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Hey folks, Phil Zito here and welcome back! In this post, we are going to discuss how to perform owner training. Now, I've been involved in a ton of owner training events, and this is in regard to construction projects. If you haven't been following along, we began our Construction Series with Sales to Operations Handoffs all the way through every step in a project to where we are now, which is the how to perform owner training. Be sure to go back and read those posts as they are very informative.

So, the importance of owner training is that it empowers your owner to be able to self-execute and self-maintain the building automation system. I want to put you kind of in the mindset of the owner-operator. Quite often owners, building owners, campus owners, etc, may only build a handful of buildings in their entire career, whereas we on the construction side are building multiple buildings and installing, or retrofitting, multiple building automation systems every single three months. We have the summer quarter, the spring quarter, the fall quarter, and the winter quarter. Depending on what time of the year it is, you're doing different things.


What remains the same is that there is typically, or at least there should be, owner training at the end of these engagements. My hope is that after this post, you will have a framework of how to perform owner training, you will understand how to assess your owner training requirements, and you will agree with me that doing proper owner training is one of the best decisions you can make.


Alright, so picture this. You are a facility operator and you've never worked with XYZ building automation system before. It's what your construction team selected because this was a plan and spec contract, and low bid was selected. This is now what you're stuck with. You've worked on ABC system your entire life and now you have XYZ system. What are you to do?


Well, if your owner training is rather poor, meaning that the contractor shows up with donuts, has no plan, just basically lets you peruse through the system, has no documentation, has no way for you to recall this information, and then sends you on your merry way. There's a high likelihood that even if you have the best intentions, you as the owner-operator are still going to mess things up.


And who are you going to call when you mess things up? You're going to call the installing contractor. And now it's going to be a fight between you and the installing contractor on, “Is this a warranty claim or is this not?” Usually, the installing contractor loses out on these and this is how construction projects become super unprofitable.


So, what would an alternative to this look like? Well, it begins with first understanding the operators, understanding their intent and desire to operate, and understanding their role structure. So, the first thing I do, whenever I get a project, is I look at the specification and I understand the owner requirements.


Now, some specifications in Section Three: Execution, maybe Section One: General, are going to clearly dictate what is required of owner training: How many hours, what the content needs to be, who the audience is, etc. I would say that's about 30% of specifications that have that level of detail. Most of the time, it has “You are to provide 8 hours of owner training, or owner-manufacturer training, or owner education,” something like that, but it doesn't get very specific.

So, the first thing I want you to do is understand how this building is going to be operated.

  • Is this primarily outsourced labor?
  • Are they relying on contractors to execute most, and they just have a basic building operator, or do they have building engineers and well-trained people who are going to operate the system?
  • Do they have a way of triaging calls?
  • Do they have a troubleshooting process, or do they just take calls as they come in and they use the building automation system accordingly.


Understanding how they're structured and understanding their use cases, both for daily operations as well as for triaging of troubleshooting, is going to guide your training. What you should do is, in my opinion, have a training for each user type. That user-type training should be based on the most common use cases that user type is going to execute.


So, rather than just logging into the system, perusing through it and showing them, “Oh, here's where you click this,” I recommend you say, “Okay, I have an operator engineer and I know their primary use cases are going to be running a hospital” (you know I like healthcare examples). So, maybe it's a hospital, and in the morning, they're going to need to get a report on all of the patient rooms that are cold, or hot, and then they're going to triage accordingly. So that would be a use case.


Now, how do you set up a report? How do you use a report? How do you dig into the graphics or programming to diagnose issues associated with that report? That would be a primary use case. Maybe there's a scheduling use case, maybe this is an educational facility that has varying hours, and you need to schedule accordingly. Well, in this case, you would implement a scheduling use case. How do you set up schedules? How do you vary schedules? How can you tie schedules to variable events?


The next thing I recommend, after you've done a role analysis and a use case analysis, is you build the training agenda accordingly, but you record the training using high quality recording. Now, this doesn't mean you have to go get an AV setup which costs thousands of dollars, but you do need to have something more decent than a flip phone. Now fortunately, most smartphones these days can record quite well.


You can also pick up a relatively inexpensive recording device for around $400. If you're using this on every project, then it pays for itself very quickly. What you can do with this is twofold. You can say, “We're going to teach you this use case.” From there, once you start teaching them that use case, you start the video and you stop the video. Guess what? You've just documented a use case.


At the end of the owner training, you just give them the raw video files. The most important thing is to have good quality sound, which is super cheap and super easy to set up. Invest in a $200 Rode mic and an A700 Panasonic camera, those are like 500- $800. You get those two things, you record this training, and you've now done something no other contractor is doing. You're recording training and providing it to the owner.


You're going to reduce your callbacks and the “Hey, how do I do this,” because you provided that. You're going to provide unparalleled service, which you should then pivot into service work.


But also, on top of all this, you're creating a training library. My business is in the business of selling training to contractors and owners. So, it doesn't really behoove me to tell you this, but I'm going to be straight with you. You can create a training library that you can offer as a service to your customers.


Now, we've already done this. We've created a course called Building Automation Operations Bootcamp, that a lot of our contractor customers use in lieu of owner training. They use this course, or they use it in conjunction with this course, and we have seen significant reduction in callbacks and warranty complaints by customers having this video training.


The key point here is, you focus in on the use cases and you create videos based on the use cases which you then provide to the end customer. At the end of the day, that's the framework. It's super duper simple.


All you've got to do:

  1. Identify the training requirements.
  2. Identify the roles that are being trained.
  3. Identify the use cases for each role.
  4. Create a video recording of each individual use case. A single recording for each use case, not a four hour recording of every use case, because no one will watch that.
  5. Once those are recorded, you put them in a library.


Guess what? I guarantee you, over the course of a couple dozen projects, you're going to see the same use case again, and again, and again. And guess what that means? You will start to get some videos that you're like “This is a really good video for the scheduling use case” or “That is a crap video for the scheduling use case.” Then you pick the best one and you gradually replace your library, until you have a great library of training videos.


So, you've built out a library of training videos for your owner customers. And then here's the beauty. This is something you can sell as a service to existing service customers and say, “We have an on-demand training library. It's very simple to host this on a website, and you can provide it to customers. You can stand up a really simple web page, literally pay someone, from a local university who has basic website development experience, a couple $1,000 to stand up a basic website, and put your training library on that website. Then, you have a training resource that you can provide your customers.


It is still mind boggling to me how working at the large OEMs, as well as working with contractors, people do not do this, and they do not sell this asset. You're creating these trainings, literally, every single month, you're on projects, closing them out. Why not record them? Why not focus on use cases, build out a use case training library?


Honestly, I'm jealous of all you contractors, because if I was still in contracting and doing construction and project work, that would be something I would be doing. If I had known I was going to create a building automation training business, I would have started recording use cases a long time ago for my own use. I don't know if I'd be able to use them, because I was working for another company at the time, but I would have done that. It would have at least been a valuable resource to the company I was working at.


But I will tell you, this is something that no one else is doing. If you do it, and you can even take it a step further by creating a QR code or a link on an individual system, and you could provide use case training videos related to that specific graphic or that specific thing that they may be doing, you will stand heads and shoulders above your competition. Let me tell you, folks, talent is the most important resource right now. If you can help your customers, in any way, augment their talent or increase their internal capabilities, they will pay for it because you simply have so much expertise, so much tacit knowledge leaving the industry, that it is difficult to replace.


So, I hope this helps you. I really hope you read this and implement it. I look forward to hearing your success stories and I look forward to hearing what you do. Maybe you do something that's very unique for training, and I'd love to hear about that. Let us know in the comment section wherever you're reading this. Thanks a ton, and take care!

Phil Zito

Written by Phil Zito

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