The Digital Content Problem in Depth
The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics, and Pedorthics (ABC) defines pedorthics as "the practice—pursuant to a written order/prescription when addressing a medical condition—of evaluating, treatment planning, patient-managing, measuring, designing, fabricating, assembling, fitting, adjusting, or servicing necessary to accomplish the application of a pedorthic device for the prevention or amelioration of painful and/or disabling conditions of the foot and ankle." Those who complete the necessary educational and examination requirements to become certified pedorthists are then required by ABC to meet continuing education and annual renewal requirements to maintain their credentials.
According to Saade, the FS franchise was founded on the premise that proper foot care will lead to improved overall health and wellness. "Feet are the foundation of the body," he explains, "so a lot of alignment problems start there. Because we’re living longer and working harder, we’re seeing a lot more problem feet. We’ve discovered that with small adjustments to footwear, we can improve a person’s posture and gait," thereby minimizing or eliminating many of the painful medical problems that begin with the feet. "Our specialty is custom orthotics," he adds, "but we also offer innovative shoes that we match to our customers’ specific needs."
Such personalized attention requires extensive training in foot pathology, anatomy, scanning, and proper fitting techniques, as well as ongoing access to best practices and news about changes occurring within the business and the industry. For years, FS provided much of this information to franchisees via an online collaboration system powered by IFX International, a San Diego-based ASP that specializes in the development and implementation of web applications for franchise organizations. According to FS systems analyst Nathaniel Lewis, the video functionality that IFX provided left much to be desired. "The method of uploading videos for online viewing by franchisees was crude and troublesome," he recalls. "Videos had to be sent to IFX either on CD or DVD and then converted to the right format before they were entered into the system. The whole process took a week at a minimum."
In late 2007, FS transitioned from IFX to Atlanta-headquartered Fireside Technologies, developing with Fireside an online Franchise Support System known as FSINFONET (www.fsinfonet.com). Once logged in, employees could access FAQs, corporate correspondence, and other resources "helpful to and in support of all franchise owners," Lewis says. The Fireside-hosted intranet also included an online training video component, but it too, "lacked quality and ease of use," he says.
Adds Saade, who joined FS in August 2007: "IFX had been too cumbersome to operate, and the new intranet wasn’t operating at the proper capacity to deliver the video quality we needed. Video is our best means of communication for the future, so our delivery system needs to accommodate a lot of video and be simple to operate." With those goals in mind, Saade tasked the IT department with "finding a product that could work for us."
The Digital Content Solution
In February 2008, Lewis began his hunt for a new solution with a simple web search. Given the company’s past experiences with online video, he wanted a solution that would enable video to be uploaded and viewed within an hour and that would be easy for franchisees to use. A low price point, excellent video quality, simple administrative controls, and the ability to monitor viewing also were important considerations. Lewis’ research led him to three companies, but he ultimately selected Fliqz because "its features were more user-friendly and the video quality was great."
As a "white-label" video provider, Fliqz strives to eliminate traditional barriers to online video by removing the complexity associated with site implementation and user deployment, ensuring that there’s no code to develop, no infrastructure to own, and no software to maintain. Wayne readily acknowledges that simplicity is a powerful motivator for companies seeking a video partner. "From a technology perspective, video is pretty complicated," he explains. A good deal happens behind the scenes, but all that matters to customers is that "they can upload videos of any format or length and then view them on any site with any browser."
To that end, Wayne continues, Fliqz "breaks it down so it’s simple for businesses to make video a part of their media mix." And unlike competitors such as Brightcove, he says that Fliqz "can integrate its infrastructure into a customer’s site in less than a day"—and it’s all done "within the customer’s brand and user experience." For users, he adds, "video playback feels seamless."
FS began with a 30-day trial before purchasing Fliqz’s Bronze Edition plan. For $99 a month, the company receives an elegant, unbranded media player, which appears as an embedded component of FSINFONET; video buffering; basic play, pause, fast-forward, rewind, and volume controls; and 100 uploads and 1,000 streams per month. "Within an hour of signing up for the service, we had access to the management console and all features and services provided through a Fliqz account," Lewis recalls. Once uploaded, each FS media file is encoded into a Flash Video file for playback on FSINFONET. In most cases, Fliqz can encode a video file for viewing within 1–20 minutes of its submission.
Foot Solutions’ IT staff uploaded the company’s first training title using Fliqz in March 2008, and by the end of the year, seven more had followed. Each is produced by FS’s web content development team in collaboration with outside training consultants and averages 15–55 minutes in length. Companion learning guides and program notes are available for franchisees to complete as they watch and to review afterwards. "We can even link to videos in emails we send to our franchisees," Lewis says.
So far, the new system is earning raves. "Our franchisees love the videos and are saying they want more," Saade says, "so in 2009, we’ll be uploading 10 new titles." The company is equally pleased with the technology that’s making it possible, he adds, calling the move to Fliqz "the best thing we’ve ever done. It’s a great tool that’s opened a great dialogue within our company. It’s available all the time—and it works."