“Why should all roads lead to BIM?”

I had to put this in quotes because a good friend passed it along to me. This friend represents an owner on the facilities side that I engage with. But, even though I’ve been a BIM evangelist for many years, I never quite understood the chart where BIM is in the middle of everything. Now that BIM is starting to mature I believe BIM at the center is even less relevant.

Why do I say this? If you generally ask a design principal “What does BIM look like to your firm and how does it fit in the overall process?” many times they will paint you the ‘BIM in the Center’ picture. The same generally holds true for the construction executive. But if you ask an owner a similar question you will often get a linear diagram. Interesting… right? Why do you think that is?

Now, ask the same principal and executive to explain the process of how each division within their organization pushes and pulls information from the model; most likely it will be a much different picture. More often than not, it takes on a more linear shape with information flowing in one direction and visual interpretation being the source.

So do all roads lead to BIM? My answer is not yet. Will they? Possibly! A traditional process still trumps in most situations and a strong foundation is essential.

Plus is BIM not an enabler to make your conventional process better? If that were the case, then why would it be centralized as the “Hub”? That thought process has gotten many in trouble and is one of the reasons why you see the market in the slide from the Peak of Inflated Expectations into the Trough of Disillusionment I wrote about last month*. Should not a solid communication process be the “Hub”?

I think we all agree holistically, BIM can touch many parts of our business from design to construction to operations and maintenance. So if BIM is to go beyond just a CAD platform on steroids (some would even argue that) should not the information going into it be valid or validated? If you have a terrible traditional process with holes in your story, lack of understanding of the data generation, or waste and inefficiencies, then BIM tools just generate bad information faster. This also sets up the BIM team for failure, especially those communicating to the executives. BIM Managers are some of the smartest people I have met, but absolutely do NOT know everything. If all roads lead to BIM and BIM can fix all your problems, then you my friend are just buying time to failure.

So in good EpicBIM form I will help layout a plan…

  1. This is a “Must”… Identify your organizational priorities. You can only provide a solution if you understand the problem. BIM may not even be your solution at the time. If you do not understand where the finish line is, you will have a hard time crossing it.
  2. Get back to basics… Fill the gaps in your process first. BIM will not fill them for you; BIM will only make it worse. For example, if your pre-construction team lacks the ability to quickly produce historical cost data budgets for a client, then how do you plan to apply this process to the BIM? If young modelers are not familiar with your cost estimating methodologies, then are they supposed to just “wing it and hope extracted quantities make sense?”
  3. Address the overlapping issues first. This is always a nice win for the team. Especially if BIM as a tool plays a role in fixing an issue. You will get greater buy-in from multiple fronts. Try and stay away from addressing a path that only you or a few understand. People will put you in a corner and it can prove hard to get out of. And make sure you complete the objective, never give up until success is achieved. Many times people give up too easy and it negatively affects those around them (including your credibility).
  4. Quit parading the roadmap around your organization that BIM is the “Hub”, all roads lead to it and swinging the stick that everyone conforms to this way of thinking. Better yet, find your technology champions and put your efforts into growing them, teach them everything you know, they will respond by doing the same for you.
  5. And finally, another very important step, know where your data is coming from. If your team understands the data being generated and can spend time validating it, they are very likely to move forward. This needs to be adjusted for each organization, each division, and each individual. People are generally afraid to give up control, when you automate something that is exactly what they are doing. Be patient! There is no set mandate or standard that can get them through it. It will only walk them out the door.

My goal is to see Building Information Management succeed in our industry. I believe that is the goal of many. As mentioned, a solid foundation is key to successful implementation of BIM and other emerging technologies. Build this and the pieces can fall into place. And don’t try to boil the ocean!

* http://www.epicbim.com/2013/07/cobie-is-dead-but-is-bim-dying.html

11 Comments

  1. Great insights! I really find this article pretty much interesting. For me, BIM is a wonderful tool which helps every building construction at its best. A successful collaboration with this tool makes incredible results. But we can't deny the fact that flaws are there, too. If we just take this positively, there's a greater chance to make this BIM process at its best.

    http://www.fischerdesigngroup.com/

  2. Dennis I agree. BIM is a means to an end, it does not exist for its own sake. If the model has shoddy information it becomes a hindrance to the success of a project.

  3. Thanks Ken!

    We just need to get away from the thinking that our data magically appears.

    As for facility management it is like many things around our world…sounds great in concept, but again no magical button. Hard work is still required to date, especially in BIM's current format. Automated data migration will happen that can support the outcome, but it MIGHT never be automatic. Plus information feeding into a CAFM/CMMS will most likely come from multiple sources not just one single model I say that, because as you mentioned the maturity isn't there.

    I appreciate you reading and your thoughts.

  4. Dennis,
    I would like to think that BIM will eventually provide value to all phases of the building life cycle but that time is a long way off. BIM models are only models. Turning them into accurate as-builts requires a lot of work on someone's part. Getting data from current systems into formats usable by BIM programs will require intelligent programs, many of which have yet to be written.

    I agree that understanding the data you have and the data you need is the first step in understanding how to use BIM for Facilities Management. Once Owners and Managers understand their requirements they will find that they can improve their productivity by using a subset of the BIM data within systems they already own and understand rather than having to re-train everyone to use and understand BIM.

  5. Dennis, I've got to say 'amen and amen' to your post above. So many times I've been in groups which thought BIM would be the silver bullet and fix all their previous problems, when all it did was magnify all their failures. Sometimes that led to abandoning the tool because it didn't work. What was not working was their original process.

    Often the data is kept in departmental silos and is only parsed out as someone asks for the information or it's given out without any thought as to its purpose or intent. Without clear guidelines as to the intent of models, the exercise of creating them is often full of disappointment, disillusion and sometimes outright failure.

    So, 'Amen" to the call for clear communication first, Clear goals secondly and cooperative, nay collaborative solutions.
    Andrew A
    NoSilos.com

    • I think we have all been in those groups… Probably could make a list here. That is one reason I applaud Connor Christian and John Grady for allowing the industry a forum to speak the truth. Some may fight it, but discussions like this are needed to push the industry forward.

      Thanks for reading and posting comments.

  6. Kudos to Dennis (and likewise to Erik).

    Every once in a while, someone pulls out the bow-of-truth and shoots a arrow right into the heart of the matter, and this is a fantastic example of hitting the mark. I would recommend that you bookmark this for later, and read it slowly… perhaps in your "quiet place" when you can fully digest it.

    Applying BIM tools to a broken process only exaggerates the need to fix your duct-taped, jerry-rigged pipeline of information. The biggest failure of our industry isn't the ability to change, its the ability to identify what/where the problem is in the first place.

    I wish there would of been some kind of vote before we adopted BIM as our acronym to overuse & abuse. Personally, I would of fought for "bIm", so that there was a greater emphasis placed on the information, and not the model.

    • Thanks Chris!

      I don't know if it is because I am so exposed to the BIM world, but the constant failures just concerned me. There is terrible representation of what BIM is in the market place. The expectations are completely out of whack right now, from every front.

      To me and people like you, the solutions are so simple. Trust me, I want this one easy button that fixes all my problems too. But, it just does not exist.

  7. BIM is a tool. If all your roads lead there, you have issues.

    I 100% agree that you have to fix your process to succeed. Even if you never implement anything new, you'll be leaps ahead if you can fill the holes in your organization.

    I'm reminded of the acronym: NT+OO=OEO or New Technology + Old Organization = Old Expensive Organization. Pasting ANY technology on your problem areas is like a band-aid. It might help for small issues that would heal on their own, but it's false security for major problems. Stop the bleeding first.

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