Explainers

Starting your BIM journey - Part 2: Focus and clarity

30 July 2019 | By John Adams

The previous article in this three-part “back to basics” series was designed to help you decide where to start with BIM, based on the role you play in our industry. However, it did little to remove the fear of the journey ahead. In his second article John Adams focuses on bringing clarity to your starting position and setting the path to success ahead.

John Adams

Regardless of which path you’ve decided best suits your role, adopting BIM should always be considered fully as a business change initiative. As with most business change strategies, there is an art form in achieving simplicity. BIM doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact, it’s much better if it isn’t. 

You are likely to fall into one of two camps in your search for BIM simplicity: either you’ve agreed to BIM on a project; or you are preparing for its impact. Whatever your motivation, the first step is the same: create a shortlist of your business processes that could be optimised, or that you’ve been asked to digitise using BIM. This could be anything from the way you estimate or draw, to how you deliver handover O&M data. 

It is important to consider the areas where your business interfaces with the projects first. Digitising your payroll is, of course, important but it doesn’t improve the information management for the buildings or assets we deliver. 

Don’t worry if this list is quite long or short, everyone’s business is different. If you are struggling for inspiration there are now several case studies emerging from most disciplines and specialisms, so have a look at what the leaders in your field have been up to.   

If the list still isn’t coming together there are two broad groupings that can be useful in getting started. The “BIM Dimensions” separate BIM activities into groups of similar ideas based on role. The Penn State University “BIM Uses” resource, meanwhile, groups BIM activities by project stage. 

Although both offer some really good ideas to get you going, there is sometimes BIM snobbery around these resources. Penn State’s “BIM Uses” does not use the ISO BIM language, and the “BIM Dimensions” have been hijacked by some solution providers, so this is understandable. Don’t let this bother you – getting to a good shortlist of areas to change your business for the better using BIM is what matters. 

Now you’ve got a list of great BIM-based initiatives, don’t jump straight into the top of the list. There is undoubtedly too much to do. Write a short benefits statement for each idea, do a bit of research into what software and standards are there to help with each and then present each idea to your business leaders. Senior management buy-in is fundamental to successful BIM adoption. Some of these ideas will ring true as good business improvements, and others that seemed appropriate may fade away under scrutiny.

With your now shortened and prioritised list of BIM adoption initiatives tailored to your business in hand, it’s time to take the plunge. It’s best if you can have two champions who look after one idea each, and best if these ideas are complementary but clearly identifiable. A great choice here is to pick one technology challenge, such as an improved template or new software implementation, and one process challenge which is focussed on people, maybe the adoption of a shared file naming approach. 

Set achievable targets and share them with your business. If you do not share them, the day-to-day work will take precedence and BIM adoption will be an unfinished project forever. One good thing to do to speed up the knowledge acquisition needed is to attend events that have speakers targeting your particular area. There are specialist events, local BIM region meetings and focused BIM4 groups which are all there to help, so make the effort to get out there and speak to people. 

Don’t be intimidated by BIM events, the BIM community is a really welcoming crowd who genuinely want to help.  Checking out the UK BIM Alliance events page is a good place to start, but it does not have every event so a little further research is likely to pay off.

If BIM is not adding value, it’s generally down to it being done badly so in the final article of this series, I will be discussing resources, strategies and ideas for making sure your BIM adoption is successful and well received by your business.

John Adams is digital construction strategist at Glider BIM