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 instalment concludes the look at the changes that will be needed within your business.

Changes required to existing business – part 2


Needless to say, the CAD skills of your organization’s staff must be assessed. Staff at different levels and occupying different positions within a company will probably have different levels of proficiency with CAD operation, and even those working at the same level as one another will fluctuate as aptitudes and experience can vary significantly from person to person. CAD proficiency tends to correspond to the relative need to use it; a project-running designer will need to be very competent, whereas a senior director may only need minimal expertise for occasional use. Furthermore, and bearing in mind the sea change in drafting as computers have replaced the drawing board over the course of the last 25 years, there will inevitably be some older staff who are not computer literate. Migration to BIM software is therefore going to need to be both targeted and appropriate to the audience.

Besides the ability to use BIM software, IT maintenance also needs to be considered. More complex software, cloud storage, data security and management, and increasingly sophisticated infrastructure need to be maintained seamlessly to minimize downtime. In fact, it’s fair to say that the more complex the information production, management and delivery systems are, the greater the burden of their successful and continual operation. The question of whether to out-source these services, or retain them in-house, will inevitably require a balance between the issues of staff expertise and cost.


Although some BIM software has been in existence for many years, others are comparatively new and, in any event, they have not tended to hold a dominant share of the market until comparatively recently; possibly influenced by the UK government’s BIM mandate (src: NBS National BIM Report 2015). Consequently, operator knowledge is not as commonplace as it is with the more prevalent 2D CAD software. And whereas there is a school of thought to suggest that one CAD program is much like another, the fact remains that 3D BIM programs do work in a significantly different way. Users transferring to BIM will therefore have varying degrees of success, and hence become proficient at different rates to one another.

With all this in mind, the question of training becomes crucial. Software training courses tend to be expensive and business owners can be understandably reluctant to spend money; especially as there is always a risk that trained staff may leave and take their new skills with them. University graduates can be an asset here as they will probably have received training through their studies. In larger companies a balanced training strategy may be possible, whereby a few initial BIM-proficient staff can impart their knowledge progressively around an organization. Smaller organisations, in contrast, may need to consider training for the majority (or even all) of their staff.

The timing of any training should be balanced against the office’s workload: training too early can risk newly-acquired skills being forgotten before they have opportunity to be put into practice, whereas putting off training until a live project starts will impact on delivery dates, and increase the risk of abortive work and mistakes.

Information management: policies, procedures and protocols

Many organizations will have established policies in place for document management. The advent of BIM use brings about its own problems, as the very essence of its operation is diametrically opposed to the historical methods of working in the construction industry. In contrast to the traditional ‘adversarial’ relationships between stakeholders in a project, BIM calls for collaboration and sharing (of data, responsibility, risk, reward and liability). According to the UK government’s timetable, the degree of sharing will need to increase to the point where all stakeholders are working on one set of shared information, held centrally, and accessible to all (BIM Level 3).

Management of data will invariably require change in company procedures and practices; even filing locations and naming conventions will need to be altered and updated, as access by other organisations needs to be increased, to give the appropriate degree of interoperability. Common file formats and languages (including but not limited to COBie and IFC) will need to become more prevalent, enabling data exchange between stakeholders with different requirements and agendas. Data security can become an issue, particularly when working with ‘sensitive organizations’ such as central government defence or energy generation companies. Office standards and templates will need to be reviewed and revised accordingly, and alignment with nationally- or internationally-recognised standards will almost certainly be the baseline requirement. The BS/PAS 1192 suite of standards, ISO 12006-3 and ISO 29481-1 respectively cover the requirements for object-based information standards and data exchange.

In addition, document issue and control methods, and archival policies will all need to be reviewed and updated. As organizations have moved from paper to electronic information transfer, so the traditional ‘issue sheet’ approach is being replaced by uploads to centralized information repositories with, typically, email notifications of new uploads being circulated instead. However, not all organisations will need to be notified of all new information uploads; and as stakeholders move from BIM Level 2 to Level 3, practices will again need to adjust in order to track the changes to the shared information. Quality Assurance procedures will also need to be updated in the light of all of these issues.

See the following articles for more explanation of common file formats for data exchange and interoperability:


Established fee structures have tended to be based either on equal monthly staged payments, or on work stages (commonly based on the RIBA Plan of Work). With BIM production, more work is generally required up front in order to build a 3D model (as opposed to floorplans only, for example). Whereas not all information will be present in the model at an early stage (since the level of detail will be increased as the design develops), there will still be more information input than a 2D-based concept design. Conversely, less work should, in theory (and barring any variations) be needed during the construction phase. A further factor to take into consideration is the shared risk and liability of working in collaboration on a project, and fee levels and structures will need to be adjusted to account for these issues. See the article, What will BIM mean for design fees?, for more information on this subject.

Contracts and appointment documents

The CIC BIM Protocol (.pdf, 815Kb) has been written exclusively to deal with appointment matters unique to BIM working, and is intended to be used as a supplement to a designer’s appointment terms. Newer construction contracts to deal with BIM-enabled procurement are still in development, but the major players including PPC, JCT and NEC offer contracts that can be used (albeit with modifications in the form of supplements).


Professional Indemnity Insurance has traditionally been company-specific, with liability limited strictly to the work of the policy holder. As the crossover between organisations blurs the boundaries of liability, so each organisations’ respective insurance policies will need to be tailored for collaborative working. Check carefully for any limitations or exclusions imposed by the underwriter, and also for any increases in policy excesses.


Intellectual property rights will become harder to control, particularly as organizations work to BIM Level 3. Software and information repositories will need to be able to track changes to the shared project data; and to be able to record and identify authors, particularly of changes to designs.

The next article looks 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 5)
Next month: Are you BIM ready? What your business needs to do before 2016 (Part 7)

Useful links and references