Configurable vs. customized? Selecting the right building automation software

By Switch Automation • February 8, 2017

Operating a large commercial real estate portfolio is a complex undertaking. As the CRE industry looks to technology to lighten the load, many portfolio owners and managers are selecting building automation software as their solution. In search of a framework to streamline operations, CRE professionals face many questions about which technology to choose: build vs. buy, cloud vs. on-premise, data lake vs. data warehouse, configurable vs customized? It is critical to pick a platform that scales along with your organization’s growth, works for a variety of users and fits comfortably into your budget. How do you choose the best solution for your business? In this post we’ll highlight the pros and cons of configurable vs customized options.

What’s the difference?

customized-buildingThe word custom feels tailored, unique and expensive. Usually, these first two words conjure up good feelings, but when it comes to software, they may not be best for your organization. Software customization is costly, laborious and takes the customer away from the vendor’s standard software offering. It usually requires a technical expert to execute and there is no guarantee that the customized product can evolve to meet future needs. Taking your organization down this path often means a unique code branch which requires additional maintenance each time there is a software release. Therefore, the work is never truly finished.


To configure, by definition, means to shape something into a particular form so it can be used. Configurable software has standardized functionality for the industry and will be compatible with future additions in features or updates. For the CRE professional this means any changes to a portfolio will be supported, making alterations simple, painless and inexpensive for users. No advanced technical skills are required, eliminating unexpected expenses and lengthy waiting periods. A configurable system’s framework is flexible and designed to expand in alignment with business demand.

Configurable vs customized: Discover your fit

Here are some questions you should consider when identifying whether a customized approach, or a truly configurable approach best supports your business growth forecast:

  1. How do you want to aggregate the energy, work order, occupancy and space temperature data for portfolio analysis? How long do you expect to spend on that process?
  2. How would your various team members view and analyze this information? Do they each prefer different dashboard layouts to view the data? (i.e. Building Engineer vs. Energy Manager vs. Portfolio Asset Manager)
  3. If you want to change a dashboard or a fault rule, what would you like the process to look like? Who would be involved in making the change?
  4. How technologically savvy are your users?
  5. How much time can you dedicate to training new users on a platform?
  6. If your vendor or internal tech team needs to customize a dashboard, what time frame do you expect the work to be completed in?
  7. How much did you budget for the future expense of in-house or service-contracted changes?
  8. How do you plan to grow your portfolio and/or what building technology changes might you make in the future?


Ultimately, the only constant in real estate is change. Scalability is king in the world of building automation software, and the larger a portfolio, the more critical it is to select a platform that can evolve quickly, simply and cost effectively. Our verdict? A configurable platform can provide a unified interface to view aggregated data, deliver fault detection and diagnostics, analyze smart alerts and execute real-time control and command. You can plug and play by bolting onto compatible subsystems, making site and portfolio analysis immediately available. The best part? You don’t have to pay a vendor to do it.

A good solution demonstrates immediate operational savings and ROI; a great solution continues to do so well into the future. When it comes to configurable vs. customized, customized may fit today but configurable will fit EVERY day.


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