The curse of the BIM manager

It’s time for our institutions to step up and define the characteristics needed to be a BIM manager, says John McDermott, a building services engineer at WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff and member of the CIBSE BIM steering group

I am an engineer and BIM enthusiast who now cringes when I hear the word BIM.

I know I am not alone and I also know that the introduction of VDC (virtual design and construction), digital construction or, as I heard the other day, “we simply call it digital” (delivered in a very our BIM is better than your BIM fashion, void of all collaborative thought), will not stop this feeling.

To me this is the curse of the BIM manager.

The digitalisation of the construction industry is happening and along with this unfortunately comes the opportunists, people without the experience and knowledge needed to possess an understanding of the key drivers for the Government Construction Strategy 2011. 

This comment piece is not aimed at the experienced construction industry professionals who have championed the BIM movement utilising their experience to drive change in their sector. I am questioning how we deal with the current BIM skill shortage, and how we define the skill set of a BIM manager/professional

Currently the profile of BIM managers I encounter is either a former CAD manager who has no real drive for change, or worse, a Revit modeller who knows what COBie is. Although there is a need for software-centric people, they are not the ones who should be leading the process.

The lack of clarity and the potential to exploit those unsure of BIM means that is it time for the chartered institutes to define the characteristics required to become a professionally certified BIM manager. This would not be a one-role-fits-all solution and would need a collaborative effort between CIOB, RICS, RIBA, ICE, CIBSE, and the IET. 

In my opinion to drive change in, for example, the engineering profession, a BIM manager must have an understanding of:

  • Design Management;
  • Work flows specific to the discipline of which they are a BIM manger;
  • A basic knowledge of construction law;
  • A basic commercial understanding (we are fundamentally in business to make money);
  • And, of course, an awareness of current technologies.

BIM roles need to be defined by discipline and the relevant chartered institutes need to work together so that they become prestigious and sought after on a par with CEng.

These roles may in the future die out and simple become part of being a chartered engineer, QS or architect, but currently I think their introduction is vital to ensure that BIM implementation continues to progress at the rate we have seen to date.

John McDermott is the author of the BIM blog Tangible BIM

The lack of clarity and the potential to exploit those unsure of BIM means that is it time for the chartered institutes to define the characteristics required to become a professionally certified BIM manager.– John McDermott, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff

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  1. Hi John, you raise some interesting points, but I have to disagree.

    I have also noticed the variation in the role profile of those known as “BIM Managers” but this isn’t due to lack to institute involvement, it’s due to the industry rushing off to create a “BIM Manager”. Information Management is part of everyone’s role, and depending on what activities you do on a project, there are responsibilities outlined in PAS1192-2. Interestingly if you Ctrl+F all of the Level 2 standards, “BIM Manager” does not appear at all.

    BIM roles should not be defined by discipline as they are dependant on the scope, scale, complexity, size of your organisation and current project stage. For instance a role undertaken by the Architect to manage deliverables may be transferred to the contractor once he is appointed, also within a very small SME’s a number of these roles will likely be done by the same person. They are designed to be dynamic and respond to the variation in projects we undertake within the industry.

    However, I agree with you that there is blame to place on the institutes. I am with CIAT, and I have asked that they update the role profile of a Technologist to recognise theses additional responsibilities, but nothing has been developed as of yet (as far as I am aware).

    Work is also being done outside of the UK to capture this. I am aware of a few EU research projects looking into BIM roles and competency, and I sit on an international working group with buildingSMART which are looking to this also with a number of international stakeholders.

    Personally I hate the ‘roles’; we need to focus on the responsibilities.

    Short term, we need professionals to understand and undertake their respective responsibilities. Long term, we need institutes to ensure through their education and chartership pathways that it is understood that everyone has an information management responsibilities, and that they are clear on theirs.

  2. Hi Dan

    I think we agree on more than we disagree ;-)

    I also think you elaborate on some of the points and provide some interesting points for further consideration

    Hope the sentiment of the article can create further discussion and potentially action

    John McDermott

  3. Dan,

    As you say, who fulfils the responsibilities involved in information management and ‘BIM’ will vary from organisation to organisation. Therefore the title of BIM manager by default becomes a loose one, changeable from company to company. I don’t think it is as simple as adding these additional responsibilities to CIAT’s definition of technologist unless you have a clear idea of what these duties or responsibilities entail. There are many tasks within this sector that are as yet not clearly defined enough to be formalised into traditional job titles especially as who performs these duties is very much still in a cross over sector. I side with John on the requirement for BIM managers needing to have a broad overview of the industry in addition to skills set and in fact created a very similar list for architects a while ago.

    Short term companies and organisations need to be a lot more educated in what they are required to deliver and what skills are required to do so. Who delivers this within organisations is, in my opinion, still very much more in flux than it should be.

  4. John, you might be interested in reading my paper presented at the CitA BIM Gathering 2015 On “Defining job titles & career paths in BIM”

  5. The BIM manager is a made up role.

    If you ask someone to define 10 bullet point responsibilities of that role you will find they are already responsibilities of other project team members. I know many who have tried to create roles with the term BIM in the title and not one has defined the clear responsibilities of that role.

    BIM management or rather information management is a collaborative team responsibility not an individuals. Anyone who disagrees, I ask to clearly define the role so it can be interogated.

  6. A company moving from traditional to digital needs to have this managed. The person who has this responsibility should have a domain based qualification and deeper knowledge of digital technology, it’s processes and the impact of digital disruption to the AEC Industry. Call them a BIM manager or an Architect, an AT, an Engineer, a Surveyor with responsibility for BIM implementation, the role is real. There are 13 + MSc with BIM as the center of learning, they are the future digital leaders.

    Collaboration is the key, but collaboration will not happen unless you are coming out the other side of a culture change, change promoted by management and led by an informed manager.

  7. @John, the problem with the title “BIM Manager” is that it has been abused and loosely applied to different roles, creating much confusion.

    There’s (at least) three sides to BIM management: technical, operational and strategic.
    As for the role being made up, well, of course! It was made up in order to put a name to a new role that didn’t exist before. In the same way that other titles such as “H&S Officer” had to be made up at some point to respond to a new specific role when H&S became an issue in the (UK) construction industry.
    Borrowing from evolution theory: “Function creates the organ”. We just need to better (re)define these new(ish) organs and functions.

    @Malachy, I wholeheartedly agree with your comments, and thanks for the link. Very interesting paper indeed.

  8. Nice article and agree with most statements and comments. The BIM manager is a job title not a project role. Simply for me a BIM manager is the person within that particular business leading the cultural change and training / supporting staff with tech and processes. BIM managers may also input to project related tasks, however not under the ‘BIM manager’ title but under one of the project roles as mentioned in an earlier comment.

  9. Check out the RICS BIM manager certification ( which is helping the market define the term and is proving popular with all construction professionals.

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