n today's marketplace, technology is becoming more essential for companies to stay ahead of the competition and the use of technology has been pivotal in spurring on companies' earnings.

This is according to Jan Minnie, marketing manager of Computer Corporation, an IT franchise with a total of 25 franchise outlets around the country.

Minnie says technology is constantly evolving and, with consumers and businesses worried about the rebounding economy, inhouse technology departments are frequently running on skeleton staff – or none at all.

"But there is still a need to buy the right equipment, upgrade and maintain networks and overall equipment, including web-sites," he says. "And, right now, technology franchises are meeting the demands for outsourced IT staff, performing functions such as computer and software maintenance and repair, consulting, graphic design, Internet marketing/Web hosting and Web site promotion."

He adds that, with the upcoming World Cup of Soccer, there is going to be a shortfall of more than 100 000 IT personnel.

"We are facing a large skills crisis, and this will worsen as we head closer to the World Cup Soccer. Companies are going to battle to cope to provide the right computer skills – the economy, as a whole, is going to battle to provide the right, and enough, skills."

Commenting on the advantages of a technology franchise company, Minnie says that with inventory upkeep and real estate costs increasing consistently, the idea of buying into a franchise with a lower start-up fee and lower overheads is starting to "appeal to many".

Regular businesses are also looking to cut back on operating costs and are therefore turning to outsourced solutions -and this is a growing market for technology-focused franchise operations.

"Franchising is about setting up a coherent structure that allows the franchise outlets to take advantage of a myriad of advantages, such as bulk, or discount, buying – meaning they can offer the public products at a far lower cost while still maintaining their profit margins.

"It is about putting together a reliable business plan, or format, with the right branding, and, at the end, products – and solutions – are provided cheaper.

"In addition, outsourcing of services can even be considered, as opposed to the box-dropping mentality of a few years ago. Consumers and companies are skeptical of box-dropping, this is why so vendors, during the dotcom bubble burst and the tough years in the IT industry fell on hard times.

"It is also about services, including outsourced services. This is where the market is moving. People want IT  solutions, not just a PC delivered to their doorstep – and this is where the combined power of a franchise company can add value. It can service clients, not just in the big cities, but in remote regions as well – and this is what is required."