September 2019

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Deb NollerEMAIL INTERVIEW –  Ken Sinclair and Deb Noller

Deb Noller, CEO, Switch Automation

Deb Noller is the dynamic CEO and co-founder of Switch Automation, a smart building software company specializing in building performance optimization. With 20+ years of experience in real estate, technology and sustainability, she is passionate about helping enterprises leverage digital facilities management to execute more efficient business operations.

The Spark has Caught

Digital Facilities Management

For years the industry has been using buzzwords like “digital transformation” and “digital disruption.” This is the year those words became actions.

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Sinclair:   It’s been six months since we last spoke about digital facilities management. What industry developments have you observed in that time?

For years the industry has been using buzzwords like “digital transformation” and “digital disruption.” This is the year those words became actions. At IBcon 2019 in June, my team and I observed a seismic perspective shift. The common thread in all our conversations was digital facilities management. And the question wasn’t just “What is digital facilities management?” but “How do we do it?”

    Switch Automation Team at IBcon 2019

After years of employing reactive maintenance models, CRE portfolio operators have finally accepted that technology is the key to unlocking competitive advantages and elevating profits. Tenant comfort and satisfaction, energy efficiency, reduced maintenance costs and streamlined operations have driven leaders to realize this could very quickly become an “if you’re not first, you’re last” scenario. These visionaries know that smart building technology accelerates business growth, allowing them to deliver more value to their customers.

Sinclair:   What is holding back the organizations who are still using legacy facilities management?

While the appetite for new technology is there, the “how” of executing smart building integration can be daunting.

Establishing a digital facilities management program requires a cooperative and strategic approach across all departments. Beyond finding the budget, another serious challenge for organizations is integrating IT and OT. As buildings become more connected with IoT technology and generate rich new streams of data, OT needs IT’s technical expertise to facilitate integration and strategic planning. IT teams who historically owned cybersecurity, connectivity and network infrastructure must expand their scope to meet OT demands for access and control.

I suggest establishing short- and long-term performance goals before choosing scalable digital facilities management technology. Then, pick a solution that’s capable of evolving in tandem with your portfolio. Configurable solutions rather than custom tools help prevent expensive upgrades and implementation costs in the future. Our most successful clients deployed a phased integration to establish ROI and generate additional budget versus multiple pilots, which can waste time and resources.  

contemporary Sinclair:   Does the steady adoption of digital facilities management mean that the real estate industry should be more focused on cybersecurity than ever?

The reality is that maintaining buildings offline was never really an effective way to protect them against data leaks, network breaches or remote tampering. The risk doesn’t lie in the smart building technology of the present and near future, but in the past three decades of outsourced maintenance and obsolete technology.

It’s encouraging to hear the industry raise these concerns with more buildings IoT-connected than ever. As new sensors, systems and software updates are dispatched, buildings will only become more secure, provided the right infrastructure, processes and people are in place.

While no network is impenetrable, there are integral steps enterprises can take to ensure stronger smart building cybersecurity. An initial site audit is imperative to establish the health of a network and discover unencrypted sensors. While a site audit establishes the current health of a building, organizations can further fortify their portfolios by using secure gateways and regularly updating the firmware.

Sinclair:   What’s driving adoption of digital facilities management and who’s doing it right?

Thoughtful, early investment in smart building technology is key to extracting a competitive advantage with lasting implications. By partnering with technology vendors who can meet you where you are on your smart building journey, you can leverage their experience to educate and guide you through each step.

I’ve been particularly impressed with Oxford Properties and Hines, whose approaches are leading innovation in this area. Their efforts prove it takes an entire team in constant contact to create new value and drive operational efficiencies. Without digital solutions that streamline the gathering and analysis of data, other organizations fail to add value to their assets or improve their tenants’ experience.

Companies truly ahead of the curve are using data and analytics to understand building performance and solve facilities issues; they’ve already begun the shift from a labor-based to a digital facilities management model.

I’ve said before, “timing is everything.” Because smart building technology creates new value and efficiency that compounds over time, the big industry winners and losers are being established today.

What IS Digital Facilities Management? Watch the video here.

Switch Automation is a global real estate software company that helps property owners and facility managers reduce operating costs, improve energy efficiency and deliver exceptional occupant satisfaction. Our comprehensive smart building platform integrates with traditional building systems as well as Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to analyze, automate and control assets in real-time. We serve enterprise customers and partners in a variety of industries including financial services, retail, grocery, commercial real estate and more. Learn how Switch Automation creates technology to bring people and planet to the center of building operations at


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