August 2016

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Shiny Object Syndrome:

Key Considerations when evaluating a new Analytics Tool
Pook-Ping Yao

Pook-Ping Yao,
Optigo Networks

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Control Solutions, Inc

Shiny Object SyndromeEnergy consumption. BACnet traffic rate. Room temperature. Device online time. Operational Systems in smart buildings are becoming increasingly complex and automated. As a result, there is a growing amount of information to be analyzed, monitored and used in troubleshooting. Access to so much information at once can be overwhelming. New building applications and platforms are being developed to visualize information, help find anomalies, and simplify analysis. But are they simplifying your life? How do you save yourself from getting a migraine from the onslaught of data?

These tools are built by teams of developers giving you the information that they deem most important. Hopefully, the team is developing product features utilizing the feedback they receive from their customers and industry experts. In turn, these tools are allowing organizations to make huge strides in energy savings, troubleshoot system issues faster, and improve tenant comfort.

However, a bit of caution is required when starting to implement new tools. In order to increase productivity or value-added activities to our day, one needs to consider that we should focus on accessing the information that is most important to us, rather than that which is easiest to access and most prominently displayed on the fancy new dashboard we signed up for. We should recognize that every building and network is slightly different and has its own unique characteristics. It is important to evaluate tools to ensure they are contributing to building success for your business, and not simply a shiny new tool.

How do you do that? Below are a few key considerations for evaluating a new analytics tool to make sure it is right for your organization.

Key considerations when evaluating a new Analytics Tool

1.    Does this tool provide actionable information?

All analytics tools have a team of developers and industry experts behind them with ideas of what information is most relevant. However, it is important to realize that every building or project is different. Your needs may change throughout the life of a building and/or project. Keep in mind that the homepage will not always be your most used page. Take the time to think about what information can provide value to you. Ask yourself “what do I need to know in order to reduce costs, increase efficiency or increase tenant comfort?” Then work backwards to see if the platform can provide this information and test it out with real situations. Ensure it can provide actionable information, rather than simply being awed by gaining access to new (oftentimes useless) information.

2.    Does this tool work for my team?

Even the greatest tool will not help your business if no one uses it. Sit down and think about who on your team would benefit from having access to this information, and who would be required to act on it. Involve them in the decision by having them participate in the evaluation process. As a team, discuss how it would fit into everyone’s daily, weekly or monthly schedule.  This will ensure that the new analytics platform works with the team on a technical level. Once the tool is fully implemented in your organization, everyone feels responsible for the purchase decision and is more willing to alter their workflow accordingly.

3.    Does our overall productivity increase?

Control Solutions, Inc There is a lot of information that is “nice to have.” Suddenly discovering that you can view the temperature profile of a room over time from a dashboard is exciting - but is it useful? Focus on what information will add value to your organization. Spending 3 hours reducing the unanswered who-is on your network with Visual BACnet simply because you can now see them may not increase value to your customer or to you. However, seeing right away if there are duplicate devices on a network will likely save your technician a lot of time and keep your clients happy. Choose actions and changes that will reduce costs, make customers happier, and increase productivity. Don’t aim for a new level of perfection.

4.    Does the tool have efficient and effective customer support?

All of these tools are relatively new, and most of them have huge communities of people requesting features and building plugins. It is important to ensure that the tool you are using has a quick, effective support team, particularly if it plays an active role in your system. The greatest fear of adding anything to an operational network is causing downtime, and the best way to avoid this is to have easy access to a support person who will join in the troubleshooting should something go wrong. Have a personal contact at the company, test out their phone line or see if they have a live chat. Try to get in touch with someone before purchasing the tool, and get an idea of how easy it will be when you need someone to be one phone call away.

In an industry that is being inundated with new analytics tools, it is important to remember all that glitters is not necessarily gold for you. It is important to consciously consider the value that these tools will provide and ensure that all stakeholders are on board. If you keep these four key considerations in mind, you will end up with new analytics tools that will drastically improve your daily productivity, reduce costs and keep your clients happy. Some shiny objects are gold, you just have to take a closer look to determine which ones are worth your time and effort. 


About the Author

Pook-Ping Yao is Co-founder/CEO of Optigo Networks, a company making smart buildings smarter. Yao and his team introduced optical networking to the operational technology world with Optigo Connect™, and are now providing insight into BACnet network communications with the launch of their newest product Visual BACnet™. A recognized expert in networking and cybersecurity technologies, Ping leverages these skillsets to help smart building owners and operators de-mystify the complexity around informational technologies, in the places where we live work and play.


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