Don’t get taken advantage of, BIM’s not that complicated

Take a second and read the Epic BIM introduction paragraph at the top of the page. When John Grady wrote "Epic BIM challenges the tyrants who are attempting to keep BIM users chained to the unknown" I thought that was just John being John. A little bit melodramatic and over the top. But recently, I have become convinced that this statement is not so far from the truth. I can only witness certain behaviors so many times before I come to a conclusion about why those behaviors exist. In this case, I am talking about individuals that benefit from keeping BIM as mysterious and complicated as possible. I like to break them down into two types: the vainglorious and the opportunists. They exist in every discipline BIM touches. If you have worked in BIM, you have come across these individuals and know what I am talking about. In this post, I intend to discuss the opportunist and hope to point out some key indicators of what they do and how to identify them so that maybe others in the industry can deal with them as they see fit.

The Opportunist

The opportunist is like a vulture. Circling those lost in the BIM desert and waiting to pick their bones clean when they finally succumb from overexposure to useless information. All opportunists have the same exact message. "BIM is so complicated that you can't possibly understand it. Only I have the ability to do it for you." And then to convince you of their BIM prowess they begin to talk about everything in BIM at the highest level they are capable of.

Where there is confusion there is opportunity.

The opportunist uses the confusion they create to help themselves. In design and construction firms, they use this confusion to get jobs in BIM they are not actually capable of doing. Since their bosses don't know what they are talking about, they can keep up this charade for quite some time. It is very difficult for the non-BIM people to vet out those that are "all hat and no cowboy".

In research and academia, they use confusion to get published and included in industry standards. This is opportunism at a totally different level. Research can actually be good research, but becomes bad when those same researchers use confusion, to force their ideas into practice without any actual practical testing. That would be like drug companies taking their products straight to market without needing FDA approval. All they have to do is bury enough people in research papers and high level language and they forget that research does not equal practice. Keep in mind I do not speak of all research and academia here. I know many good researchers and academics. But the drive to gain recognition can make some people do things that are not good for the industry.

Some 3rd Party consultants and software vendors make use of the confusion about BIM in the worst way. They do their best to make sure that BIM appears very confusing, because it equates to them being hired more often. I realize that there is a fine line here between business opportunity and taking complete advantage of BIM users. I don't feel that this applies to major software vendors. The major vendors have their tricks no doubt, but I think they do a good job in keeping those in the category of business acumen. But there are those that you will find feeding off every major BIM project that was attempted by those without the skill to achieve it. The opportunist sits and waits outside the door so when they come looking for help they are there selling their own special brand of snake-oil.

How do you identify the opportunist?

For construction and design firms, I would recommend finding a BIM person that can bring the ideas down to a basic level. If you find yourself confused by what they are saying, don't be shy about telling them that. A real expert will have the ability to present the ideas at any level. And this is what you want from someone that will be teaching your average user BIM. Keeping the ideas at the highest level is a danger sign, of someone who is trying to take advantage of you.

For research and academia, the most important thing to look for is a large amount of industry involvement when it comes to the practical application of research. We don't have the FDA, so there are no predetermined steps a researcher needs to take in order to get their ideas to market. A lot of times this means that good ideas have to be pushed to industry before they are thoroughly tested. But they should never be pushed to industry without industry being involved in their creation. Unless you want to be an unknowing test subject, research the research, before you use it.

When it comes to 3rd party consultants and software vendors, the most telling sign is a product or process that inevitably will involve more of their services to use. Signing on with these companies is equivalent to getting yourself an everlasting tick. In order to continue operating under their systems you will need to keep funneling money to something while you do not really understand what you are getting in return. This last point is what separates the opportunist from a company with good business acumen. I may regularly funnel money to the large software firms but at least I understand what I am paying for and find value in it. Never let someone confuse you into spending lots of money on something that offers little to no return on investment. This is the tactic of the opportunist.

There was one particular event that caused me to write this post. At first I considered it to be something childish and ridiculous. But then I realized how inappropriate it was. Recently my friend, John Grady (Epic BIM founder) was involved in some discussions on LinkedIn and overnight all of his posts were being censored in almost every discussion group he was a part of. That was probably 2 dozen plus groups, if I was to guess. The only explanation for this is that a small group of people must have gone to every group he was in and flagged him enough to stop his posts. It had to be the same people because it happened overnight and in so many groups.

Now John may be persistent and confrontational, but I have never seen his LinkedIn comments be inappropriate. My only conclusion, is that whoever did this was being threatened by John's comments and decided to flag them. I encourage anyone in regular BIM LinkedIn discussion groups to look at recent comments John has made and make your own determination about who would be the most threatened by what he has to say. When I did this, it made me start to think about John's statement written at the top of this page.

So my response was to create a group where John and others that want to challenge the industry can talk in a free and open discussion about the BIM issues of the day. I started the Epic BIM LinkedIn discussion group. This will be the venue for discussion of this and all future Epic BIM posts. So please go join the LinkedIn group and be a part of the discussions that will free the BIM users from the chains of the unknown.

6 Comments

  1. Connor, the world is not perfect, and I would argue that we people are the main culprits. Empowering the human nature through technology has its consequences, and one of them is the proliferation of opportunistic mediocrity. Now, if one is to be a leader in their field of expertise, it is essential to recognize the occurrence of that behavior, and at the same time take a calculated risk of exploring any new avenues that maintains the competitive edge. Meaning, from time to time we do need to make pacts with some of those opportunists, as long as they can be kept at bay from influencing the positive industry trends and taking them into dire straits. Hear me out, it is not the necessity to be accepted that makes one navigate through those compromises, but as you have correctly stated, it is the inertia of an establishment that didn’t challenge itself for over half a century secreting a thick sludge of obstacles we need o skillfully avoid before that stop us in our pursuit of technological excellence.
    However I think that you missed a point with singling out the opportunists, as they seldom have the energy and drive toward self-promotion of technological debutants. The emergence of technologically illiterate champions of technology, whose role is being defined and fine-tuned but those very same opportunists you are talking about, is far more concerning and pressing issue. They star might not shine for too long, however the heat in their vicinity becomes the perfect knowledge and pest practices evaporator.
    The promotion of pragmatism that transcends the knowledge divide between the participant that are willing to learn, and enrich their experience through the time tested method of hard work and learning without having a particular industry bias should be the outmost paradigm for any expert in their field.
    This in itself, if done right, will gain sufficient amount of traction for BIM train to leave the station, and then there are many valid tracks to follow.

  2. Excellent Post and comments, sorry to hear that about John, must have been on BIM Experts. Everyone there marking their so called territory.

    A few key points:
    BIM Takes a crawl, walk, run, sprint strategy just to get to the hand-off. If you try to run faster than you have prepared for then thats when it becomes complicated (enter the opportunist / vulture)
    BIM is not just technology, its disruptive, and not just about the low hanging fruit (almost BIM)
    Trust but verify – I will trust what a BIM vendor says but will verify for myself the realities.
    BIM is evolving, what todays BIM norm may be may not exist tomorrow. The problem that happens is the BIM Wash that has taken place and the expediency of change. I spent many years as an opportunist, not as a vulture but as someone who has shown and proven success implementing change, BIM just being one. Six years ago I also thought I was an expert, after working for Autodesk I realized I didn't know what I didn't know and I had sized BIM, Revit, & CAD based on the paradigm I worked out of. What BIM means for construction is sometimes different than design / engineering and even fabrication. However there are synergies that can eliminate the traditional overlap that exists.

    After managing several large scale implementations and many more mid size implementations I found that some companies are ready for change, and some are not. Implementing BIM and meaningful change is more about team building and communication than it is about the technology. One factor I found that has the greatest effect on whether it becomes complicated or not is a companies rigidness of ideology / paradigm (Firm Culture – See Miami BIM Forum Discussion Firm Culture Panel). Many design practitioners have become complacent in their bureaucracy, process or so called secret sauce. Because BIM's not that complicated it eliminates much of the bureaucracy, and only becomes complicated when you try to create a parallel process to your existing workflow because your in denial that your current process quite frankly sucks (OK, that was blunt). I've spent many a meaning playing politician helping them to realize that their process is riddled with meaningless junk and needs to be leaner (#leandesign & #leanconstruction) and more meaningful. The best thing you can do to create change is ask WHY?

    In my recent presentation on change management at 2013 Miami BIM Forum I speak to that point, I describe it as splicing out the BAD genes (bureaucracy) from replication and replacing these with superior genes (BIM Gene) that can be the glue. (your all welcome to view this video and my recent blog post http://www.therevitcoach.com/2013/07/bim-management-implementing-real-change.html )

  3. Connor and DJ,
    You two have nailed it exactly… speaking from the perspective of the “Owner”, I am extremely dismayed at all of the hype and propaganda type headlines and writings I am reading extolling the fabulous virtues of BIM for owners. Now, I know that there is great value that BIM can deliver for owners TODAY, but it the preposterous promises of the “Push this magic BIM button” or as Connor describes, “BIM is too complicated for an Owner to understand, let us handle it all for you, FOREVER” that I personally find to be disingenuous and quite frankly, dishonest. The “hypsters” have tried to sell BIM to the Owners as an end all, be all for Facilities Management. They show colorful animated walkthroughs, fancy 3D images of huge equipment rooms, tell you how you can click on this or that item on the screens and magically, everything you ever wanted to know about that item appears. Better still, you walk down the hallway with your IPad and you can get real time moving picture on the screen of exactly what is above your head hidden by the ceiling tiles. Now, with an UNLIMITED supply of money and manpower, much of this is theoretically achievable today, to a degree. BUT……No Facilities group in a large organization that I have heard of has that type of capital to invest and the ROI on that level of technology simply is not there. And that does not even begin to address the issue of the enormous manpower required to maintain and keep current the information, models, Naviswork files, etc… to be able to utilize this technology. BIM can be of great value to an Owner, but REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS MUST be recognized in the very beginning.

    I have invested several years looking at how the BIM process (for that is what it is, a process that is really no different than any other business process that a Facility Owner must utilize to efficiently and economically run and maintain his buildings), can be implemented in a large organization. If the only thing Owners can gain by implanting the BIM process on construction projects today is that the vast amount of data required by an owner to maintain his buildings utilizing his CMMS system can be gathered, maintained and transferred into the owners CMMS system in fast, efficient manner, that ALONE is reason enough to implement the BIM process in his facilities.

    There is much to be gained by doing so today, and with continued development of the BIM tools, I see a bright future for added value to an Owner in the future for utilizing BIM to manage his facilities.

    The hype must stop, the false promises must come to an end. This is the only way that we, as owners and operators of these large facilities, will ever be able to start to develop and give the designers and contractors the information they require to utilize BIM in a manner that is conducive to an owners needs. The process must START with us owners, but as long as there are people pushing B.S., it will continue to falter.

    • @Leenhouston You bring up valid points thanks for your input.

      I just had a discussion the other day about how best to get a data centric model into owners hands.
      Forget the flashy 3D and look to the data and how it talks to CAFM and CMMS systems and look to what the OPEX guys need and want. Most times it is intelligent 2D plans. This is something that can be done with Bluebeam and is relatively minor in cost but still remains a data centric model although with a 2D graphical interface.

      I would like to get your thoughts on that subject.

  4. Came across this quote the other day:

    “A censor is an expert in cutting remarks. A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to.”-Laurence J. Peter

  5. Spot on as usual Connor…..it is the "misdeeds" of the few that have consequences on the many. It is these 'vultures' that are having an impact on how BIM is viewed by owners and upper management. It makes it hard to deliver on promises made by those not fully educated on the process of BIM. I have said this many times, and it fully applies here. BIM is one of those buzz words currently used by the industry – such as GREEN was just recently. The definition of BIM is becoming convoluted with many who dont do the actual work required to meet obligations placed forth or promised to owners. In some cases, it is the first thing to get trimmed or cut when the true cost is actually discovered. However, this is a double edged sword because even though there is a cost of doing BIM, the benefits of it can be great….possibly tremendous when implemented correctly. I think you and I know personally how the shortsightedness of those above you can affect a project.

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