As buildings become both more intelligent and more eco-friendly, the demand for specialized consultants such as commissioning providers (CxPs) and energy managers has intensified. However business for consultants tends to be short-term and project-based, with defined parameters and limited scopes of work for both new construction and legacy buildings.
By thinking of their business outside of the hourly model and more as an ongoing partnership between advisor and client, consultants can stay relevant by providing continuous value, while also growing recurring revenue streams.
Leveraging automation and data analytics for long-term value and relevance
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 or consultants can bring to their clients:
- The emergence of tools that liberate data from the building management system (BMS) and
- Tools that allow consultants to analyze that data.
This new wave of powerful analytics tools and cloud-based platforms for commissioning agents and energy managers is enabling them to transition their business away from one-off projects, and placing 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. “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.”
Data analytics tools provide ongoing insight on building and system health, and allow CxAs/energy consultants to better understand trends – often improving client operations 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.
Being able to flag issues proactively before an enormous and unexpected energy bill arrives, for example, allows the energy manager or CxA to establish themselves as a crucial part of their clients’ business operations, and that builds both credibility and trust in the relationship.
Transforming the classic commissioning audit beyond a “to do” list
While audits provide valuable information about a building’s systems, the reality is that the resulting report can feel like an overwhelming laundry list of “to dos” for clients, especially without a measurable roadmap in place for a building or campus-wide solution. Further, a manual audit based on a one-time site visit does little for a building consultant looking to provide longer-term insight or analysis to their clients.
- Improving business processes even slightly with analytics and real-time data can make a big difference in terms of adding customer value and increasing consulting margins for building consultants:
- Ongoing analytic information such as weighted cost estimates allow consultants to review system issues and necessary repairs with their clients without requiring significant upfront cost analysis. This enables CxAs and energy consultants to fix issues now and measure the impact later.
- By automating system checks and reporting with an analytics platform, building consultants can focus more on conversations with their customers to ensure that changes are implemented, rather than on administrative, low-value tasks.
- Custom reporting capabilities allow users to drill down on data in order to focus capital expenditures where they’ll make the biggest impact.
- A cloud-based analytics platform enables remote monitoring and fosters more 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 commissioning agent. This enables consultants to identify problems quickly and troubleshoot from afar, saving time and resources while still maintaining customer service levels.
- Installing devices such as building sensors also allows consultants to monitor building systems and automation equipment remotely; the sensors deliver ongoing updates on runtimes and identify systemic problems, enabling building operators to take preventative and proactive measures rather than being forced to operate in a reactive mode.
For consultants across any industry, customer retention is always less expensive than new business acquisition in the long run. Building long-term relationships with your client base is instrumental in creating recurring revenue, and establishing a consultant as a trusted advisor.
Building analytics platforms add another layer into this value proposition by enabling consultants to more efficiently audit facilities and systems, improve customer operations with real-time monitoring and insights, and make a tangible impact to their customers’ business.