There are now more multi-location businesses than ever. The most tangible example of these are in retail, an industry which actually added almost 4,000 net new locations in 2018 in the face of the supposed “retail apocalypse.” However, the margin for error is thin: Businesses operating multiple locations must employ operational best practices and the latest technologies to ensure ongoing success.
Multi-location businesses face unique challenges when it comes to budgeting and managing TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). Organized, standardized operational procedures must be in place across all locations in order to keep spending under control – and even so, visibility into the upkeep of these procedures is difficult. The more locations, the greater the challenge, and the more likely that cost overruns and operational mishaps increase at frightening speed and scale.
With the right technology tools in place, however, the key difficulties that multi-location businesses face (such as alignment, standardization, and spend) can be solved with little to no human interference:
Automation allows store managers to let machines do more of the operational heavy lifting. The use of analytics enables businesses to do more with their data, producing critical insights into operational costs.
And a new class of smart building technologies such as IoT and artificial intelligence each contributes to a streamlined, highly-efficient facilities strategy. These are only a handful of examples of the new and growing tech available to businesses and corporations across industries.
In this post, we’ll explore three emerging technologies that provide immense cost-cutting value to multi-location businesses. Looking for a new way to mitigate shadow spend and increase your bottom line? Read on for an overview of each technology and how they might benefit your business.
1. Facilities Management Software
One of the most significant cost centers for multi-location businesses is something that corporate executives frequently overlook and under-prioritize: The maintenance and upkeep of their physical spaces, which falls under the domain of facilities management.
Retail stores in the United States spend upwards of $100 billion per year on maintenance and repair, 20% of which is either spent inefficiently or lost altogether. Businesses must take a proactive, as opposed to reactive, stance when it comes to asset management and facility upkeep in order to keep these costs in check. If not, they risk a loss of brand uptime and poor customer impressions due to the interruption in service – and with it, a significant dip in revenue.
A centralized digital resource such as a Service Automation platform allows store managers, facilities executives, and operations officers to streamline the work order process, hire high-quality contractors, and plan for preventative maintenance. This helps to prevent costly asset replacement and repeat service visits as a result of poorly executed maintenance.
Beyond its cost-cutting benefits, FM software also helps multi-location businesses guarantee a degree of operational consistency. Executives can monitor the frequency and cost of necessary upkeep such as cleaning, HVAC services, elevator maintenance, and much more – and the processes involved with scheduling and paying for these services are easily automated, requiring minimal supervision.
Finally, facilities management software provides quick access to asset reporting, making it easier for businesses to budget for planned maintenance and predict approximate annual spend well in advance, making informed decisions quicker and with a greater degree of confidence in the outcome. In this way, a Service Automation platform serves as the official system of record that enhances communications among all the key stakeholders responsible for operations in a multi-location business, from procurement to supply chain management and, of course, facilities management.
2. Cloud Computing and SaaS
Running software in the cloud has lately become a hallmark of modern business IT strategy, and for good reason. According to a recent cloud computing study by IDG, 77% of US enterprises have at least one application or a portion of their business computing infrastructure running on the cloud and 15% of enterprises intend to adopt cloud apps and platforms over the next 12 months. Although it’s not yet entirely indispensable for businesses, cloud computing is rapidly becoming the norm; late adopters will face significant costs by delaying migration.
Some of the key benefits to cloud computing include anytime, anywhere access to software and flexible storage capacity. This translates into greater efficiency and cost-effective adaptation to change, especially for multi-location enterprises that require agile operations. And by procuring the value of cloud as software-as-a-service (SasS), businesses reduce their time to gaining value and stabilize spending as a fixed cost. This is why the adoption of cloud and SaaS is regarded as an integral step for any modern-day business – but especially so for businesses with complex operations.
3. Automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
When technology such as Automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are integrated with facilities management software, multi-location businesses are able to take their facilities strategies up a notch. Automation is any software that’s been programmed to follow a set of designated rules. It can be applied to almost any business function that’s been digitally integrated – everything from bookkeeping functions and invoice management to climate control, physical security, and online chatbots. An automated process saves money every time simply due to the fact that a person no longer needs to be responsible for (and paid for completing) that task.
AI and ML can contribute to automation, but they are actually separate technologies. AI integration – in which a computer is programmed to model after human intelligence – allows for advanced predictive modeling, helping businesses make data-backed decisions around spend when planning yearly budgets and providing sophisticated inventory and supply chain control. An AI-enabled platform produces standardized performance benchmarks that can be scaled across locations, even taking local economic variations into account.
One example of AI in action within a facilities management context is ServiceChannel’s Decision Engine, a tool that integrates with the Service Automation platform. This solution analyzes a wealth of historical data points and past decisions, making recommendations based on advanced prescriptive measurements. And, as with all AI-enabled technology, Decision Engine gets smarter over time: As more data is input, the output recommendations become increasingly advanced.
It’s no simple task to cut costs across a multi-location business without sacrificing consistency, customer experience, or quality. Often, larger businesses focus their budgeting priorities on sales, inventory, or marketing – and can forget to take IT and facilities spend into account on the same level. These elements, however, are the foundation upon which any business operates; if either one fails, it can be incredibly costly.
While investing in new technology requires buy-in from key stakeholders across your business, the long-term payoff is significant. In other words, decreasing TCO often requires an increase in costs for the short term. Before taking any steps towards purchasing new software, integrating automation technology, or migrating to the cloud, it’s critical to evaluate current spend patterns and yearly margins to determine whether or not the technology makes sense for your business. If it does, don’t hesitate: Digital transformation is inevitable, and those who put off the transition are likely to suffer.