The process of implementing BIM is about change management, first and foremost. To do this successfully, the process needs to be carried out methodically. The best way is to make a ‘BIM implementation plan’, and the steps for this are outlined through the course of this series. This article looks at the strategic planning that will be needed for successful BIM implementation within your business.
Strategic planning for implementation – part 1
The process of implementing BIM in your organization is a significant step and, as the research and assessment phase draws to a close, the theory of collaborative working is now adapted into a practical model. But as the time to put theory into practice approaches, a number of important decisions must be made. To this end, a roadmap should be planned, which considers the following issues.
Present maturity level
The extent of the work required to move up to BIM level 2 will be entirely dependent on the existing maturity level to which your organization currently works. For an overview of the maturity levels, refer to the NBS article ‘BIM levels explained’. For example, if you deem your present working practices to be around level 1, with the majority of your work drafted in 2D CAD and perhaps augmented with 3D presentation information and a separate standalone specification, with all CAD drawings produced to BS 1192 compliance and shared electronically via a centralized repository, then you will obviously have less to change to move up to level 2 than if you are at level 0, with all output on paper only and no common standards for information management.
A common misconception of BIM is that it simply means buying 3D software, whereas the reality is that it is in fact about developing a mindset and a culture of structured, shared working to a common set of standards, and the software is simply a tool to assist in achieving this.
No discussion of change within a business would be complete without considering finances. Businesses emerging post-recession having survived the toughest trading conditions of recent history are understandably cautious about expenditure, and the natural reaction to ‘upgrading’ is the question of cost. Aside from the matter of 3D software itself (which can be purchased in a variety of configurations and permutations depending on features required, ranging from rendering through thermal and environmental modelling to structural and MEP design), the ability of the office’s existing hardware to handle the larger programs and files will need to be ascertained.
Added to this, networking and storage capacity, and file sharing costs will need to be factored in. Larger files (as discussed in part 2 of this series) will place an additional burden on in-house servers, as well as challenging data transfer rates when sending and receiving either to other organizations or to off-site (e.g. cloud) storage. Finally, the matter of training will also have a financial impact, whether through direct teaching costs or downtime for staff. Having carried out your business audit, an appropriate working budget will need to be set aside for any expenditure deemed necessary.
Hand-in-hand with budget is the question of cash flow. One impact of the recession has been the increasing challenge of eliciting prompt payments from clients, who themselves will be equally concerned with their own balance sheet. Having established the total expenditure required to move to Level 2, whether it includes software, hardware, infrastructure or training, or a combination of these, it is likely that the various expenses incurred will have to be prioritized in order to even-out their costs over a period of time that can be absorbed within the company’s regular income and outgoings. Some of these decisions will be relatively logical however; there is little point in buying 3D CAD licences if the office computers don’t meet the requisite system requirements, or if the staff don’t know how to use the software, for example. Equally, offsite cloud storage services won’t likely be needed before the BIM information is produced and shared, so this is likely to be a lower priority cost. Spreading out the cost can also be achieved by gradual or phased implementation, for example: workstations and software licences can be purchased a few at a time, and staff trained progressively, over a period of time. Hot-desking can be an option where a number of staff may need to use BIM on only an infrequent basis; a limited number of workstations and licences can therefore be dedicated to BIM use, and shared as required.
As with any activity taking place within an organization, there will be an impact on time. Workload programming and resourcing will need to allow for the initial ‘learning curve’ where productivity will be reduced at the outset, as staff become accustomed to the new working environment. As with cashflow, this might again be spread over a period through phasing; implementation on a project-by-project basis can also help. Careful selection of which projects are the ‘guinea pigs’, will help to reduce disruption. Similarly, timing within the year can also assist by taking advantage of traditionally quiet periods such as the summer school holidays, when deadlines are fewer and more time can be afforded to up-skilling the workforce.
As has been mentioned before, training is often a thorny issue for any organization. Buying-in training, or sending staff out to training organizations, has a large time and cost impact. The temptation might be try to rely on free resources such as online video tutorials. However, it must be borne in mind that many of these will have been produced by amateurs, and their value and effectiveness at conveying the training material may be limited. Some companies may take the view that, by throwing staff ‘in at the deep end’ they will be forced to confront the knowledge gap by virtue of ‘sink or swim’. Others may decide that either training – or recruiting – a limited number of staff of a proficient level can then enable them to disseminate their knowledge to their colleagues through the course of either planned or impromptu on-the-job training. Timing of training should also be considered – train too early and staff may forget what they have learned before the time comes to put it into practice; leave it too late and the company may land a project where BIM working is necessary, and be caught unprepared to cope – with potentially damaging consequences.
Regardless of which method is selected (or a combination) the key to the success of training is that it is both appropriate and targeted to the audience.
Any move over to a different method of working, and the changes incumbent on this, will of course need to be timed to suit the office’s workload; both current and projected. This is important for a number of reasons:
- Timing – has your company recently landed a BIM project, or signed up to work with another stakeholder who requires BIM level 2? Are you intending to do so in the near future? Is it convenient to adopt BIM at this moment in time; could your organization cope with the transition at present?
- Cost – can you afford to make the change at present? Are your company finances robust enough for the expenditure and (short-term) reduced productivity?
- Need – are any of your existing business contacts moving over to BIM, or are they planning to? Will delaying the move jeopardize any existing business relationships and sources of regular work? Have you identified public sector work, for example, as a market that you wish to break into, for which BIM level 2 will be a mandatory requirement?
Having decided that you wish (or need) to become BIM level 2 compliant, then one of the best decisions you can make is to appoint or designate one or more ‘champions’ within your organization, who you can task with the responsibility of rolling out and driving the BIM implementation plan. Depending on the size and nature of the organization, it may be sufficient to select either a senior manager who has an interest in technology (or an existing IT/ CAD manager) for the role. Alternatively, staff who possess the requisite skills and knowledge may be recruited specifically for this purpose. Larger organizations will almost certainly need to appoint someone to the position of Information Manager; responsible for all of the information that is generated and circulated both within the office and to, or from, external sources. The article ‘Understanding BIM in a project management environment’ contains more information on this role. One trait that will be of immense value in moving over to BIM level 2 is enthusiasm, and a leader who can inspire even the most reticent staff will be of immeasurable value at this time.
The next article continues our look at the strategic planning that will be needed for successful BIM implementation within your business.
Previous: Are you BIM ready? What your business needs to do before 2016 (Part 6)
Next month: Are you BIM ready? What your business needs to do before 2016 (Part 8)
Useful links and references
- BIM Demystified (2nd edition), Steve Race, RIBA Publishing
- BIM for Construction Health & Safety, Stefan Mordue and Roland Finch, NBS
- BIM for the terrified
- BIM in Small Practices: Illustrated Case Studies, Robert Klaschka, NBS
- BIM management for value, cost and carbon improvement. A report for the Government construction Client Group. Building Information (BIM) Working Party. Strategy Paper. March 2011
- BS 1192-4:2014 Collaborative production of information Part 4: Fulfilling employer’s information exchange requirements using COBie – Code of practice
- BS 8541-3:2012 Library objects for architecture, engineering and construction. Shape and measurement - code of practice, 2012
- BS EN ISO 14040:2006 Environmental management. Life cycle assessment. Principles and framework
- BS ISO 12006-3:2007 Building construction. Organization of information about construction works. Framework for object-oriented information
- BS ISO 16739:2013 Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) for data sharing in the construction and facility management industries
- BS ISO 29481-1:2010 Building information modelling. Information delivery manual. Methodology and format
- CIC BIM Protocol
- Government Construction Strategy May 2011
- NBS BIM object standard
- NBS BIM Toolkit
- PAS 1192-2:2013 Specification for information management for the capital/delivery phase of construction projects using building information modelling
- PAS 1192-3:2014 Specification for information management for the operational phase of assets using building information modelling (BIM)
- RIBA Plan of Work 2013