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Flatten the Smart Building Technology Learning Curve

May 31, 2024
Try these 7 strategies to help ease the process of new technology adoption.

With any new technology, concerns about complexity and resistance to change often arise. For smart building technologies, building operators must work to ease the learning and adoption curve for both their staff and the occupants who will be using these systems. Let’s address this challenge directly by exploring strategies that can help flatten the learning curve for everyone involved.

1. Focus on Intuitive Interfaces

One of the main reasons Apple has such a loyal customer base is that the technology giant’s smartphones, computers and other devices are finely tuned to focus on ease of use. The same intuitive nature can and should also be applied to smart building technology interfaces.

When researching various technologies to implement within buildings and campuses, be sure to pay close attention to the ability of the technology interface to provide users with the precise inputs and outputs they require without having to go through unnecessary steps or be faced with too many options. When it comes to easing the learning curve, less is more.

2. Training Sessions

Training may be required for operators and occupants. Be sure to provide multiple training methods and modes as people learn in different ways. Examples of different types of training modules include:

  • In-person workshops
  • Online tutorials
  • Videos
  • Written documentation
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Armed with a range of reference materials to learn from, new technology users are far more likely to embrace rather than ignore the new systems.

3. Simulation Training

Complex smart building systems such as mission-critical HVAC, smart lighting and surveillance camera networks may require the need for a simulation or sandbox environment from which to train. This provides maintenance and facilities teams with a safe area to learn and practice their skills in a simulated environment without fear of negatively impacting production systems. Collaborate with your smart building technology vendor to establish on-premises or online training environments.

4. Establish Vendor Communication Procedures

Although technology is generally reliable and performs as advertised, operators may find themselves in  situations where they need to:

  • Make quick configuration changes
  • Troubleshoot problems
  • Rapidly replace failed components

In all cases, operators will likely have to reach out to the smart building technology manufacturer for advanced support and to initiate hardware replacements. To build confidence in handling such situations, establish thorough documentation and dissemination of procedures outlining whom to contact for assistance or issue resolution promptly.

5. Introduce New Technologies in Phases

New technology fatigue is a real problem, and it only gets worse when you try to introduce too many technologies at once. This can lead to increased confusion and resistance to adoption among facility staff and end users. Instead, plan to introduce smart building technologies in multiple phases, paying close attention to the length of time allocated to let users “get the hang of” one new technology before introducing the next.

6. Occupant Customization Options

For smart building technologies that occupants use on a regular basis, provide them with customization options. For example, if a building has meeting and conference rooms that can be reserved online or through a kiosk, allow the user to create a “favorites” section that allows them to select from one or more of the conference rooms they most commonly choose.

Smart thermostats enable personalized climate control settings for different zones within a building, while advanced HVAC systems manage humidity levels to improve air quality. Lighting systems also can be programmed to adjust based on time of day, occupancy and natural light, with options to change color temperature for different activities. Further, health and wellness goals can be supported by air quality monitoring and personalized wellness settings that adjust environmental factors to promote well-being.

7. Set Realistic Goals

One final tip to ensure that operators and occupants adapt quickly to new smart building technology interfaces is to set realistic goals. Understand that many of the people who interact with these types of technologies may not be as savvy as you are. So, be sure to bake in a realistic timeframe when you expect most users to catch on and fully adjust to the systems and processes. It’s likely longer than you might think, so keep that in mind when gauging the success or failure of an implementation. As creatures of habit, it’s natural for any new system, no matter how user-friendly, to require time before it’s fully embraced.

About the Author

Andrew Froehlich | Contributor

As a highly regarded network architect and trusted IT consultant with worldwide contacts, Andrew Froehlich counts over two decades of experience and possesses multiple industry certifications in the field of enterprise networking. Andrew is the founder and president of Colorado-based West Gate Networks, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and data center build-outs. He’s also the founder of an enterprise IT research and analysis firm, InfraMomentum. As the author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex, he is a regular contributor to multiple enterprise IT-related websites and trade journals with insights into rapidly changing developments in the IT industry.

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