How America’s Franchise Industry Can Get a Boost from Cloud and Mobile Technology

From McDonald’s to Great Clips, America is home to some of the world’s most successful franchises – and business is booming. In the past five years, franchises have added nearly one million new jobs and that growth is expected to continue as the franchise sector outpaces the rest of the economy.

There’s a good reason for this explosive growth. With a ready-made business model and support from the franchisor (the brand who sells franchise opportunities), franchising continues to attract aspiring entrepreneurs looking to own a business without the risk of building it from scratch.

But the franchise model also presents unique challenges. For many franchisees (the person who purchases and runs a franchise), buying into a franchise is their first foray into business. As such, the attention of the brand is an essential element of their future success. But it’s a delicate balance. As the franchise network grows, franchisors can’t be involved in every detail of each branch and must be comfortable giving up an element of control.

Consistency is Key

If a brand is to step back from the frontlines, it must be confident that there’s consistency down the chain. This means enforcing uniform processes in how franchisees handle tasks such as costing, invoicing, and ordering supplies. Going rogue in any of these areas is not an option and risks impacting the customer experience, quality of service, costs, and the overall brand.

Yet, through no fault of their own, franchisees, many of whom are new to business ownership, struggle with conformity to process. Part of the problem is that several of the tasks involved in running a franchise are grounded in manual, paper-driven processes. Consider this example: it’s the responsibility of the franchisor to ensure consistent pricing across its branches. Any price modifications are added to a price book that is printed and shipped to each franchise. The franchisee then reviews and incorporates these changes across its pricing estimation tools, rate sheets, invoices, inventory, etc. in a timely manner. It’s a cumbersome and time-consuming process that creates the potential for pricing inconsistencies and errors from branch-to-branch.

The Times are A-Changing

Given the decentralized nature of the franchise business model and long-established manual, paper-centric workflows, it’s a struggle for brands to enforce consistency across their operations, but times are a-changing. Technological advances, such as cloud computing and time-saving mobile apps are ushering in a new way of doing things.

Among the many benefits of the cloud is its cost-effectiveness and ability to bring uniformity to disparate systems and solutions. This makes it an ideal solution for the hub and spoke franchise model.

For example, cloud-based mobile platforms make it possible for franchise businesses to seamlessly convert their most commonly used information capture practices and paper forms to mobile and PC-friendly apps, creating a standardized process for collecting and sharing important information across the franchise network.

Consider the price book example. Instead of a manual, disjointed, and paper-intensive process, franchisors can update their pricing in a mobile or PC app then push updates out automatically via the cloud to their franchisees’ devices, in real-time. This eliminates any room for error, delay, or grunt work. Taken one step further, powerful integrations give franchisees the ability to import the information directly into CRM and “Configure Price Quote” tools like Salesforce or other third-party systems. And, because such solutions are cloud- and mobile-based, they are easy to roll out across the business without integration headaches or the huge costs associated with bespoke solutions.

Furthermore, with the reassurance that they can easily digitize one piece of the workflow and see concrete results, franchisors are more likely to see the value in extending these tools to other facets of the business.

Breaking Down Barriers to Information Insights

The benefits of using digital apps for data capture go well beyond ensuring consistent processes on the rockface of the franchise system. Using the power of the cloud allows these tools to drive deeper collaboration and information sharing across the entire business.

Normally, valuable data gathered by individual franchises in the network stays there. Rarely is it accessible to the brand to be used to inform strategic and operational decisions. But when the process of data collection and sharing is digitized and automated in the cloud, doors open and information barriers start collapsing. Brands can easily import data collected by each franchise in its network into any business analytics tool and enjoy greater, real-time visibility across their operations –without being seen as constantly interfering.

Get a Bump from Tech Adoption

No franchisor can be omnipresent, and no franchisee is an island, but by adopting cost-effective cloud and mobile solutions, the franchise businesses can break through the barriers that hinder conformity, automate workflows, see all their data in one place, and help make their operational frameworks more seamless and productive. With such systems in place, franchisors can make big strides to growing their brand while fulfilling their number one goal, that of ensuring their franchisees operate as efficiently and successfully as possible.

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