Franchisee Websites – Considerations to Weigh

franchise sites considerations Franchisee Websites – Considerations to Weigh

It is extremely important to make a sound determination on who is ultimately best suited to deliver the optimal results you’re looking to achieve for franchisee websites. In most cases, the decision is whether to task your IT department or a current vendor with implementing this new solution, or utilize an existing, specialized service such as Empowerkit.

Without fully understanding the implications of this critical decision, many franchisors assume that because their IT department should be skilled in all things technology, and should be able to deliver the expected results, they should be responsible for this new initiative. After all, they know your business better than any outside supplier, and you’ve entrusted them with your IT needs, so why would you look outside of your organization?

Well here are some very important considerations to carefully evaluate before making a decision:

1. Time Investment and Risk: How long will it take to completely get up and running?
In-House*: 6-12 months
Empowerkit: 1-2 weeks

Your IT department is likely very busy and overwhelmed maintaining and developing your current technology systems, and in most cases they have a backlog of feature bugs, system improvement requests, integration dilemmas, security-related challenges, and a host of other prioritized items they need to solve as soon as time permits. Have a frank conversation with your IT managers to understand their current and projected workload over the coming months, and then evaluate what kind of effect it would have to burden them with a completely new project which their team may or may not be able to adequately execute.

Will existing priorities be further delayed, and how may that cause a negative ripple effect in your organization? Also consider that if your IT team is not specifically skilled at designing and implementing this sort of web solution for franchisee websites, there will likely be a learning curve which will make the timeline for the project highly variable, and put other prioritized tasks in limbo.

2. Financial Investment: What is the initial and ongoing investment needed?
In-House*: $150,000-$250,000 initially; $500-$750/month in ongoing support & maintenance
Empowerkit: $0-$5,000 initially; $25 per site/month for ongoing support & maintenance

Directly tied to the aforementioned learning curve dilemma, which should be assumed from most IT departments (even the most talented and progressive ones) in franchises not focused on web technology at their core, is the more important financial investment in human resources that will need to be made. Implementing a proper system for franchisee websites that meets the essential requirements listed above can take upwards to $250,000+ to thoroughly plan, design, develop, and deploy. Moreover, if your IT team is not intimately familiar with and focused on the desired objectives and results for the project, and is not highly skilled at developing web-based properties of this kind, the inherent timeline variability also causes unpredictability in the associated price tag for the project, which makes budgeting very difficult.

With Empowerkit, the only upfront costs are if you wish to have a fully integrated brand identity into your franchisee websites, which represents a very minimal cost.

fran sites happy zees Franchisee Websites – Considerations to Weigh

3. Focus of the Franchise: Should I focus on my franchise or developing a new technology?
In-House*: General focus on software & hardware systems, not specialized in web solutions
Empowerkit: Specialized, ready-to-deploy solution for franchisee websites

Let’s face it – you’re in the business of franchising and delivering outstanding value to your franchisees and customers. For the vast majority of franchisors, the IT department’s role (a very important and valuable one at that) is to develop, support, and maintain the software and hardware needs that are critical to your organization’s operations. Different from traditional IT functions including system administration, database management, system networking, and security risk management, creating and maintaining a system for your network of franchisee websites requires a very specialized set of skills. These skills involve a deep understanding of business objectives, user needs, information architecture, user experience design, brand continuity, workflow and content management, data modeling, application scalability, and myriad other specialty disciplines.

It’s important to assess if your IT department has well honed skills in these areas, and more importantly if this is something that’s actually advantageous and feasible to handle internally given your franchise’s core focus and workload. Leveraging a ready-to-deploy solution like Empowerkit that fits your exact needs can allow your IT department to remain focused on their immediate priorities, without derailing their focus with a new solution that requires a steep learning curve.

fran sites plant seeds Franchisee Websites – Considerations to Weigh

4. Opportunity Loss: What do I stand to gain if I were to do this internally?
In-House*: Stagnant online lead generation at unit-level
Empowerkit: 55% increase in traffic and 90% increase in leads for franchisees

When considering your IT department’s ability to execute such a web project successfully, consider the possibility that they will struggle due to the multitude of challenges, and ultimately deliver a sub-par or average solution. This is not to presume that your IT team is by any means incompetent or incapable to fulfilling well-defined functional requirements.

It is simply a reality that expectations from customers and franchisees alike are very high given the level of sophistication and innovation happening on the web today, and the associated benefits and value of excellent websites for franchisees focused on achieving real business objectives are steadily increasing – it’s not an easy task to deliver on these high expectations, especially when the required skill set deviates from your IT team’s core expertise and prior training.

Franchisee Websites: In-House vs. Empowerkit

fran sites comparison chart Franchisee Websites – Considerations to Weigh

How could this potential for mediocre results affect your franchise’s image, internal morale, and competitive edge? More importantly, what is the monetary opportunity loss for not optimally achieving the business objectives and/or resolving the problems that you defined from the outset? These are very important questions to assess prior to deciding whether or not to engage your IT department or use Empowerkit for your franchisee websites.

Read the next post in this series to learn about the next steps that you can take in choosing to implement or improve your local franchise websites.

Did you miss reading the first three posts in this series? Read the intro. to “Franchisee Websites: Build or Buy?”, the second post, “Assessing Your Current Situation“, and the third post, “ROI – What Ultimately Matters” .

*Note: these figures are estimates; actual numbers will depend on the number of dedicated resources assigned to the project and the skill level of your in-house team.

December 15, 2011

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