Two businesswomen review data on tablet while other colleagues talk in the background
By Yann Palmore

Get Smart Buildings Right: Create Fusion Teams and Processes

Smart buildings have been a hot topic over the last decade, with a strong focus on technology. Questions about making buildings more efficient, deploying smart building apps to encourage employee office returns, and ensuring ESG compliance through technology have dominated the conversation. While there has been significant investment in technology, the key to a successful smart building program lies in equal attention to the people and the process.

Smart buildings are created to drive positive business outcomes. These outcomes can range from reducing carbon footprint, transitioning from reactive to proactive maintenance, extending asset lifecycle, and enhancing occupant experience. It sounds great, yet many organizations and owners still struggle to make this a reality.  There are many reasons why, but a few themes always surface to the top when smart is done right. Successful initiatives recognize that smart buildings are an investment, and they articulate the business case that describes outcomes and the metrics to measure ROI. Focusing on the business results and not the tech establishes trust and builds consensus among decision-makers and forces a thoughtful evaluation of stakeholders and impacts to existing processes.

Let’s first consider the people who need to be involved, the roles they play, and creating a fusion team that possesses the authority, skills, and bandwidth to shape, embed, and improve a smart building program that delivers business results.


In our work, we have identified four core groups of people who must be engaged for a successful program.

1. Program Champion(s)

Program champions possess the knowledge and know-how to shape the program, develop the business case, and navigate the organization. This is often both an internal champion and an external SME.


  • Clearly articulate the problem(s) to solve through smart investments.
  • Own the vision, business case, and overall delivery of the smart building program.
  • Access executive leaders who control budget and possess the appropriate authority to drive organizational change.

2. Active Stakeholders

Active stakeholders are individuals within the organization who will experience direct impact and change to their existing processes and service delivery models (e.g., building engineers, sustainability managers, occupancy planners, etc.). The groups will ultimately be expected to demonstrate positive influence on CAPEX and OPEX spending for the organization because they have improved their service delivery models.


  • Understand how work is going to change as a result of implementing smart building tools and technologies.
  • Assess needs and prepare for transformation of operational processes.
  • Track metrics measuring ROI and the financial impacts of technology-enabled process improvements.

3. Business Stakeholders

Business stakeholders are accountable individuals for shaping organizational change and creating value (e.g. C-suite, real estate, IT, data security, and operations, leaders). Business stakeholders can also be those who occupy the physical environments and can speak to the needs of the spaces provided.


  • Use their authority to incorporate smart building program investments into the organization’s overall strategic plan and roadmap.
  • Understand the scope, timing, and resource requirements for alignment with financial planning activity.

4. Delivery Teams

Delivery teams encompass the teams, vendors, and individuals who possess the technical skillsets needed to design, implement, and maintain your smart building technology stack.


  • Design the smart building technology stack.
  • Identify and prioritize program capabilities to drive ROI.
  • Build and manage smart building infrastructure and solutions.
  • Establish continuing support functions.

Our next theme for success is process. Investments in smart technologies are one of many drivers of digital transformation. Consider the expected business results and answer the basic question, how will these investments change the way we work?


To organize people, we need process. When we look at the four core groups of people involved in smart building program development, we can also evaluate the types of questions they will face and the processes they will need to modify or create. While this list is not exhaustive, it is intended to provide context for scoping and sizing the work required.

1. Program Champions

  • Develop strategy and roadmap: What process will be used to create the business case and identify funding for the program?
  • Organizational development: Once the program is funded, how will you work with human resources and your vendors to begin filling roles? What process will you use to prioritize the roles that are filled first?

2. Active Stakeholders

  • Evolving Standard Operating Processes (SOPs): How will current SOPs change once improved access to data and tools have been made available through the smart building program? Who owns documenting these changes and maintaining their relevance over time as service delivery teams become more adept at leveraging the new capabilities?
  • Training: How will we train our staff to use the new data and tools?
  • Performance Management: How will the value of these new SOPs be measured? What is the ROI on the improved process?
  • Implement and maintain data governance: How are we monitoring data quality across smart building systems? How are we updating data standards over time? How are we enforcing data naming standards across workstreams?
  • Product ownership: How will the features be prioritized against a product roadmap? Who is managing vendor contracts? When will new features be released? How are we communicating change with our stakeholders?

3. Business Stakeholders

  • Financial Performance Management: How will we track the overall performance of the investments made into the program and technology stack? What metrics will be used and what new expectations will we have of organizational leaders?

4. Delivery Teams

  • Create infrastructure: How will we provide device connectivity for all smart building devices? How will we collect and manage data from smart building devices? How will the smart building systems interact with the enterprise IT systems? What technical standards will be followed?
  • Install infrastructure: How long will it take deploy an OT network? How will the installation of infrastructure impact my business operations?
  • Get data flowing across the infrastructure: What will the process be to manage APIs and other data connectors? How will network configuration be managed to avoid an impact on the network traffic from my OT devices? How will firewall configurations be managed?
  • Map data to user applications, dashboards, and controls: How are we staying aligned with the expected smart building use cases? How are we managing access to the user applications and dashboards?
  • Technology success: Who will manage training for users? Who is responsible for changing sensor batteries? How are assets being tracked? Who is keeping up with cybersecurity compliance?

Smart building technology offers immense opportunities for improved building performance, occupant satisfaction, and cost reduction in the commercial real estate industry. However, to fully harness these benefits, it is crucial to consider the people and processes alongside technology needs to deliver business results. As illustrated above, there are many stakeholders to align and processes to develop and refine. Thinking through these components will take you beyond simple technology deployments and instead position your smart investments to create meaningful value and financial return.