With New Technology, Think Big, Start Small

Is now the time? The time to move to a cloud-based, Building Internet of Things platform to link the facilities in your portfolio? Or to install low-flow toilets? Or tubular LEDs? Or an advanced rooftop unit? Or smart windows?

The range of new technology options for facility managers can be dizzying.

Facility managers who are considering whether to take the plunge might want to keep in mind two pieces of advice. These have come up time and again in conversations with technology experts.

One is to think big, not by making grandiose plans, but rather by looking beyond the immediate impetus for the project. If you’re looking to install a fault detection system, also plan for the resources it will take to address problems the system uncovers. If a chiller is on the verge of failure, think about whether to buy a unit using one of the new alternative refrigerants. If you need to replace a roof, maybe the company’s sustainability policy will give you a case for a rooftop solar system or a vegetative roof.

The second piece of advice — to start small — almost sounds like a contradiction of the first. But the two are really complementary. For one thing, experts say it’s important to focus during the selection process on the specific needs that new technology can address. That meticulous approach can help you zero in on features that will be of most value. Many other details will also be important, whether they involve differences among product options or specific requirements for a new system. And once you’ve identified a promising technology, a pilot project may let you test it on a small scale.

Talking with experienced facility managers, I get the sense that they often internalize the process of thinking big but starting small. They’re always on the lookout for new technology, but they never get starry-eyed about it.