More and more small businesses are realizing the benefits of utilizing cloud services to support their companies. How do cloud-computing companies help franchisees specifically and how will utilizing the cloud help them run more effectively?
Anywhere Accessibility: Franchise owners and employees have the ability to use cloud systems anywhere. From any mobile device or any Internet source, they can have access to the company information they need. Financial, production, and e-commerce data can be accessed in real time. This is especially important for an owner or employee with multiple business sites that need to be analyzed with a comparative view. This also assists in manpower hours and the ability work on the road with more flexibility in location.
Integrated applications. Many franchises have employed several different IT solutions that operate inside of their business, but those systems do not communicate or operate with one another. This leads to costly inefficiencies and a loss in capturing critical data that could save the company man hours and time. Having a network that works within the same framework, communicates with one another and is housed in the cloud, the franchisor can achieve a uniform goal of end customer service across their entire network. This presents the other advantage of improving the overall brand name and the services provided. Along with the end customer experience, the franchisor can use the cloud to establish a system of collaborative communication among the franchises. From customer transactions, tracking points of sales and where the customer needs more interaction and how to keep them engaged within the larger franchise system are all benefits. The communication portals that exist with integrated cloud computing for franchises are numerous. When protocols or rules change the franchisor can use the cloud-based network to apply the new policies and procedures in an instant without the need for cost-prohibitive IT upgrades or other complex software solutions.
Off Site Management: Franchises with multiple locations that house hardware in only one of the franchise locations are operating on borrowed time and at great risk to the business conducted at all of their sites. With the possibility of a hardware disaster (fire, flood, power, etc.) being plausible, it can dramatically affect business in all of the franchise locations. When the main system goes offline, they all go offline. Housing the data needed to operate and run all locations in the cloud alleviates this potential disaster before it can happen. All sites can be independent of one another and are not dependent on a location-based hardware to operate. A good example to share is during Hurricane Sandy a Manhattan based financial firm knew their servers were going to be drowned by the rising floodwaters of New York Harbor. They had prepared in advance with their Connecticut based IT company who had a virtual version of their entire infrastructure queued up in the cloud and they were able to ride the storm out with uninterrupted access, despite their hardware being under water.
Scalability: One of the key benefits of using cloud computing is the flexibility of sizing or scaling to the appropriate needs of the business, which is particularly important for the start-up or the franchise just beginning. Cloud computing allows businesses to accommodate the IT needs to upscale or downscale as is needed. Most cloud service providers will allow the business to increase existing resources to accommodate increased business needs or changes. This allows business growth without expensive changes to existing IT systems. New users and locations can be added without a large upfront cost. Most cloud providers charge on a per user basis. This drastically reduces fixed expenses as the business expands. It also provides a predictable cost that can be factored into the budget. In addition, the latest updates to software systems will always be available without an additional fee or a costly migration.
Tighter security: Retail franchises are notoriously known for their high turnover rate and exposure to theft. With cloud computing, the trusted cloud experts can ensure that access to data is kept safe. Permissions (who has access to what data across the franchise) can be carefully planned and controlled. In addition, data in cloud systems are safely backed up and stored to prevent any loss of data from a natural disaster or hardware failure. Also VPN services for internet access where security and content filtering can be managed by the franchisee or central IT dept. With a more centralized management, there can be less room for error or a breach of security.
Franchisee Benefits: Any centralized cloud package that is from the “mother” organization or Franchise would automatically mean a lower cost for the Franchisee and could be part of a larger “franchise package”. If the work to design and configure the IT package has already been done by the franchisor the need for IT training or specialists would be eliminated for the franchisee. The most frequently used cloud systems for franchises are telephone solutions, accounting or other back office systems and customer relationship management (CRM). Having an integrated customer tracking system and point of sale system would offer a more seamless experience for the customer if they were to visit other franchisees. In addition customer loyalty systems or more customer-centric options could be offered.
To find the right cloud services for your franchise, begin by asking these questions:
1. What information do the franchise owners need to be able to access from anywhere? What information do the employees need access to?
2. What is the current cost to have separate IT systems for various locations?
3. What are the proposed costs for an integrated solution from a reputable cloud management company?
4. Is there a current cloud application that would be offered “out of the box” for our business by a vendor?
5. If a customization is needed what is the cost and how extensive would it be in comparison to designing an application that is specific to our business?
6. How is scaling up handled and how quickly?
7. Is the cost worth overcoming the loss?
You have the ability to make decisions that give you a competitive advantage over other franchises. Cloud computing elevates you above the crowd!