28 January 2016

Like any form of change management, implementing BIM effectively in your business will require a great deal of planning.

Becoming “BIM-ready” isn’t about buying the latest software, training your staff and then flicking the switch, it’s a journey that will require you to look at people, process and your outputs to bring them all together in a meaningful way for all of your collaborative partners.

Here we present some helpful advice to guide you through the planning stages and, hopefully, avoid some of the more avoidable pitfalls on the road to a BIM-enabled future…

Rule One – Get senior management onboard

Senior management must be squarely behind the decision to implement a BIM approach in word and in deed.

While operational staff may be first to spot BIM’s potential to make life easier or more efficient, if leadership is not supportive then success is likely to be elusive.

Any implementation is likely to need money and there will undoubtedly be some disruption to business as usual.

All things considered you will definitely need support ‘from on high’ across the implementation scheme so it’s wise to get this upfront.

In engaging with senior stakeholders it can be tempting to focus solely on benefits but presenting a more realistic picture will pay off in the long run. Don’t forget to highlight the short term pain and risks that will inevitably crop up, and not just the ultimate rewards.

Rule Two - Assemble the best team

Unless you’re part of a very small company it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do everything that’s required yourself.  For most, some kind of steering group will be required to oversee the process with representatives from a range of business areas.

As well as sharing the burden of set-up, involving a representative group from the start ensures that relevant areas of the business are well equipped with knowledge and insight which will be invaluable when embedding and then shaping your implementation in the years ahead.

Consider your team members carefully – passionate advocates for BIM will undoubtedly be useful allies but you need to ensure you’ve enough contributors who know existing process and procedure if you’re to fully understand the impacts of your decisions.

Team members should be appraised as to the reasons for change to temper any potential resistance. Try to encourage a ‘can do’ attitude to avoid delays and defaulting to the status quo when problems arise that could derail the scheme.

Rule Three - Determine and implement your standards

There are a range of different approaches to project management and your company will likely follow (to a greater or lesser extent) one of the common frameworks, such as PRINCE2. There should be little need to deviate from these to deliver a BIM implementation project.

Standards for the way in which the models are created, the internal processes used and the technical and representational standards that apply to the deliverables will also be needed. You’ll find details of some of the most common here on theNBS.com and also on the BIM Level 2 and BIM Task Group websites . As collaboration lies at the heart of BIM, it’s unlikely you’ll need to stray too far from these in developing your own approach.

Taking the time to analyse and document the processes required to deliver BIM is likely to be a worthwhile investment. This documentation will be a useful checklist to ensure all impacts are considered and ensure that your new process will take account of existing interconnected systems and procedures.

Once your standards have been set you’ll also need to ensure that they’re followed with a range of control measures to ensure that staff across your company do the right thing.

Rule Four – Decide which tools you will use

Deciding which tools you’ll use to support your new processes becomes easier once you’ve a grasp of your current ones. Understanding where current investments or challenges lie should help you determine how new tools would come into play. While producing BIM models efficiently is a key part of the process, it’s not the whole story.

Senior management will likely hold the purse strings and have their own views on what tool(s) should be considered, often with little understanding about their technical merit. Providing appropriate evidence on what implementation would look like using a range of tools will be key to making the best choice overall.

Your project team will also need to determine the extent to which your chosen tool(s) work well together – sharing information in an accurate and timely fashion without losing data as files travel between systems and partners. Understanding these integrations, particularly if using a number of tools, will help you determine where bespoke setup or code will be required to get the required results and who is best placed to deliver and to what timescales.

Rule Five - Train and develop your staff

Developing a team of ‘champions’ who can work with the project team on some of the more practical elements of the implementation will undoubtedly be useful when it comes to testing, training and ‘sense checking’ some of the decisions being made.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the drudgery of procedural change so these champions can help keep everyone motivated by showcasing and evangelising the real progress that’s being made across all areas of your business.

As details of your implementation scheme become clearer you need to work out who you will involve and when and what you will tell different groups of stakeholders. Understanding of BIM is likely to be mixed so coming up with a communications plan will ensure that appropriate staff are approaching the challenges of the project from a standard level of understanding.

Rule Six – Hone the process

It’s easy to spend too much time concentrating on technology and not the interdependent processes and procedures.  While the move from the drawing board to CAD was revolutionary it didn’t fundamentally change the way projects were delivered. BIM has collaboration at its heart so is likely to require more information upfront. You may need to consider how this will impact your whole approach to projects.

Rule Seven – Set realistic goals

The benefits of BIM are well-documented but time and effort need to be invested to realise its true potential.

While it’s easy to think of BIM as flicking the switch on a new bit of software that will do everything you need right from the start, that’s not really a realistic scenario. It’s important, therefore, whether dealing with senior managers or staff on the ground to ensure expectations are realistic from the start.

Senior stakeholders are likely to be bombarded with marketing messages from software vendors or big companies who’ve gone on a BIM journey about the results. These results will take time and can’t all be realised on day one.

Resist the temptation to promise best-case-scenario results and guarantee business as usual. Being realistic is a much more prudent approach.

Maintaining business as usual while driving a major programme of change will be challenging – particularly when that change is likely to impact on most areas of your business. Day-to-day you’re likely to be weighing up demands on your time – from training needs to hardware and software procurement, testing, and making decisions. Reasonable staged targets are therefore essential to keep the programme on track. While it’s easy to get bogged down with the minutiae or the most pressing demands, someone needs to keep sight of the bigger picture so the implementation remains on course. 

Rule Eight - Don’t make things too complicated

BIM should drive new efficiencies in your business and beyond but without proper controls you can easily end up developing complex processes that end up being much less efficient than existing ways of working.

Resist the temptation to develop technical or procedural solutions that are overly complex and try to do too many things right from the start. Always be mindful of the ultimate goals for your BIM implementation and consider the cost and benefit of every process at every step to ensure you’re not doing unnecessary work and remain flexible.

Rule Nine – Plan for the worst

In an ideal world your software would work as required on day one, that function you’ve built a process around would integrate perfectly with minimum effort, and your hardware would be up to the job of running everything you throw at it. Life tends not to work that way.

Considering the possible risks at every stage of the process and monitoring and mitigating these risks will be essential to keeping the project on track.

Rule Ten – Find a partner

As more and more companies start on the road to their own BIM journeys there's more case-study style material beginning to be shared across the BIM community. Making use of this material where appropriate can help you reap the benefits of lessons learned the hard way. Finding a similar sized organisation to your own who're further on in the process can also be useful to help field ideas.

Related reading

Are you BIM ready? What your business needs to do before 2016 is a 10-part series by Anthony Lymath that looks at a range of things you'll need to consider when implementing BIM in your business - from auditing your current systems and process, mitigating risks, planning for implementation (and then implementation itself) and evaluating suceess.