Human Behavior: The Missing Link in Intelligent Buildings

Author: Jeff Thompson, Executive Director, AwareManager

realcomm-advisory

Until recently, technology has been a barrier to maximizing the value of intelligent buildings. However, human behavior now stands in the way – both in terms of managing the use of data and merging the human feedback element into the decision making loop.

 

AwareMgr_DMWhile it’s important to know that your HVAC system is running smoothly, if your tenants are complaining of being too hot or too cold, you have a problem. In this age of data, sensors, and cloud computing, you can’t lose sight of human element among the noise.

The question becomes: How do you sift through the infinite combinations of data to identify what truly matters in your decision process? And, how do you do this in a way that works seamlessly across multiple stakeholder groups to develop a shared intelligence for your property, incorporating the numerous and varied requirements of each group?

Let’s start with the second question. It is critical to view your building holistically – as a virtual ecosystem, where managing successfully is based on a sum of all parts, not on each part acting independently. Technology enables us to combine the needs of all stakeholders, identify where there are areas of shared concern and what is unique to the individual stakeholder, and to build a system which addresses each of these characteristics.

Here’s an example:

  • A complex commercial real estate operation comprised of a state-of-the-art building, first-class management team, high-powered tenants each with their own operation management teams, more than 600 vendors, and thousands of occupants.
  • Each of these groups represent stakeholders in the business operation of the building. Each of these stakeholders has its own set of priorities and requirements – and each set of priorities is critical to the successful daily function of the ecosystem.

To approach each of these stakeholder’s needs independently would require countless hours of pulling reports together, interpreting and manipulating data to address specific concerns and a certain amount of redundancy where concerns are shared. By creating a robust, comprehensive data model which takes into account the business requirements and work flows of each stakeholder, you can create a single solution which meets the needs of all stakeholders.

This is true whether you are a large property, such as our example, or a smaller building. It is a matter of defining the stakeholders that have an interest in the property from a user, management or contract perspective and aligning those interests. Whether large or small, a system which provides a single solution for all your stakeholders will help you manage your building more effectively.

Software security must be built into the system from the very beginning. As with all shared processes, security is a key factor to maintaining ecosystem integrity.

In the building ecosystem, there should be a single source of shared data with each stakeholder having a unique view to operations that is specifically relevant to them. Because the system collects factual real-time data all stakeholders share a single truth – data is filtered from the core out reducing subjective analysis and interpretation. Creating a common ground for data collection eliminates miscommunication and confusion in a complex environment.

In our example, the solution is the system of record for the major stakeholders providing real-time maintenance tracking, elevator operations status, a portal for tenant service requests, and an ongoing system for monitoring routine operations such as cleaning services and building. The software tracks information for over 600 vendors, including fire safety, electrical, signage, architectural, and janitorial vendors. It also tracks maintenance and corrective work related to over 1,400 pieces of equipment.

This comprehensive data model, as seen in the example above, is the bridge to the future, creating a single version of the truth. It provides both a tool to identify critical data as well as a means of incorporating feedback from the people who use and manage the space.

Building the model and creating this bridge is very achievable. It can be complex, but it is essentially an exercise in strategic management. It is a matter of defining each stakeholder’s core business objectives and daily routine. What are the key questions each stakeholder needs the data to answer? And how do you incorporate user experience into the model?

Ultimately, whether you are a large or small organization, if the data doesn’t relate directly to the decision making process it is not useful.

You can incorporate specific stakeholder objectives to a common platform, connecting relevant data with the right people and processes across the ecosystem. This will support daily operations, customer needs, and analytical and reporting requirements. The goal is to connect departments, functions and individuals within each stakeholder group with the information that they need in the course of their regular work.

Stakeholders no longer have to search for the data needed to make informed decisions. When done right, the data and the processes should integrate seamlessly throughout management structures and across the ecosystem.

Beyond serving as the operational system of record, the integrated software platform:

  • Reduces response time to tenant service requests, positively impacting tenant satisfaction.
  • Delivers key maintenance instructions and information when engineering staff are on site with a piece of equipment that needs attention.
  • Enables tenants to provide feedback to building management about the quality of the service provided.
  • Captures key information about the quality of service provided, enabling building management to ensure vendor compliance with service level agreements and improve vendor performance while reducing costs.

A building ecosystem that accounts for all stakeholder needs enables you to move beyond business as usual to more efficient management practices, such as managing by exception.

Essentially, a comprehensive data model allows you to see patterns in outcomes and performance measures across the ecosystem. As we can see from our example, the system will track and analyze an astounding number of moving parts. Rather than being overwhelmed with the amount of information, the model will highlight exceptions critical to building performance – those indicators that aren’t in the normal range and need to be addressed. When you manage by exception you address your most pressing concerns, identifying areas which aren’t operating as expected.

Collecting and analyzing targeted data which corresponds directly to stakeholder decision making priorities creates a digital common ground for a building’s entire ecosystem. This not only connects humans with the building’s technology, but allows connects all interested stakeholders. Building this bridge will maximize the capability of modern technology and, finally, take intelligent buildings from the “possible” to the “expected.”

About the Author
Jeff is a graduate of Harvard University and co-founder of AwareManager. He has over 20 years of experience working with prominent commercial real estate organizations, solving complex property management challenges and implementing successful operations management solutions.