BIM, success or failure, leap or crawl? In this article I’m going to question whether BIM protocols and improved collaborative and integrated working processes can be the lasting legacy of BIM regardless of technology take-up. Should companies concentrate on getting the processes and people aspects of BIM implementation right before considering what technology aspects of BIM to adopt?
Project Execution Plans (PEP) and Project Implementation Plans (PIP) are an area where quick, cheap and effective steps can be made in the early stages of BIM adoption. Small or large companies can use these tools or documents during the implementation stages of project at relatively small costs as compared to actually implementing the technology platform needed to run a BIM project. The documents if anyone is familiar to them will be aware are not a radical new concept, there are clear similarities to any existing planning documents that firms have set up internally for projects. Other BIM protocol documents such as the Pas 1192-2 have additional reference and guidance for a BIM strategy outlining project planning, structure, sharing and modelling protocols etc.
By at the very least adopting integrated planning structure of BIM project firms would be able to get the people and processes aspects of BIM right first, reap the benefits and then get the technical aspects ironed out either immediately after the BIM protocols and people structure has been established or even further down the line. Now some firms may be able to make the leap in one go, but others firm may require a more gentle transition period. The danger of making a great leap is that the early end spending may not be directed in the long term right direction. It’s not unheard of for companies to spend a huge amount on BIM models or technology before even having a clue on what they actually want to achieve through BIM adoption.
To briefly outline BIM protocols; BIM protocols are the setting up and adherence to processes and procedures that are part of BIM. Documents such as the Implementation Plans and the Project Execution Plans are used to outline the goals, skills, protocols, responsibilities and many other aspects of a BIM project at an early stage. Whilst in their current reference these types of documents are often referred to as BIM projects tools or plans I believe they could have a wider use across a multitude of projects, from basic standard construction projects right the way through to international research projects. Protocols and Executions Plans can be used to take a team beyond the initial brief into and through a project from start to finish providing clarity on what rules and procedures the team should adhere to, in a pre-agreed and documented format.
One of the major benefits of at least adopting BIM protocols first is that as mentioned trough reducing initial outlay the leap into BIM can be less of a leap and more of a steady passage. Another factor to consider is that by tackling the people and organisational aspects first you can skip the nervous and often ill-informed leap of purchasing a costly full software package deal before even knowing what you want out of BIM leading to multiple problems further down the line. The kind of problems I’m eluding to are ones such as being tied into a proprietary vendor, or not considering the actual companies or clients (depending on who’s the driver into BIM) requirements for the first or future BIM projects. Making these leaps into the technology aspects of BIM before fully understanding what you hope to get out of it, or maybe more importantly what you actually need out of a BIM project could be extremely costly. I have seen many testaments of companies purchasing astronomical amounts of software before even having a real clue as to what BIM or BIMM actual is and what it means for the firm beyond that of buzz word adoption. If a company is going to invest in BIM they need to be sure that they have sifted through the initial stages of the BIM wash and have begun to really evaluate and establish what BIM can do for them as an outfit.
Many people are getting BIM the wrong way round and coming unstuck when they have a flashy and pretty BIM model, or should I say 3D model as it is in most cases and not actually understanding what kind of data or processes they want to draw off from the BIM process as a whole.
Many people talk about the top>down approach of implementation i.e. getting the directors and managers to agree on the push for BIM and then look at the ‘down’ or general staff and assess what needs to be done in regards to training and technology etc. One step that I feel could get the ‘top’ on board more easily could be to present the notion of improving the simple and low costs things first to improve the methods and protocols of working. By implementing BIM protocols you can make quick gains in efficiency and processes with little outlay which could then be used as leverage to encourage any doubting bosses. In an ideal world all parties would be on board at a firm from the get go but this is obviously not always possible in reality. There are still factions out there that don’t understand BIM enough yet or are simply not encouraged enough by the current arguments to wholly make any huge leap. It’s often the case in business to adopt the ‘let’s see what everyone else does first’ policy.
With all these fluctuating variables coming into to play, getting the people working more efficiently and truly collaborative from the outset of projects could be one of the key lasting legacies of BIM as the area naturally metamorphosis’ and evolves over its lifespan. Certain processes, technology and aspects of BIM may fade over time, but the people involved, providing there’s no radical automated robotic takeover of the industry, will be there for the long run so getting the people aspects right makes sense, doesn’t it?
To put a delicate twist on my opening line; BIM, success or failure, leap or crawl, BIM protocols and improved collaborative and integrated working processes can be the lasting legacy of BIM at the very least I hope.