Effective Alliances Require Education on Partnering

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Large companies in the IT space are used to forming partnerships and alliances with one another to jointly serve customers. They have well-established best practices for how to make the partnerships work to the benefit of both sides and, most importantly, for the customer.

Forming similar alliances to address energy issues on a city wide scale gets a little trickier. First of all, you’ve got a mix of players involved, from large vendors like Schneider Electric, Microsoft and Cisco to various government entities, utility firms, real estate developers and, often, academic institutions and startup companies with interesting new technologies to offer. No blueprint yet exists for how all the players in this ecosystem should best work together to come up with solutions that drive more efficient energy use.

But we’re working on it. I’m a big believer that membership in the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP) is a good way to get the tools, training, and knowledge needed to ensure strategic alliances operate soundly and continually achieve the objectives of all partners. I’m happy to say that Microsoft and Cisco, two of our alliance partners, are also members of ASAP. That essentially gives us a common language to speak and an approach to take when we partner to tackle issues around smart city technology.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that our partnerships are flourishing and we’re making real progress. For example, we’ve done a lot of work integrating Cisco EnergyWise Management (formerly JouleX) technology with our energy management products. This gives our tools a window into the IT space, enabling us to provide energy management expertise to the IT environment just as we’ve done for years with building HVAC and data center power and cooling systems.

GreenTechMedia.com had a piece about JouleX not long ago that did a good job laying out the benefits, which include the fact that JouleX requires no client software on the devices it manages. The piece details how a Dutch hospital achieved a 30% reduction in IT energy use with the technology. And the piece goes on to say:

It’s also a big plus for energy services providers like Schneider Electric that want to incorporate IT plug loads, which can make up 25 percent to 50 percent of an enterprise’s electricity bill, into a broader energy management portfolio.

“From our perspective, any time on the energy management side when we start to reach into that” IT environment, “there’s a lot of resistance,” said Marcus Craig, Southeast regional sales manager for French energy services and power equipment giant Schneider Electric. “We’re talking about agencies that have thousands and thousands of devices.”

Installing and maintaining client-side software on all those devices just isn’t practical for Schneider’s building-side energy management work, he said. But with JouleX, which is one of several of Schneider’s EcoStruxure technology partners, “We can deploy this, and crawl through their systems,” and then wrap those IT energy savings into Schneider’s existing building HVAC and power equipment efficiency services, he said.

Cisco EnergyWise (formerly JouleX) already supports some 70 protocols that collectively enable it to manage thousands of different devices, with more coming on board all the time. That’s the kind of widespread applicability you need to address energy efficiency issues across entire buildings and cities.

We’re making similar progress with Microsoft. Consider Orbit, a new Schneider-Electric mobile solution that helps utilities and telecommunications companies capture, manage and unify data they gather in the field. It consists of Schneider Electric data collection and analysis software combined with the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, which makes it easy to share the data as needed. Lincoln Electric System (LES), a global energy management specialist, selected Orbit to collect data from transmission poles and various types of field inspections. As OnWindows.com reports:

Field workers can identify, inspect, and document assets while in the field on Windows and other devices and communicate the completion of work back to the office.

“Orbit offered the most economical way for us to consistently handle additional field work processes without a lengthy or costly implementation,” said David Miller, manager of Geospatial Technologies at LES.

Orbit integrates with the utility’s existing corporate security model so that users are required to sign on with their corporate login credentials to access the solution.

As the Schneider Electric solution runs on Microsoft’s Azure cloud solution, it allows updates and data to be distributed throughout the entire workforce immediately.

We’ve also partnered to bring the Schneider Electric StruxureWare Resource Advisor to the Microsoft Azure platform, enabling the development of custom, cloud-based energy management and sustainability software for customers across diversified industries. The first to deploy the solution was the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), which used it as the foundation for its Higg Index 2.0, a web-based tool that helps retail organizations standardize how they measure and evaluate environmental performance of apparel products across the supply chain.

As more companies become members of ASAP and learn how to effectively partner with one another, I expect we’ll see an increasing number of companies delivering helpful solutions to customers, just as Schneider Electric has with its partners Cisco and Microsoft. Together, we’ll deliver on the promise that efforts such as smart cities present.

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