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Grow Your Business with Analytics: How to Leverage Data for Wider Margins


By Brice Kosnik, CEO and Co-Founder
BuildPulse

Moving away from project-based work and toward recurring revenue and long-term client engagement is a top priority for consultants and service-oriented companies. By thinking of your commissioning business as an ongoing partnership between advisor and client, you can stay relevant by providing continuous value while growing recurring revenue streams.

For Owners, as buildings become smarter and greener, the demand for specialized consultants such as commissioning providers (CxPs) and energy managers has intensified. But while business might be booming for these consultants, that business model tends to be short-term and project-based, with defined parameters and limited scopes of work for both new construction and existing buildings.

Analytics Tools Help Consultants Provide Long-Term Client Value

Brad White, a principal with Vancouver, British Columbia-based SES Consulting, an energy efficiency and engineering consultancy, asserts that there are two factors shaping the long-term value that CxPs and energy consultants can bring to their clients:

  1. The emergence of tools that liberate data from the building automation system (BAS) and
  2. Tools that allow consultants to analyze that data.

This new wave of powerful analytics tools and cloud-based platforms enables CxPs and energy managers to transition business beyond one-off projects to place an emphasis on building long-term value and relevance with clients.

“Looking back 10 years or so, the building automation systems had the capability to get data. The problem was that there was very little we could do with that data. There were no tools available,” said White. “We would pull up the two-week trend logs at virtually every point in the building to figure out what’s going on. You miss a lot of stuff when you do that.”

SIDEBAR: “The big change is having tools that are built to take in a bunch of data and be able to properly analyze that. The thing that’s come along is connected devices that will either store all of the data onboard, export it, or send it up to the cloud so that you can get a long-term historical view.”

How can CxPs best leverage data from these platforms and grow revenue? Is it through improved tactical execution or through more strategic high-level communication and consultancy? Yes to both.

Help Clients Without Traveling to the Job Site

Data analytics tools provide ongoing insight into building and system health, and allow CxPs to better understand trends for the purpose of improving building operations, reducing potential capital outlay, and lowering energy expenditures. This proactive approach is both more efficient and more solutions-oriented than traditional methods that involve a site visit and a manual review of building systems.

As one example, leveraging analytics to avoid issues in indoor environmental quality (IEQ) can cut down on the time and resources required to comb through data or search for issues in a walkthrough. Analytics can be used to determine the pattern of complaints in order to find a problem area, look for timing and symptom patterns, prioritize issues by cost savings, and identify issues before they become detrimental.

Being able to flag issues proactively before an enormous and unexpected energy bill arrives, for example, allows CxPs to establish themselves as crucial participants in their clients’ business operations, which builds credibility and trust in the relationship.

Are You Making Money When You’re Not Working? You Should Be!

It’s literally impossible to stay on top of a site’s equipment performance on a day-to-day basis with a manual commissioning process that depends only on the CxP’s site visits.

A cloud-based analytics platform enables remote monitoring and fosters efficient team collaboration, since facility system data and reports can be securely accessed online regardless of team members’ locations.

Being able to connect remotely and get real-time updates reduces site trips by the CxP. This enables them to identify problems quickly and troubleshoot from afar, saving time and resources while still maintaining a high level of customer service.

When Owners install devices such as building sensors, CxPs can monitor building systems and automation equipment remotely; the sensors deliver ongoing updates on runtimes and identify systemic problems, enabling building operators to take preventive and proactive measures rather than being forced to operate in a reactive mode.

Benefits for Facilities Teams and Consultants

Realistically, most facility managers and building operators do not have the resources to rely on contractors for long-term, ongoing projects and consultation. Facilities teams are often short-staffed and lacking in analytics expertise, so a technology solution should be both user-friendly and intuitive – without a need to sift through overly complicated datasets.

Being able to prioritize issues and automate at least part of the facility team’s workloads through data analytics tools can help teams stay focused on what matters: safety, security, health and occupant comfort.

What to Look For When Evaluating Building Analytics Solutions

Commissioning providers need to consider these questions when looking to implement building analytics solutions into their business:

  • Will this offering provide a measurable roadmap of solutions for my clients, based on real-time data and ongoing analytics?
  • Does it provide the ability to set up both one-time and custom projects? Recurring revenue relies on repeatable processes
  • Does it integrate and normalize existing and new building automation systems (BAS) so clients can see all of their data in one place?
  • Does it integrate easily into client projects, which can be expensive and complicated depending on the project scope?
  • Will this solution help with my firm’s ability to provide strategic counsel and long-term value for my clients, versus more tactical project-based and short-term engagements?
  • Can I establish one (or two) team “champions” that can serve as experts on the analytics system for both my firm and my clients?
  • Does it provide adequate network speed, data storage, and security?
  • Is this offering cost-palatable to the market? Does it make the client’s investment worthwhile?

Customer Retention is Key

Customer retention is always less expensive than new business acquisition. Building long-term relationships with your client base is instrumental in creating recurring revenue, and establishing your role as a trusted advisor. Building analytics platforms add another layer into this value proposition by enabling CxPs to more efficiently investigate facilities and systems performance, improve client operations with real-time monitoring and insights, and make a tangible impact on your clients’ business.

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