a more efficient process.  This article is a detailed comparison of the two systems.


What is an Equipment Management System?


Equipment management systems are a subset of asset management systems. They focus on keeping track of equipment status and location.   These systems incorporate features such as detailed equipment status flagging, a comprehensive booking system, maintenance scheduling, reporting and notifications.


What is Cheqroom?


Cheqroom is arguably the market leader in equipment management.  It has been adopted by seemingly countless mid and large-sized corporations. 


Launched in 2013, Cheqroom follows the classic design of an early-2000s Software as a Service (SaaS) system.  Most of its capabilities are web-based and it assumes users will primarily interact with it using a PC Web browser.  There is also a mobile app, which has fewer features.  Cheqroom differentiates itself from other big-name asset management system competitors such as Asset Panda, Fixx and Asset Tiger by focusing on the booking aspects of equipment management.  Its reservation and checkout capabilities are central to the design and easily accessible, rather than peripheral to the design as with other systems.


Probably because it was launched before QR codes became commonplace on mobile devices, the scanning functionality is an auxiliary feature, somewhat buried in the user interface.  


What is Scanlily?


Scanlily was also designed primarily to simplify equipment checkout and reservation - competing squarely with Cheqroom.


Launched in 2023, Scanlily benefited from newer technologies than Cheqroom, allowing it to be fully multiplatform. For the sake of mobility, its mobile interface is expected to be used more than the PC web browser and is just as capable.  It is also centrally designed around QR codes, with a prominent QR icon at the top of every screen.  


QRs not only assist equipment tracking but also simplify bookings.  QRs can be scanned when adding items, reserving, picking up and returning. This speeds up the booking process and facilitates asset management in the field. 


Adding Items 


Adding an item to Cheqroom typically involves first typing information via the web or mobile interface.  Following this, a QR Asset Label can optionally be attached. Information can alternatively be loaded into the system via a spreadsheet.


Scanlily is more QR-centric.  When you want to add an item to Scanlily, you typically start by placing a Scanlily QR on the item and then scan it.  Then you enter a name for the item, take a photo and attach it and enter any number of customizable fields regarding the item.  If the item has a UPC or EAN code on it, you can shortcut some of this work by scanning it and thereby obtaining the item's image, attributes and price selected from vendors. This works for many consumer products because the data source has over 500 million records.Customers who already have their inventory in spreadsheets, can take a different approach.  They can upload the information into Scanlily upfront.  This might include identifying information such as the item's name or serial number.  Then they can physically find the item (perhaps by scanning the serial number), pull it up in Scanlily, attach a Scanlily QR and then scan that QR to associate it with the item.


Bookings - Central to both Scanlily and Cheqroom


Scanlily and Cheqroom are both more advanced than other asset management systems in how they handle equipment checkout and reservation.   They are bookings-focused and cover details such as enabling a custom booking agreement and signature from borrowers. 


Booking Modes


Cheqroom's and Scanlily's approach for Checkouts and Reservations are different:

Checkouts

In Cheqroom, when a user checks out an item, it isn't quite like a library book checkout.  Rather, the user checks out the item for immediate possession and then specifies a return date, like a reservation.  In Scanlily, a checkout is just as one would expect based on the term “Checkout” as used in a library: the user checks the item out for immediate possession and there is a system-determined due date for the item.


Reservations

Cheqroom has one mode of reservation, whereas Scanlily has two.


Reservations with Pickups Both systems include a reservation mode that includes several steps: you reserve online, you subsequently pick up the item, then you return the item and the reservation ends.  Notifications remind the user (and administrator) along the way to help prevent late pickups or returns.

Simple Reservations Scanlily further has a simpler reservation mode, which follows more like a hotel reservation: the user reserves the item over a period of time on a calendar, but there isn't a system-registered pickup or return. 


In both systems, bookings also include an optional capability for a user to take custody of an item. In other words, the user takes physical possession of the item for an indefinite period.


In Cheqroom, checkouts and reservations can occur concurrently.   Scanlily's three distinct booking modes that do not occur concurrently: Checkouts, Reservations and Reservations with Pickups.  The purpose is to avoid confusion (as seen in Cheqroom) and simplify training. Subscribers that want to allow checkout along with a reservation mode, can use the custody feature for that purpose. 


Booking Creation Process


Cheqroom and Scanlily take different approaches to creating bookings.  I'll use reservations that involve pickups to illustrate the difference:


Cheqroom requires first creating a booking:


To create a reservation, you typically click on "Reservation" and then add an item or items to that reservation. If the item is not reservable, you receive an error message. You then pick the date range for the reservation and finalize it.  Checkouts involve a similar approach.


Scanlily approach involves booking directly from the item or container:


To create a reservation, you find the item or container of items you want to reserve, click on "Reserve", and select the date range.  There is no need to first create an entity called a "Reservation".  Checkouts involve a similar approach.


The reason for Scanlily's approach are the following:

  • There are fewer steps (and clicks) involved than with Cheqroom.  

  • QRs  can be scanned for each step of the process.  You can scan your item (or container) upon reservation, pickup, return and ending a reservation.  

  • Only allowable actions are shown. You can display to the user only items available for reservation.  They don't need to discover by clicking and then receiving an error message as with Cheqroom.


Notifications and Alerts


Notifications are emailed or messaged to users regarding actions taken or needed in the booking process.  For example, users may receive an email when an item is coming due for return.  Or users and administrators can be alerted when an item is overdue.  Based on the organization’s needs, both Scanlily and Cheqroom allow customizing the specific messages to the users as well as which messages appear.  Scanlily can furthermore customize and send notifications to teams (which involve multiple users working together).


Scanlily and Cheqroom feature alert setting for when various conditions are met.  For example, both can send alerts when equipment is flagged (for example as broken, requiring maintenance, lost etc).  Similarly, they can both be set to send notifications when equipment is checked out, reserved, or overdue.  Cheqroom has a Spotcheck feature, not yet available in Scanlily, for checking on a list of items in a kit and sending notifications if all items in a spotcheck are available.  Scanlily has the further feature of being able to set non-booking related alerts such as quantity alert - for example when an inventory item falls below a certain level. 


Customization


Field customization


Both Cheqroom and Scanlily allow detailed customization of item fields.  Users can define any number of custom fields types (numeric, character, date, list etc).  In addition to customizable fields, both systems have standard fields. Cheqroom has a few standard fields whereas Scanlily has dozens to pick from. 


Scanlily uniquely includes the concept of Item Types.  An Item Type is a set collection of fields that can be assigned to any number of items.  This saves the hassle of individually setting up a separate field list for each item. This also systemizes reporting.  Cheqroom doesn’t have this concept and work must be taken to define fields per item, increasing time spent on each item and increasing the complexity of reporting. 


User Access Control


Both systems have roughly equivalent user levels (superuser, administrator, scheduler etc) .  They also both allow fine-tuned user access control - which Cheqroom calls "Equipment Access" and Scanlily labels "User Groups".  In both cases, users can be organized into groups and granted read, write, book, custody and other permissions for items.  


In Cheqroom, user access permissions are granted at the item level, requiring customized access per item.  In Scanlily, the permissions are granted at the Category level, allowing quicker and standardized access control by creation of item categories with differing rights for different groups of users.  


Cheqroom does not have the ability to restrict read access to items by user group.  This creates confusion in the booking process by allowing users to see items for which they don’t have booking rights.   Scanlily allows restricting read access, so that unbookable items can be hidden from users who don’t need to see them.  Scanlily further contains a special type of user group, called a Shared Access Team, in which team members share not only access rights but jointly receive notifications for items.


Containers/Kits


What Cheqroom calls a "Kit" is more broadly called a "Container" in Scanlily.  A Kit or Container is a collection of equipment that can be booked together.  It could be a physical entity like a camera bag which contains other items, or it could be a virtual container of items.  In Scanlily, containers can be inside other containers; whereas in Cheqroom there is only one level of Kit.  



Equipment List


A novel asset management feature of both Cheqroom and Scanlily is the ability to have a portable Equipment List.  By portable, I mean that this dynamic list of items can be displayed outside of the equipment management system on the subscriber’s own website.  This allows the subscriber’s users to view information about the items without logging into the asset management system.  Useful information could be status (is the item available for booking?, is it broken?), or it could include information like a user manual - amongst other possibilities.  Cheqroom achieves this by a list that can be included in a website frame.  Scanlily provides it via a Wordpress plugin which includes links to quick booking of items.



We'll close with a summary of Cheqroom and Scanlily disadvantages and advantages:


Cheqroom Disadvantages


  • Usability challenges

    • More clicks and steps are required than Scanlily to perform the same actions

    • Use depends on a PC web browser because the mobile app lacks many functionalities

    • Not a scanning-based system.  QR codes are not central to the design.

    • Cluttered user interface

    • Confusing booking modes

    • Unallowable actionsCheqroom allows you to try actions that are not allowable as opposed to only showing allowable actions. For example if an item is checked out, the reservation option still appears (rather than hidden or grayed out) and the user receives an error message to learn it is not available. 

  • Features

    • No concept of item types. This adds time when creating items and causes inconsistency of reports with different fields per item.

    • No spreadsheet view of items as in Scanlily

    • No concept of Teams, which can jointly be assigned bookings and jointly receive notifications

    • Locations are not assigned to specific addresses

    • No concept of containers inside containers

  • High learning curve

  • Expensive


Cheqroom Advantages


  • More reports

    • More Features

    • A mode for day-based bookings and time intervals (vs time increments)

    • Min/max booking durations

    • The Spotchecks feature

    • PDF templates

    • Recommended images for items

    • Hierarchy of categories

  • More NotificationsContains a few notifications not yet in Scanlily.  This includes when a user gets blocked/unblocked, when a document was generated for a checkout, when equipment is retired, when a comment is added to an item, and notifications related to the Spotcheck feature.

  • Integrations with other systems:

    • SSO integrations (currently in progress for Scanlily)

    • APIs for webhooks, Zapier and Cheqroom’s own API

    • Slack integration


Scanlily Disadvantages


Scanlily, released in late 2023 has not had time to accumulate as many features as Cheqroom, developed in 2013.  


  • Fewer reports (but users can export and create custom reports)

  • Features

    • No spotcheck feature

    • No PDF templates

    • Fewer dashboard features

  • Notifications

    • Notifications are currently sent via email and push notifications but not text messages.

  • Integrations

    • SSO integrations are not yet available

    • Integrations with 3rd party apps do not yet appear



Scanlily Advantages


Truly Multiplatform


Scanlily supports portability with a mobile interface that is as functional as its web interface, including administrative functions. However, it also includes specialized web interfaces when a wider screen is warranted, such as for reporting and the Spreadsheet feature.


QR Centric


QR codes are not an afterthought but central to the app, with a QR button at the upper right of every page for entering and searching items.  With Scanlily, the process is centered around the Scanlily QR sticker/label. The process requires fewer steps than with Cheqroom and thereby speeds item entry and lookup.  The QR centric approach also quickens the booking process - especially when checking out, picking up or returning items.


QRs are URLs


Because the Scanlily QRs are URLs rather than just alphanumeric IDs, they can be scanned by someone with a mobile phone that does not have the app installed.  This pulls up a web page with the information.  Therefore, anyone - even untrained on Scanlily - can simply scan a QR on equipment and get instructions about the equipment, see any information about it, see its availability and booking status and even book it.


Concept of Attachments


Scanlily has many built-in fields as well as customizable fields.  But a truly unique aspect to it is the ongoing stream of attachments that users can add to an item.  You can attach a note, a reminder (email or notification for the future), documents, images, websites, and audio recordings.  When used as a multiuser system, each attachment is timestamped and marked with the name of the person who made the attachment.  For example, when you purchase the item and add it to the system, you can attach a user manual as well as the warranty information and an image of the purchase receipt.  


Simpler Booking Modes


Cheqroom's booking process is convoluted due to presenting booking modes altogether.   In order to simultaneously allow checkouts and reservations, illegal actions are presented (like presenting the possibility to reserve a checked out item).  These must be dealt with using error messages. Further, Cheqroom's Checkouts aren't really checkouts like in a library - users not only check out items but indicate a return date.  In contrast, Scanlily has three distinct booking modes that can be selected and changed for the system: Checkouts, Reservations, and Reservations with Bookings.  There is a “custody” feature for the case of needing to be able to handle Reservations and Checkouts simultaneously.  Because it is much easier to understand for new users, Scanlily would be more likely used and with a quicker learning curve.


UPC/EAN Feature


Adding items that have a UPC or EAN barcode is very quick in Scanlily: you simply scan the barcode and import the information, including cost from a selection of vendors.  This saves upfront typing.  The information can then be edited.


Spreadsheet view


There is a web spreadsheet of all assets in which data can be manipulated like in a spreadsheet.  It allows bulk updates to multiple cells at once and ability to export.  It also allows printing of custom QR labels.


Alerts


Scanlily has the ability to create alerts for properties outside of bookings. This includes, for example, quantity alerts for when inventory falls below a certain level.


Wordpress plugin


Scanlily allows users to display their Scanlily-hosted inventory on their own website via a Wordpress plugin. If they don't have Wordpress, they can reference a URL that Scanlily hosts for them.  This allows them to display to their users selected equipment and its availability for booking (without requiring users to first login to Scanlily).


Item Types


The concept of Item Types, described above, standardizes item entry and reporting


Easier to use


Because Scanlily is QR-centric, the workflow is simpler and with fewer steps.  The public QR scanning capability for viewing items without the app makes it more approachable and simpler.  And throughout the application, it is designed for simplicity.  Only allowable actions are shown.


Price


Scanlily's price is generally around 1/10 the price of Cheqroom, depending on the number of assets.


Summary - Scanlily as an Alternative to Cheqroom


In summary, Scanlily is an alternative to Cheqroom that is built from the ground up to accomplish the same objectives.  However, due to being QR and mobile-centric, it achieves benefits for portability, usability and simplicity.  I hope that organizations, even the largest amongst them, will recognize the shortcomings of old-school SaaS and consider our technology for more effectively achieving their goals in equipment management.

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