Are we underestimating the value of BIM assessments?

The power of data comes in all shapes and sizes, says John Ford, technical BIM lead at Carillion.

I have seen many different kinds of supply chain assessments being used in response to BIM Level 2 and specifically PAS 1192-2, clause 5.3, that requires employers to outline what assessments they would like performed and, in clause 6.3.2, where the Tier 1 supplier creates and performs those sub-assessments.

There are two main types of assessments I have seen, firstly high-level organisation competence assessments that ask questions like:

  • Does your organisation have a BIM Strategy?
  • Does your organisation have any certifications in BIM?
  • How many work in your organisation?

And secondly, there are the detailed assessments, usually used at project level. For example:

  • How many employees will be allocated to this project?
  • What Information Production tools do you intend on using?
  • Are you compliant with BS1192:2007, and what’s your evidence?

However, what I see most commonly from the above is that the questions are often a word document that the suppliers will just fill in and return as a scanned PDF via email or other means. The whole process is chaotic. What’s worse, is that often the assessments are performed after an appointment is made, meaning you could get a whole batch of very negative responses and now you are performing fire control rather than prevention.

When I see assessment forms created and used in this way, it’s obvious that the organisation sending them out considers assessments as a tick-box exercise. They will receive the response, often not reviewed, and will simply cram them into their BIM Execution Plan without giving any summary or performing any analysis and this is where you can avoid many of the issues your new BIM Level 2-driven project is likely to encounter.

The assessment is the most critical part of planning the implementation of a BIM project and ensuring that everyone is on the same page and willing to work together. I have seen several spreadsheet-based assessments by consultants/contractors that have begun to understand the power of data and how quickly metrics can be achieved through maturity matrices. But they are few and far between.

For me, the most powerful form of Q&A analysis systems in the market has to be tools such as Survey Monkey. Why? Because based on the response to the specialist questions, you now have access to the raw data that you can quickly perform analysis on. You don’t even need to have strong knowledge on BIM because you can program the tools to RAG (red, amber, green) the responses if you use multiple choice.

For example, if you write the question: “Are you willing to share your native model formats for the purpose of auditing and review?”, and you then make it a multiple choice of “No”, “Yes” or “Further discussion required” you can then assign a RAG to the responses when they come back, which can be in spreadsheet format, where column one is all the questions, and then each further column is all your suppliers’ responses with the RAG report overlaid. If “No” is selected above, the response may show red, depending on your project goals.

The CPIC assessments are a good start but in my opinion don’t ask the right questions to really get down to the detail to see where the strengths and weaknesses are in your supply chain. A weakness, by the way, doesn’t mean you have to automatically dismiss an organisation, because training and support should always be the driving force between any strong relationship in our industry.

Our form has many questions. But we don’t expect a supplier to fill it in three times on three projects that they might be bidding on within a period of a few months. The data is accessible to our teams and we can get the form to auto complete all fields that were filled in on their last project and only show the fields we need updated responses.

I am working with a few industry-focused groups looking at developing high-level industry standard assessments that all can use. But there are challenges to standardising project level detailed assessments. These include:

The project’s nature might require additional or different questions. For example, a DIO/MOD project will have additional security questions.

Data has a value, and one organisation might need more data than another and unless the standard industry assessment can be added to with ease, value could be lost.

Data has to be secure. If we are requesting data about a supplier, we may also request evidence like certifications, case studies or personal details of involvement on previous projects. We would want this uploading with the forms so that the data is quickly accessible. This kind of information is considered sensitive and so a certain level of control would be required.

The reason for this is post is to show that the power of data comes in all shapes and sizes.

Through our use of assessment processes like that above, our assessments are leaner, focused and perform a purpose that adds value.

I would love to see good examples of assessment data being used to assess, train and support the supply chain more efficiently to support the project goals and ultimately add more value to their employers. So please contact me, and I can also share ours.

Image: Ewa Walicka/

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