22 March 2017

The terms 'BIM Manager', 'BIM Co-ordinator' and even 'Information Officer' have crept into construction vocabulary in recent years. In the UK an information manager is responsible for management of the CDE with no design responsibility. A BIM co-ordinator contributes to information management through establishing standards for models and execution plans.

For many companies a BIM Manager is a catch-all role associated with driving forth changes around digital ways of working.  What is clear is a 'BIM Manager' cannot be identified by a uniform set of tasks. This is a role that varies across sectors and from company to company. Moreover, the role of a BIM Manager is in constant flux as working practices change to meet the ever-evolving demands of the digital construction revolution.

What does a BIM Manager manage?

Thought it's nigh on impossible to find a one-size-fits-all BIM Manager job description there are some things that are common.

Starting with a broad view, a BIM Manager can conceivably be thought of as someone with responsibilities in regard to the planning, design, delivery and operation of as-built assets.

The BIM Manager's job is, as you would expect to 'manage', but this is not a management role in the traditional sense.

A big part of the role is about change management, getting the most out of the technology, people, process and policies that underpin changed ways of working to deliver the outputs needed for collaborative construction.

What kinds of skills does a BIM Manager need?

In many companies the BIM Manager role evolved in response to a need to implement new technology. Many managers will, therefore, have a background in tech while others will have nurtured an interest and enthusiasm in these areas, upskilling in response to a business need.

When companies first started exploring BIM it may have been possible for BIM Managers with knowledge of tools and workflows, and a smattering of 'soft' skills, to get by, today the role is much broader and expectations greater.

Some BIM Managers will have come to the role with a history of developing policy and process and implementing change, along with wider business acumen. These skills reflect the fact that understanding how BIM should be delivered to best drive efficiencies and meet business objectives is crucial.

Other BIM Managers may come to the role with more of a focus on information management.

The truth is, a BIM Manager needs a broad set of skills to manage and drive change that fully reaps the rewards of the digital construction revolution and encourage others to do likewise. And it is this broad skillset that means post holders are likely to come to the role with a varied range of prior experiences.

The need to guide organisations from traditional to digital means of delivery is still very much required and for the forseeable future the BIM Manager's role remains crucial.

Essential for all is a need to evangelise the benefits of change, good communication, as well as continuous learning and development.

This is not a role for those who like the status quo, effective BIM Managers need to be prepared to elevate their role to flag issues, concerns and impacts to an organisation's leadership team to ensure the best decisions are made.

In an industry renowned for tight deadlines and low profit margins, the push for change and innovation needs to be well informed and well considered and the BIM Manager is fundamental here.

The BIM Manager should fight against pseudo BIM (BIM-like outputs not delivered optimally, efficiently) and cut through the noise and hyperbole.

What does a BIM Manager actually do?

A BIM Manager's role is necessarily nebulous.

Day-to-day duties will depend very much on the task at hand and at what stage in a change process or construction project the manager is working.

As more stakeholders start to think about and engage with BIM workflows then the BIM Manager's role will flex in response.

Is becoming a BIM Manager a job for life?

As designers, engineers, contractors and others all start working in new ways then, over time, BIM will become business as usual. It's therefore likely that the BIM manager's skills will be subsumed into design, engineering or contractor roles without the need for a special BIM label or even a dedicated manager role. With processes established 'everyone' will contribute to and own the BIM.

With such a varied picture of BIM maturity from company-to-company and between disciplines, there's still an awful lot for a BIM Manager to do. The need to guide organisations from traditional to digital means of delivery is still very much required and for the forseeable future the BIM Manager's role remains crucial.

Image: The Open University under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence.

What to view next...

Who manages BIM? Do we need a BIM manager?
Back in 2011 The NBS BIM Research Report found an industry awash with different opinions on what BIM actually is, and what change it could mean for the architecture and construction industries. Following the release of these findings, NBS quickly gathered some key voices and leading industry commentators, including Paul Morrell OBE, around a table to discuss how BIM will impact the construction sector, and how this will lead to a very different, increasingly collaborative approach to building design and management.