If you ask pretty much anyone in the AEC these days (anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock), they will generally agree with you when you say BIM is a process. There has been enough education in the industry to get us at least nodding in the same direction. But as Billy Sunday says, just going to church doesn't make you a Christian. A process is defined as a “continuous action, operation or series of changes”, while a task is defined as something finite, “a piece of work as part of one’s duties.” They are clearly not one and the same. So, if you find you are one that nods in agreement that BIM is a process, yet still approach it as if it’s something to be dealt with like any other item on the list, I suggest you may be trivializing the matter a bit too quickly.
So in an attempt to clarify, for those that are still confused by this idea, I will try to elaborate on what BIM is not. But in the interest of keeping this article a reasonable length I will focus only on Designers today.
The misinterpretation of what BIM is in the design world was a total shock to me. How could a sector of the industry that uses BIM tools the most be missing what was sitting right in front of them? It's like choosing to drive a Toyota Camry in a race when you were holding the keys to a Ferrari. Both are going to help you get the job done, one is just going to do it faster. The most common misinterpretation of what BIM is in Design is that it is the creation of models and their supporting elements. That BIM is the act of creating models and the technical problems associated with their creation is BIM. Can anyone see the issue here?
Let's go back to the fundamental question: Is model creation a task or a process?
(I can't wait to hear the responses to this question)
It was when I started to investigate this question that I realized why so many designers get the answer wrong. It's because task and process are so closely related here. That's why it is so easy to miss. But there is only one right answer. The act of creating a model is a task. But the method by which you create it is a process. So why is this subtle distinction important?
It is important because if you think BIM is the task it only represents one part of what designers do. If you think of it as a process it is actually the only thing designers do. BIM is the process of how designers execute their core business function. BIM is the process of collecting your design ideas, the owners needs, and all related requirements and using that information to perform the task of creating contract documents. The model and the software play a very small part in that equation.
This confuses people because they think without a model how can you do BIM? They forget that the model needs information if it is going to be created correctly. Organizing the collection of that information so that it works with your particular software is BIM. That means your contracts = BIM. Your meetings with the owner = BIM. Your design from napkin sketch to hand drawn renderings = BIM. But this is only true if all of those things I just mentioned are planned so that they contribute to the end goal. It's a process. These things need to fit together because all of them are pieces of a puzzle that when put together represent your product.
So is it really different from what Designers have always done? Fundamentally, no. BIM is not supposed to be a different way of doing things. It is supposed to be a technology-based enhancement to your entire process. The major difference is that there is now no part of your business where you don't get to consider technology. Do your contracts align with the way you will apply technology? Once you have collected your Owners' requirements are you quickly able to integrate those with your technology? Do you know how your design (however its created) is going to be consumed by your technology?
If you can't answer these questions then your are likely battling with contracts, your owner, and your design within the context of a BIM process. You either need to get up to speed with the technology, or make sure that you have someone who is up to speed on hand to help you deal with all of these other items. Otherwise you're not performing a BIM process. You're just making models.