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Three Key FM/CRE Decisions for Smart Building Programs

By Darlene Bereznicki

Companies that are on the path to creating a smart building portfolio have lots of valid questions. They know there’s a better, more sophisticated, cost-effective way to manage their real estate assets, but the initial details of how to execute that vision are often murky. They want to know what questions to pose in their RFPs; how to structure their smart building program to quickly identify operational savings opportunities; and how to design a scalable program. In an effort facilitate the process, here are three key decisions that corporate and commercial facility and real estate teams face on smart building programs.

Custom vs. Configurable

The word “custom” implies tailored, unique, and expensive. While that may initially sound ideal, when it comes to software, “custom’” can be deceiving. Software customization is particularly costly because the upfront implementation takes longer and any feature updates or upgrades are completed at the user’s expense.

Configurable software, on the other hand, has standardized functionality and can scale to meet evolving business needs. Product features and upgrades occur automatically without disruption to users. Plus, there are no advanced technical skills required, eliminating avoidable expenses and lengthy waiting periods. In short, a configurable system’s framework is flexible and designed to expand in alignment with business and user needs.

Pilot vs. Phased

Companies often think a try-before-you-buy approach will help them compare vendors on a building-by-building basis and better understand what smart building solution is best suited for their needs. In reality, this approach often wastes valuable time, effort, and money for the customer and the slew of vendors. Most providers have different value propositions, which means it’s difficult to conduct an apples-to-apples evaluation. Additionally, it’s nearly impossible to prove scalable ROI on just one building or floor without a significant data set.

We’ve seen far more value when companies select a subset of representative buildings in their portfolio and set one vendor up to fully integrate, implement, analyze, and demonstrate the quickest path to value — which effectively serves as Phase 1. This allows them to experience a true representation of a portfolio-wide smart building program and make informed decisions from a fairstarting point. Best news is, if the vendor proves a worthy partner, then moving into Phase 2 is even more streamlined and cost-effective.

Today vs. Tomorrow

Because smart building programs are still relatively new in facility management, companies are often driven to pursue a solution by a focused, immediate motivation. Perhaps today it’s meeting energy rating mandates, understanding real estate utilization, or reducing hot/cold calls. But just as companies have a primary need, they also have a long-term vision for a holistic smart building program, where they can add on cloud-based control, or nuanced sensor points like indoor air quality or occupancy. This scenario drives demand for a program they can launch right away to address the challenge at hand but strategically expand to meet other objectives in the future. This is the point in time we sometimes see companies dabble in the try-everything-now mentality, in which they pilot every shiny thing until they forget why they started on the path in the first place.

In reality, each building is a snowflake — unique, with differing requirements and savings opportunities. So, to accommodate the short and long-term goals of a diverse portfolio, it’s critical to identify a partner that’s rooted in enterprise-technology. One that can evolve quickly, simply and cost-effectively — allowing program roll out with minimal disruption and maximum impact.

Ultimately, the only constant in real estate is change. A good solution demonstrates immediate operational savings and ROI; a great solution continues to do so well into the future.

Darlene Bereznicki is a senior smart building program manager at Switch Automation, where she helps corporate and commercial real estate teams improve building performance. Click here to download the “Evaluation Roadmap” E-book to learn how to ask the right questions, avoid costly mistakes, and implement an effective smart building program to improve your portfolio's operation.

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posted on 7/7/2017