When you plan your franchise business you have to select the right software that will allow you to monitor your chain and to increase the productivity throughout your business.
One of the main choices you have to make is whether you will choose software-as-a-service cloud hosted solutions or licensed locally installed software. Choosing a cloud-based solution is a no-brainer for a variety of reasons – here are the main ones:
Location is irrelevant
Software-as-a-service solutions make collaborating with your distributed team of franchisees easier: the same software with the same data is accessible from multiple locations, even from a mobile device.
A few years back using locally installed software meant setting up a complex project which would take months to reap its rewards. These days software offered via the cloud to desktops PCs across the country and mobile devices on the field is the norm and there is no reason to hesitate using it.
Choosing a cloud solution means overall adopting a very flexible payment setup. Most cloud solution vendors start off with very inexpensive packages specifically designed for franchisors which are just starting.
The aim is to decrease the upfront IT cost for new branches and that’s usually achieved by the possibility to pay in a yearly, six-monthly or even monthly subscription base. That saves on money which can be allocated to different needs.
At the same time keeping IT costs down will allow franchisors to keep the overall franchise cost and entry point low – making the investment on your franchise business by a franchisee more attractive.
Another big advantage is that cloud solutions can better ensure the safety of your data. Keeping your data safe and secure locally requires complex operations and procedures that you would need to teach to your distributed team.
For this reason, these solutions are prone to user error and expensive. Leaving this to the expert engineers of the cloud industry allows franchisees and franchisors alike to focus on the important aspects: running and monitoring your business, respectively.
Another important factor when it comes to data is to make sure that only the appropriately authorised staff has access to the relevant information.
It’s important to ensure that one franchisee does not see data related to the other (inventory moved, sales reports, etc) – especially if the franchising deal does not involve geographic exclusivity.
Also, employees within a location should also be allowed specific access only – no need for a sales person to have access to monthly inventory value reports by default. And of course general managers should have access to everything, in a real time and accurate manner.
All this should be offered as part of the franchise package supporting the franchisees – as is the brand, best practices, etc – and it is something that exists and can be obtained cost-effectively by making use of the cloud.
Online software is usually platform agnostic which means that your partners (such as franchisees but also suppliers and other collaborators) can use any computer or tablet and still access the same user interface.
This improves your brand consistency, speeds up training new partners and employees and makes it easier to support and troubleshoot by providing the same user interface for all the branches and their employees.
Cloud computing is a synonym of scalability. You can upgrade your services to add more features, add new users or branches with a few clicks. This allows you to pay for what you actually use each month without the need to forecast and budget your growth. It also means that the limits of your IT infrastructure will never be a bottleneck for your growth.
Nowadays, web or cloud applications cover every aspect of a business from your enterprise email to your POS system, inventory and order management, accounting, CRM etc.
You can either find a single cloud solution which can cover all your needs or tailor your solution using multiple tools in a more modular manner.
The advantage of the modular way is that it’s easier to change or upgrade some of the services you use without committing to a single solution. The advantage of the single system solution is that data is overall more tightly connected at the expense of long-term flexibility.
Whatever the final choice is however it is certain that the benefits of having a cloud-based approach will mean considerable benefits on all fronts for both the franchisor and the franchisee.
It also means that the franchise in question is ahead of its time in the choices it makes and will have little trouble in following further developments and continuing to stay ahead of the game.
- Dimitris Verdelis is support and testing engineer at Megaventory, a cloud-based inventory management and system