Excel for commercial building data analysis: To be or not to be, might not be the right question

author by Meghna Vasudevandate 22 Mar, 2021read time 4 readviews 1683 Views
Excel for commercial building data analysis: To be or not to be, might not be the right question

Do you know that marketers love ‘Cognitive biases’? Every human being is emotionally, psychologically, or habitually attached to certain belief systems, thought processes. Marketers use that connection to influence or augment consumer’s choices in a particular direction.

“We are consumers. We're the by-products of a lifestyle obsession”

Remember this iconic statement by Tyler from the movie Fight Club? Well, I wouldn’t go that far to establish my point. But we must have experienced getting manipulated by the brands for their profits both in personal and professional life.

Want an example? an age-old argument between using Excel for commercial use and Analytics tools. There are dozens of articles you would find which support the ideology that presumes Excel is an outdated application for analytics and you should move to specific tools or platform for automation, AI and all the futuristic use cases. 

They make you feel guilty & cheap for optimizing Excel to solve your business needs (reporting, forecasting & formula based calculations)     

While I agree that automated business intelligence tools can do a lot more than what Excel does, but that doesn’t mean everyone should go for them. Understanding your business need, available resources, and future roadmap of tech integrations is important before you make that switch. 

In this article, we will discuss those business or technical objectives which you should consider while making that decision. 

Time to process data:

How much time does it take for your O&M team to collect the data from different sources (BMS, EMS, CAFM) and analyze it on excel? Does the process is cumbersome and takes more than expected work hours? How frequently does it take place or how much of a repetitive component in it? Answers to these questions can help you quantify the value of your O&M team’s time.

There are multiple readymade templates available to manage, visualize and process real estate data from Cashflow analysis, Rental management to asset maintenance. If these templates are solving your pain points without taking too much of your team’s time then it’s completely justified not to automate things.       

Data Complexity:

There are 10+ parameters Air handling unit (AHU) generates on a continuous basis. A typical size commercial building consists of 35 - 45+ AHUs which produce hundreds of data points. Not to forget there are other critical assets and building systems that collect, store and visualize a huge quality of data points.  

When it comes to processing those huge files, most of the computers with standard configuration would struggle to open up a 100 MB .csv file, making it challenging to analyze and report such datasheets. Adding several smaller .csv files to data, like sales data for neighboring regions, will be immensely difficult to combine with your previous dataset and analysis.

Now, do you find any difficulties processing your asset data? Do you think it will increase with the addition of building data (CAFM, Weather data) in the future? What is a bigger challenge? Is it a volume, logic (Formulation), or processing capabilities of the system? It’s important to understand how your O&M team wants to use your building data before choosing the right application for the same.     

Integration capabilities:

Now whether it is a simple help desk management or maintenance scheduling task, there are multiple individual standalone applications that communicate data to maximize the valuable insights. We are living in a multifamily tech architecture age where the ‘ecosystem approach’ of technology adoption is mostly followed. 

For example, you might want to process asset data over edge computing or fog layer offered by different applications and deliver alerts and notifications to your workplace communication channels such as Slack or Microsoft teams. A journey of data into insights can touch upon multiple applications via open integration protocols making a real-time response to such requests a necessity. 

Unfortunately, Excel or Google spreadsheets are not equipped to handle real-time data changes. Limiting them for manual data entry tasks and prone to human errors.

But, If there is no requirement for data integration or automation at your facility for now and in near future, your on-site FM team is comfortable drawing insights with an existing set of applications then you don’t need to dump excel for any other application. 

To sum up, check your business needs, future tech integration, and most importantly how you want to use your data before changing the boats. If your facility requires a more advance application then you can look for a building analytics software. If you can't decide what is best for your facility so reach out to us.

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