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Data Collection Tools – Creating a Utility Belt

By October 6, 2015December 26th, 2021Briefs

Batman became the “World’s Greatest Detective,” not just with keen senses and determination, but also through the use of a well-stocked utility belt. Just as it is for the Caped Crusader, having the right tools for the job is critical for custom efficiency programs. Program managers must develop and maintain usable data collection tools to gather specific information from the customer to generate a savings calculation.

And one size does not fit all – each tool must be tailored for the specific technology/program. For example, an energy management system (EMS) program requires details on fans, chillers, boilers, equipment schedules, and control strategies. Custom lighting projects require data on fixture/lamp counts, wattages, and operating hours.

Many Instruments, One Function

Data collection tools come in many forms. A simple tool may be a sheet of questions attached to the rebate application. More complex programs may benefit from electronic tools, such as spreadsheets or even an app for a mobile device.

Each target technology will have its own set of inputs, so the level of complexity of the tool should be determined by the complexity of the technology. A spreadsheet may be better suited for documenting many facets of an EMS project. Similarly, an iPhone app would be unnecessary to count lighting fixtures when a simple list will do.

Finally, consider the user base for the tool. If it is intended for trade allies, space for comments may be beneficial. But if business owners are the target users, keep it simple.

Get Feedback and Iterate

Solicit feedback from users during instrument development and after deployment, particularly from first-time customers. Remove ambiguous questions to avoid confusion.

As the instruments mature, consider modifications to improve functionality and ease of use. Additional features could include automatically uploading data to a centralized project file to reduce paperwork, or coding a smartphone app to incorporate photo collection, and even step-by-step instructions for non-energy professionals.

A Tool the Program Deserves

Having a well-stocked utility belt, like Batman, to develop and maintain data collection tools is helpful for standardizing a custom efficiency program. And it’s not just the program that will benefit. A streamlined data collection process means quicker notification letters out to customers, improving the chances that the program will be used again in future projects.

Michaels Energy

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