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Five-Step Process to Selecting Smart Building Technologies

By David Sciarrino Source IoT

I’ve talked about the need for technology providers to align their products and services with their customers’ buying criteria. You can read about that and check out other resources here. Better messaging helps to start conversations, but building owners and operators still need guidance on how to leverage technology to achieve business goals. Attempting to choose the right provider can be a very daunting task.

This subset of digital transformation can be very confusing to those who don’t spend every day in it. Decisions about investing in Smart Building or IoT technologies usually end up being deferred because there are not many resources available to help guide the decision-making process. As a result, I spend a lot of time working with organizations to help them navigate that journey. Let’s take a look at the process we go through.

 Step 1- The Business Discussion

Any decision to invest should be made on the basis of seeing a return. Investing in Smart Building Technology is no different, and it must start with clear goals and desired outcomes tied to measurable KPIs.  This initial discussion should involve key decision makers and influencers from the C-suite down to the facilities team. Taking a step back from technology and identifying the business goals is where the process begins. These could be things as simple as profitability, or year-over-year growth.  They can also be more complex goals related to compliance, or ESG.  After going completing this step, the drivers for the business are identified and it becomes much easier to create a budget based on ROI to achieve the desired business outcomes.

 Step 2 – Goal Mapping

A diverse group of stakeholders will have individual goals that look very different, but it’s critical to map out how goals at one level of the organization impact goals at others. C-suite goals are largely financial, while further down they become more transactional or operational in nature.  Mapping out supporting goals is critical for two reasons. One, it helps to prioritize goals that are key to achieving business objectives, and two it creates an understanding and consensus between groups like facilities, finance, HR, and IT so they all understand how each group contributes to the overall success of the business. If you can’t tie an underlying goal to a business objective, toss it out.

 Step 3 – Technology Mapping

There are thousands of technology solutions that may appear at the surface to drive the right KPIs to help meet business goals, but there are several very important things to consider moving forward with any of them. 

First, is understanding the difference between proven functionality and marketing noise.  I have seen excellent products with poor marketing fail, and poorly developed products with excellent marketing grow rapidly. The right product or solution is one that is compatible with your current assets and business processes and can move the needle when it comes to your KPIs. If there is not a clear understanding of how that product or service directly impacts your KPIs, results will likely not materialize. There is a huge difference between creating “actionable insights” and “taking action”.  Ask the right questions to determine how deeply that solution will drive your KPIs without relying on human intervention to close the loop.

The second is to determine scalability and scope. Many technology providers will attempt to take on more than is practical when addressing customer needs. This typically results in a much larger project that grows in complexity and time with lower chances of success. Focusing on the most critical business outcomes first provides a quicker path to success and creates opportunities to reinvest later. Ensuring that a solution can be phased in without starting the process over is critical to long term success and partnership.

 Step 4 – Data Accessibility

In the future, the chances are good that more than one technology provider will be introduced and it is important to align yourself with providers who are willing to make your data available to others as you bring on new partners. An “API first” partner is one who provides access to your building data to other solution providers you choose to work with.  API stands for Application Programming Interface which defines a standard way for two pieces of software to exchange information. However, not all APIs are created equal. Some are designed to make it easy to exchange data in both directions and others are designed to make it only easy to gather data but not share it with others. Understand what kind you’re dealing with early on in the vetting process.

Another option is to collect and manage your data independently from your providers into what we call an Independent Data Layer.  That data layer resides with the building rather than with any one service provider so regardless of whom you choose in the future, your data is at your fingertips.

 Step 5 – Baseline and Monitoring

Prior to implementation, agreeing on a baseline measurement is a critical step that becomes an afterthought in many instances. To understand where you’ve gone, you need to understand where you started.     

Once you’ve chosen the technology solutions and partners that will drive your KPIs, it’s time to manage the process. 

Many of these KPIs are yours to monitor and manage. Solution providers should be monitoring their own KPIs that directly impact yours. An example can be managing indoor environmental quality. You should have KPI data that shows improvement in IEQ, but the business outcome may be financial and tied to lowering the number of sick days, increasing employee productivity, or improving employee satisfaction. If a financial benefit is expected by improving those KPIs, all three of them should be measured and tracked. Some of the best solution providers will help to ensure you do that because it ultimately determines their success as well.

Digital transformation can be a financial driver for any business open to taking the leap. I hope this overview provides some valuable perspective in starting down that path. If this is a journey your organization needs help navigating, or if you’re a solution provider trying to reach the right buyers, reach out for a consultation to see how Source IoT can help.

Click HERE to check out other resources and sustainability solutions I am working with.

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