BIM compliance is meaningless without BIM business change

The mandate of 2011 places no responsibility on contractors to grow their internal professional capability, or ensure that they can replicate the best practices they develop.– Jason Ruddle

Contractors that concentrate on project-level BIM compliance are missing out on the longer term business potential of BIM, says Jason Ruddle from Elecosoft, developer of Asta Powerproject. It is currently preparing for the Asta Powerproject National User Forum, on 4 November at the British Museum, where hundreds of UK contractors will gather. 

Readiness for BIM has traditionally been defined along the maturity curve outlined by the Bew-Richards diagram, with Level 2 set out as the objective for 2016.

However, the judgement of “compliance” can only be applied project by project, because the standard does not speak to the enterprise systems, processes or platforms that parties should have to have in place. BIM conditions are ephemeral, lasting only the length of the contract.

BIM may deliver great buildings, savings and efficiencies, but unless the business implications are embraced it must fail, ultimately, to deliver the digital building goals and construction industry growth which government and construction businesses seek. 

Level 2 means that parties to a project are using 3D CAD models (though not necessarily the same one) and exchanging information through a common file format, enabling each to create their own federated BIM model to complete work and pass information on.

The roles mandated within the CIC BIM protocol are also project-based, only requiring the appointment of an information manager at client level and a BIM coordinator at the design level.

So the mandate of 2011 places no responsibility on contractors to grow their internal professional capability, or ensure that they can replicate the best practices they develop. It does not drive the development of enduring processes, standards or practices, or the ongoing provision of tools to enable ongoing delivery to the same standard. 

Construction contractors must feel their way to the business benefits of BIM. There seems an implicit assumption that the more they equip themselves to deliver BIM projects, the more the companies themselves will evolve – digitising and automating processes and boosting efficiencies across the enterprise. We don’t necessarily agree.

Our definition of BIM readiness assumes not only just the ability to run a single BIM project, but asks whether you can replicate that success easily and integrate it fully with core processes. It rests partly upon contractors embracing the changes that the digital design and build environment demands. They must drive greater internal collaboration and information access for all involved in projects, down to the site manager who keeps it going, come rain or shine, and to the subcontractors who put brick on brick.

It also, critically, means driving meaningful change and investment in developing BIM-centric project management practices and installing platforms to support them, plus facilitating interoperation and information sharing between specialist systems.

Enduring BIM project management readiness means knowing how to manage all the information sources that make up construction. That means not only the 3D design data and master programme, but how these are transformed day-to-day into as-built project data, and how they blend with other key information such as costings. They need to be woven into a  cohesive whole that assures on-time, on-budget, BIM-enabled delivery every time – whether future projects call for formal BIM compliance or not.

Are you willing to expend effort on BIM compliance for the sake of a few flagship projects, or do you want enduring change that boosts your brand value and enables you to amortise your investment in training and systems across every future contract? For BIM to boost your business through better tendering, better practices and better project management, businesses must change around BIM, not keep it on the project periphery as another compliance box to tick.

Jason Ruddle, managing director of Elecosoft UK, has more than 25 years’ experience in the construction industry delivering key software solutions, products and services to national house-builders, contractors and the supply chain. Elecosoft is a leading international developer of project, portfolio, resource management and BIM software including its flagship product, Asta Powerproject.

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