As any franchise owner or multi-unit store operator will testify, there comes a time when internal communications need to be tackled; how to best keep staff informed and properly trained. Over my +15 years in franchise/retail, I’ve seen client after client facing this dilemma: Having focused on growth and adding new locations, a new reality creeps up; becoming better organized, establishing internal communication channels and clear workflow - all pivotal to keeping your concept in check.
One critical component is getting an Intranet that enables communications, training and compliance. This is a time to carefully consider your options. Do you:
- Get a platform built specifically for the franchise/retail industry?
- Turn to a web agency and build one from scratch?
- Build your own?
Building your own Intranet takes time – do your homework
An effective franchise intranet is the cornerstone to the communication of any successful company. However implementing one that is successful can be confusing. In many cases, organizations give themselves just three months to deliver a new site, but this is too short. Even assuming platforms such as Wordpress or Joomla, there is only enough time to put in place standard ‘boilerplate’ content. A small project to create a new intranet will more likely take six months. This includes spending time at the outset of the project understanding staff and business needs. As a bare minimum, your Intranet should be able to do this:
- Information publishing: using the intranet to deliver news and other information in the form of directories and web documents.
- E-mail: implementing an e-mail system that integrates seamlessly with the intranet, allowing information to be both 'pushed' and 'pulled'.
- Document management: using the intranet to allow users to view, print and work collaboratively on office documents (word-processed documents, spread sheets, presentations, etc.).
- Training: using the intranet to deliver training at the desktop.
- Workflow: using the intranet to automate administrative processes.
- Databases and other bespoke systems: using the intranet as a front-end to organisation-specific systems, such as corporate databases.
- Discussion: using the intranet as a means for users to discuss and debate issues.
If you already have an Intranet, you may need to consider legacy issues and the volume of content on the current site. Core intranet redesigns addressing usability issues commonly take upwards of a year, while major redevelopments can be longer.
So what is the true cost of building an Intranet?
Assuming you are building your Intranet from scratch, you are looking at an average production time of four months before going live. It is not uncommon that your assigned development expert will have billed between $40-65K for your skeleton site. At the same time, your operations manager will have worked late nights to convert (or write from scratch) your digital operations manual, well intended to keep your employees informed. Using up a month’s time of work, it is not foreign that the development of your operations manual has cost your organization $10-15k. If you worked with consultants, that number will be even higher. And let’s not forget the other costs associated with launching a new Intranet, including network connection, server space, applications, and cost of new PC. Once published, your new Intranet will require tweaking, updating and day-to-day management to operate in the fashion that you intended. Site goes live and all seems well. Now comes the true test; is your Intranet delivering what it intended? Is it helping your staff on a day-to-day basis, or is it adding additional time/effort/energy…? And here’s what many tend to forget: If your Intranet is not intelligently designed, it will actually take time from your organization, rather than giving back to it. There is a cost to not finding information. Although it's impossible to measure the exact cost of employees not finding information on a company's intranet, here’s one way to understand the true costs of your home-built Intranet:
Example: Franchise X runs a multi-unit operation with 50 employees. Your statistics tells you that employees visit on average 5 pages per day on your Intranet, each page visit clocking a whopping 60 seconds. Let’s call these seconds, “confusion seconds”, or seconds trying to find the solution to a problem. Annual wages in Franchise X are $35,000, with the annual cost of a poorly designed Intranet at $36,458.33.
Here’s how we get to this number: We calculate the total number of seconds per year a company's employees waste looking for information on a poorly designed intranet; then calculate a company's per-second cost of employing an average employee*; and then multiply the two numbers. This is a rough indicator, but sheds some light on the cost of not finding relevant information. * The cost analyzer asks for the average employee's salary, but then doubles that amount to reflect the fully-loaded cost of an employee. (social costs, tax etc).
Choosing an out of the box Franchise Intranet
If you are considering an Intranet for your chain, a Franchise Intranet by Chainformation may be the way to go. It will help you launch quicker, with industry-specific apps and tools already in place. Providing your organization with a high powered Franchise Intranet, which is ready to be used out of the box and can be implemented in just 2-4 weeks. Built specifically for the workflow in a chain, the Intranet comes loaded with
- Faster, role-based communication
- Brand and Identity Guidelines
- Marketing Design Templates and Execution tools
You can also add on items such as
- Daily Sales Reporting via cell phone
- E-learning tools
- Recipe handling (for restaurants)
- Preferred vendor & Contract information
The out of the box franchise intranet equips the staff with a tool that makes daily operations easier and more transparent, while at the same time providing head office with a tool that helps secure brand compliance, improve communication flow and deplete operational deficiencies: By applying a role-based communications model, the Franchise Intranet ensures that employees are never over-informed. For instance, the section on hiring and firing will only be seen by those who work in HR related positions. At the same note, a person working directly in the store will see work instructions related to opening and closing. Interlinking documents also plays a critical part to improve usability and efficiency. For instance, a user viewing a work instruction on “store pricing”, will also see internal links to related work instructions, such as “pricing equipment” and “price sheets”. This will have a significant positive impact on time spent on the Intranet, and ultimately drive down ineffective use online. Over the past twelve years, Chainformation has provided retail software and franchise software for some of Scandinavia’s largest franchise- and retail-chains, including industry leaders such as IC Company, Colorama and IKEA. Our intranets now sit at the hearts of numerous global franchise and retail-organizations, providing true value and cost savings. For example, by putting their operations manuals in the cloud and using Franchise Intranet by Chainformation, ICEBAR by ICEHOTEL were able to reduce the administrative work by almost 80%, while providing access to work flow in real time and a much better user experience.
Building your own Intranet will give you total control of your environment but the investment required can be significant. If you are using existing platforms, setting up a site in Wordpress may be easy – but in reality is only a fraction of the effort required. An Intranet will only ever be as good as the homework you put behind. Conduct proper workflow analysis, map your processes and write an operations manual that is easy to understand and works well in a digital medium. If you’re operating a business that wants focus on core business and growth, implementing a Franchise Intranet by Chainformation, will help you launch an intranet to your business in as little as 2-4 weeks.