BIM: Tech is the easy bit

The technical aspects of BIM are generally the easiest, but are given a disproportionate amount of (or even exclusive) attention.

The most important parts of BIM are not in software & technology, but in people & business processes. This takes some time to get right.

I have seen many BIM strategies or BIM project plans that launch straight into technical details of file formats, IFC schema, COBie deliverables (don’t get me started on COBie), but without any clear indication of who is doing what, and why.


Good people and processes are more important than sophisticated or complex software.
A lot can be achieved with quite simple tools, used properly.

The subscription model and yearly update cycles means that many BIM applications are bloated with ‘features’, but many are unused by most people and therefore it is not always essential to have the latest and greatest software.

As I describe in my posts BIM: Success is not guaranteed & Making Money, strategy and planning is essential. It is much more important than just the technology.

Skills & process

Training should be less about the ‘picks & clicks’ and features of particular applications, but more about the process, priorities, roles & responsibilities.

For example: for model-based construction planning aka ‘4D’, then definition of processes for exchanging model and program data and the involvement of planners and designers is critical.
Therefore, training should be in appropriate methods and applications relevant to these tasks & roles. Of course, it is necessary to understand the software & how it works, but it should be in the context of specific tasks & roles, rather than being based on just software features.

I have examined the issues relating to training in BIM in more detail in my post BIM: The importance of training


The key is to use people who properly understand design and construction and to develop their BIM skills rather than the opposite i.e a software geek will probably not understand enough about design & construction to know what needs to be done and why.

Knowing which icon to click is very different to knowing what is important in design & construction, or to the business.

Technology and process change can be difficult on personal level, particularly for people who have built a career on expertise in a particular application and might feel threatened by change. It is essential to work with people and get them on-side by explaining what is happening and why, and by helping them to adapt.

It is also important to define changes in roles and responsibilities. As I explain in BIM: Success is not guaranteed, no-one is too senior to change.


I cover the issues relating to profitability of BIM in BIM: Making Money.
Along with the obvious software costs, BIM might have an effect including:

  • Cost and program
    It is a well known phenomenon that BIM tends to ‘front load’ project work where most of the initial effort goes into modelling without many tangible results or deliverables such as drawings, but that documentation production at later stages of design tends to proceed quickly based on earlier work. So this affects design milestones, resourcing and fees. There is also a risk if the fee structure is based on traditional practice that if the project is shelved part-way that the cost of front-loaded work can’t be recouped.
  • Risk and professional indemnity
    Whilst BIM can result in design quality improvements, there is also some risk in model-based deliverables and possible implications for legislation such as Australia’s ‘Safety in Design’, where the designer has a design duty with respect to safe use, construction, decommissioning or maintenance.
  • Personnel and resourcing
    i.e in terms of employee skills, experience & retention.


Focusing first on BIM technology, and then addressing business and people issues is putting the cart before the horse.

It sounds obvious, but any strategy should be based on the business first, and the technology adapted to suit. Once a clear and coherent business strategy is defined, making the technology work is the easiest bit.


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