Engine-room or brake
BIM can have a significant effect on a business such as a design consultancy or a construction contractor. BIM can either be the engine-room of the business, or a brake on productivity and efficiency, so it is critical to get it right.
Success is not guaranteed and it is essential to develop a strategy.
In this post, I cover options for preparing a BIM strategy, including use of external consultants vs internal resourcing.
As I describe in my post BIM: Tech is the easy bit, the technical aspects are often given too much emphasis in BIM strategy; rather than the more important business, process and people aspects.
Not all about software
The key is to use people who properly understand the design & construction business and to develop their BIM skills, rather than focusing on software expertise.
At a management level, BIM can be seen as just another bit of software and a junior person is tasked with implementing it as a purely technical activity, with insufficient attention at a business level.
It is not uncommon for organisations to launch straight into buying the latest & greatest technology and sending people on short & expensive training courses without any thought or planning, which is obviously a waste of time & money & counterproductive to a business.
A good strategy should not be long or complicated. It should be as concise as possible & define objectives, priorities, target dates and measures of success.
Don’t believe the hype
Software vendors or resellers will offer services in implementation, strategy & planning, and tie it into licence sales or training. However, their motivation is naturally to sell as much software or technical consulting as possible.
It is no great revelation that the benefits of any product is talked up during the sales process and it is exaggerated how far ahead the customer’s competitors are. So a BIM strategy needs to be achievable & based on fact and reality, and not the sales-talk.
Committees: Good at talk, poor at execution
Committees are great at discussion, but poor at decision making and even worse at execution. They tend to dilute great ideas & elevate mediocre ones. The purpose of a committee should be just to determine a strategy & goals.
My experience is that the important thing is often not the decision itself, but that the fact that a decision is made & acted upon (& obviously with justification & reasoning to support the decision).
Keeping everyone happy
Change is difficult and it is usually impossible to keep everyone happy. This applies particularly where processes & roles need to change and technology change.
Since a skill in a particular application might be critical to an individual’s career and position, it is natural that moving to a different application or process might upset or threaten many people.
I have explained this by knowing several applications is surely better than just one, and that these skills complement each other.
This might not keep everyone happy, but at least a clear and cohesive strategy provides justification behind a change.
Lack of commitment
Commitment is critical for the execution of a BIM strategy. In other words, when the pressure is on with project deadlines and a new process, it is easy to give up and revert to prior practice, or blame BIM for any problems.
There needs to be an acceptance of the effects of introducing change & an appropriate allowance of time or initial reduced productivity. That is not to say tactics can’t be adjusted if something is clearly not working.
Too senior to change
No-one is too senior to change. This does not mean that senior people need to become BIM experts, but they should know enough to complete their work in a BIM context without reverting to prior practice, or using clunky hybrid processes.
For example, a senior structural engineer might need to know how to open and review a model to provide input as it is developed, rather than waiting until drawings are printed.
Strategy from external Consultants
I tend to avoid business consultant types who offer services in business strategy or change management. Although some are smart and polished communicators, I have a low tolerance for Powerpoint overdose, MBA-speak and impractical or unrealistic advice.
Some BIM consultants are also offering business and strategy consulting- refer to my post ‘The rise of the BIM Consultant‘
One of my best bosses used to say: ‘If we need to bring in a consultant who knows nothing about our business to tell us how to run our business, then what am I paying you for ?’
I think there is limited scope for an external consultant to assist in the development of a BIM strategy- it really needs to come from within the business. It might be necessary to bring in someone with specific technical expertise to advise on constraints or considerations, but that is about it.
There is obviously the cost in bringing in an external consultant.
As I have explained, I think the best people for strategy are those who fully understand the the business. However, many self-developed BIM strategies tend to be low quality, overly technical (rather than business-focussed) and rushed.
The challenge many organisations have is:
- technical people aren’t necessarily good at strategy
- it is often difficult to step back from the day-day operational issues, or find sufficient time to properly think, investigate and define a strategy
- people within a business often have preconceptions and cannot see the issues through fresh eyes, and will revert to existing processes
Key points for a BIM strategy
- Spend time thinking & investigating
- Be ambitious but realistic
- Don’t rush into software & too much technical detail
- Keep it simple.
If a strategy can’t be defined simply & concisely, there is something wrong with it
- Main focus should be change in process & change in roles
- Don’t believe the sales hype and don’t assume something new is automatically better than something old.
- Limit committees to defining broad strategy only, and execute the strategy by tasks assigned to individuals.
- Consider training properly
- No-one is too senior to change
- Communication is essential i.e why & how change will occur
- Don’t try to keep everyone happy, but be prepared to explain & justify the strategy
- Commit to achieving overall goals, but be prepared to adjust your tactics if something is not working.