Webinar Recap: 6 Sustainability Dashboard Views Proven to Drive Results

Amy Hou  |  March 30, 2018  |  Energy & Sustainability  

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In our recent webinar with UL EHS Sustainability and SMA, we shared six sustainability dashboard views proven to drive results. Tim Porter, Urjanet’s global director of partner and OEM sales, and Ellen Shieh, sustainability advisor at UL EHS Sustainability, broke down what goes into a typical dashboard, which metrics to include, and how they should be visualized based on the intended audience or scope of strategy. Watch the full recording here, or catch up on the key takeaways and Q&A below.

Empowering Programs with Dashboards & Data

The power of using the right dashboards can’t be overestimated. Combining granular data with visual dashboards enables a sustainability team to:

  • Earn buy-in with internal stakeholders
  • Present performance against clear goals
  • Pinpoint most effective areas for improvement

Throughout the course of the webinar, Ellen shared six different sustainability dashboard views. The six views vary in the metrics shown, level of granularity, and intended audience.

According to Ellen, the key takeaway here is to understand your audience and know what’s important to your internal stakeholders. A lot of the data that data managers, sustainability analysts, and energy managers deal with are not easily digestible to people who don’t deal with quantitative information on a regular basis.

“To really have an effective sustainability dashboard, it needs to tell a story around the trajectory of your organization.”

Sometimes, diluting that information into a pretty graph is much more approachable than simply looking at hard numbers. “To really have an effective sustainability dashboard, it needs to tell a story around the trajectory of your organization and the organization’s path in sustainability.”

Dashboards Are Nothing Without Data

Even the prettiest dashboard, however, can’t obscure a lack of accurate information. “It doesn’t matter if you have the coolest car in the world if you don’t have any gas to put in it,” said Tim. He went on to explain how UL EHS Sustainability’s PURE platform is integrated with Urjanet utility data. The integration allows for pertinent data to flow from the utility provider into the PURE system. Then, it automatically updates in the platform every month as new invoices become available.

“The quickest way to lose enthusiasm and momentum in your program is to lose people’s trust in what they’re seeing.”

This way, when you come in to work each morning, you know the data you’re looking at is the most up-to-date. Otherwise, the visualizations you create in any platform won’t be reliable. “The quickest way to lose enthusiasm and momentum in your program is to lose people’s trust in what they’re seeing,” said Tim. “Using timely data is the only way to make sure that you’re not driving to a destination with an outdated map.”

Altogether, powering your dashboards with timely and accurate data enables you to:

  • Manage metrics efficiently
  • Create reports quickly
  • Spend more time interpreting and reporting and less time manually entering information or creating tables

Q&A

How is the data typically entered into the system?

Tim: That’s really the secret sauce of the Urjanet platform. We use the invoice itself as the data source, and the invoice is then processed by the software integrations we’ve written. We have software that goes out and looks for invoices that have been posted every day, delivering it daily to be automatically ingested by the PURE platform. The only part where people are involved is at the beginning, in configuring the utility company name and account numbers; once that’s done, it’s all automated through software.

How flexible is the PURE platform in helping to tailor my own dashboard?

Ellen: From the start, we encourage our clients to give us an idea of the type of dashboards they want to configure. All of the dashboard views we’ve shown can be created within the same platform. They can be created in any style you’re looking for and to any audience you’re looking to display to. As we’ve seen, the views will look very different for an energy or property manager versus someone who oversees all sustainability for the organization. We’ll build it based on how you want to display the data and how granular of information you want to show to that individual or persona.

What kind of user interface is needed? Can you data mine or export data for specific users (e.g. by business user, division, or department)?

Ellen: Dashboards are really just a highlighted area, once you log in to the PURE platform, to view all the data that’s important to an individual. Within that interface, you can download charts, or export a table or spreadsheet, depending on what’s in that dashboard view. With the analysis tools, you can also slice and dice that data based on structure (business unit, division, department, facilities type, etc.) or geographic region. It’s very flexible, similar to the function we have for building dashboards.

How comprehensive is the Urjanet platform? Does it include water data?

Tim: That’s a great question. Oftentimes, when we talk about utility data, people instantly think of electricity and gas, but we have had water as a key commodity type since the beginning. For example, we work with many companies in the UK, where water is one of the more difficult data sets to get to. It could be due to a lower level of sophistication in the water providers than exists for electric and gas providers, which makes aggregating water data a challenge.

In the U.S., on the other hand, it’s more a matter of the quantity of providers. There are over 150,000 water providers in the U.S., many of them municipal (e.g. Town of, City of) providers. As for your question about comprehensiveness, we’re gathering everything that shows up on the invoice. Whatever level of detail you’d like to see — line item, images, charge types, usage type — we’ll gather.

Would any sustainability dashboard views be able to show demand charges, energy tariffs, etc?

Ellen: It depends on the type of data that you want to collect and display. Our dashboards and the tools that we have to build charts are data-agnostic. As long as it’s a data point or indicator that you have in the system, we can display it on the dashboard. How you want to collect that data depends on you. As long as there’s a data point for a particular region for a set period of time, we can import that information in so you can view it in one of the dashboards you saw today.

Is it possible that one day we may be able to integrate real-time data into the software?

Tim: Our specialty at this point has been integrating with what the utility companies are providing. The closest to real-time data that’s made available by those companies is a day behind, and that’s interval data. In the U.S., it’s generally 15-minute intervals. If utility companies have made that information available on their websites from installed smart meters, then we can deliver that, but it’s not real-time; it’s day +1. As for real-time data from submeters, I think Ellen can speak better to that.

Ellen: We have a metering module that allows you to have a real-time meter feed. It’s an integration we can build within the platform, a little different from the dashboards we’ve shown, but you can view the data coming in at the cadence it comes in from the meter.

 

If you have any lingering questions that weren’t answered during the webinar, feel free to reach out to us. You can also watch the full recording of the webinar here.

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About Amy Hou

Amy Hou is a Marketing Manager at Urjanet, overseeing content and communications. She enjoys writing about the latest industry updates in sustainability, energy efficiency, and data innovation.