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In Utility-Led Building Benchmarking, Think User-First, Not Customer-First.

In Product Management, I generally prefer to follow best practices and the market. That said, I’m going to argue for something unconventional – I’m going to make the case for NOT taking a customer-first approach building benchmarking program design. The context for this approach is important: it’s all about creating successful utility-led building benchmarking programs AND getting whole building data into the hands of the people who can use it.

Many industry professionals agree that whole building benchmarking is an important first step in energy efficiency. When you consistently measure usage, you can manage it in meaningful ways. If you’re in the utility/energy sector, you know that successful programs depend on reliable and relevant data. Today, it’s often difficult for building owners to get their building’s usage data from utilities, especially for multi-tenant buildings. It’s also cumbersome for utilities to aggregate and share whole building usage data. Layer on policies that require stakeholders to check certain boxes on stringent timelines, and the stakes get higher.

At Calico, we help our utility customers meet the demands of data aggregation and sharing, creating an exceptional utility-led building benchmarking software experience for users, and delivering organizational value for utilities themselves.

We’re a tech company, yes, but we also care deeply about our product’s role in reducing consumption – continued measurement paves the way for robust management. The use cases for benchmarking are much more complex and broad than a utility’s customer base alone. And that’s why I’m saying something that on the surface seems contrary to product management best practices (but really isn’t): Utilities should not take a customer-first approach in designing their building benchmarking programs and solutions.

Here’s the simplest way to look at it: 

Utility’s commercial customer = benchmarking persona
Benchmarking persona does not always = utility’s commercial customer.

The utility customer or commercial account holder will always be a persona for utility-enabled benchmarking programs. These are easy users to identify, authorize and authenticate. But they should not be the only users benchmarking programs focus on, because they are not the only benchmarking persona. To make building benchmarking data meaningful at scale, it’s important for utilities and their partners to think beyond commercial customer building owners and include the broader non-customer building owner and building manager users.

In finding a way to authorize users beyond customers, utilities can maximize the impact of energy data in energy efficiency programs and deliver a successful building benchmarking program.

It’s not a customer-first approach, but it is a user-first approach. Utilities have a unique opportunity to enable data access that could change the energy sector, driving the energy efficiency work and strategic management of buildings as resources we urgently need.

I want to be clear: I am not advocating for a program that allows unauthorized individuals to benchmark a building. Quite the opposite; we simply want to expand the field of benchmarking personas, with appropriate safeguards and authorizations to match.

So, who are the key non-customer users to consider? Let’s review the main ones here:

commercial real estate

Non-Account Holding Building Owners / Real Estate Organizations

This persona may not have an account in the building but they care about buildings and their consumption. They might be the owners of structures they don’t occupy, but they’re still responsible for benchmarking and complying with ordinances and should not be unduly burdened when attempting to do so. The use cases for this persona go beyond compliance. Energy efficiency, with associated scores, ratings and recognition, can be beneficial in buying and selling real estate and commercial real estate companies care about the whole building beyond individual occupants.

And their delegates…

building manager

Building Managers and Operators

Their names aren’t on bills or even the building deed, but this is perhaps the most active (and important) benchmarking program user group. Day-to-day, building managers and operators are the people who know the buildings best. Building owners may care about the efficiency but the building manager and operator is usually charged with understanding building energy management, implementing energy efficiency policies, and monitoring building consumption.

energy efficiency consultants

Energy Efficiency Consultants / Vendors

Building owners (account holding or not) and building managers/operators are important personas in collecting data, but analysis and upgrades are often the purview of energy efficiency consultants and technology vendors, making them another important benchmarking persona. Energy service providers and consultants are tasked with analyzing whole building data, providing recommendations for retrofits and guiding building(s) through LEED certification and ENERGY STAR® award processes. In many cases they manage the process from start to finish, collecting data from utilities to benchmark and create an accurate baseline.

Juliana Smith

About the author...

As Calico Energy’s Product Manager, Juliana Smith takes varying energy data IT and business services to create a manageable, scalable product line capable of evolving to meet current and future Calico customer and partner needs. She brings 7+ years’ experience planning and implementing enterprise-level SaaS products and over 15 years as an expert working on customer-focused teams.

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