Don’t get trapped in the BIM chasm

We simply cannot afford to leave good businesses behind based on their lack of digital skills because they have many other skills that we need to retain. We need to find those who are behind and get them up to speed. – John Adams, BIM Strategy

In the first of three articles on the industry’s BIM journey, John Adams, head of BIM services at BIM Strategy, highlights the dangers of getting stuck in the BIM chasm.

The journey to the Level 2 mandate has been a great success. Not everybody is doing it yet, or even seeing the requirements coming through, but there is wide agreement that the technology, standards, and knowledge base are all robust enough to ensure adoption is now inevitable.

The tipping point is breached and there is no going back, now it’s over to those in the industry to adapt or be replaced by new entrants or existing competitors who have beaten them to the punch. 

Geoffrey Moore’s excellent book Crossing the Chasm, the concepts of which are usually applied to the technology sector, offers great insight into our BIM journey so far and that still to come. See the illustration (above) for a BIM specific application of the concept – however, for anyone interested in how ideas become reality, the book which can be picked up online for the price of a coffee.

Moore describes how any new and disruptive technology has to make a leap from cutting edge to accepted paradigm before conquering the mass market. In the absence of the right environment, approach or support, even great ideas can fail to cross this chasm.

Without the market pull provided by the mandate or the admirable work of our industry innovators Level 2 may have never made the crossing. However, the usual adoption curve that eventually brings even the original pessimists and laggards on board when the proof of effectiveness becomes overwhelming may not have time to bear out for BIM Level 2. This is because we’re embarking on Level 3 with potentially over half of the industry still below Level 2 maturity – we’re looking to cross two chasms in quick succession and there are very real threats that businesses will leave it too late and become lost to the industry. 

Although the ruthless among us may welcome this attrition, it does, unfortunately, exacerbate a key issue we are looking to BIM to help resolve: the capacity of the construction industry. We need to bring as many people and businesses with us as we can, as well as attracting new ones if we are to deliver our infrastructure plans and address our housing shortfall, among a number of other critical capacity issues. 

This is partly why BIM consultancy businesses such as BIM Strategy exist, to help pull those who may get bypassed by the acceleration of our industry reform into the slipstream of the BIM and to play a part in our digitally enabled future. We simply cannot afford to leave good businesses behind based on their lack of digital skills because they have many other skills that we need to retain. We need to find those who are behind and get them up to speed. 

Although BIM evangelists are always gladly welcomed into the #UKBIMcrew, nobody is expecting everyone who’s read PAS 1192:2 to be spending all of their spare time sharing knowledge. Simply pointing someone in the direction of training, their local BIM Hub or the standards documents may be enough to help them along. 

There are great opportunities in being at the front end of this journey which is already creating unique selling points for businesses, stimulating the market consolidation which is a hallmark of advanced industries, and helping uncover the efficiencies that we have known construction has needed for many years.

With all this going on, where you are on the BIM adoption curve really shouldn’t be left to chance because, in time, you can build a reputation for your digital innovation combined with your core business skills, find safety in the herd by working with the standards, or risk being trapped in a chasm with no way out. 

If you’re worrying about the impact of BIM on your business please don’t panic, but don’t ignore your concerns either. It’s not too late yet, but in a turbulent and changing time for our industry, it’s impossible to know exactly when too late is going to be.

The second article in this series will be addressing what to do next if you’ve not really started your BIM journey yet or you’re working with others who are falling behind, so make sure you’re signed up for BIM+ alerts to make sure you don’t miss it.

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  1. Great article, my biggest concern is that the ‘checking’ industry (warranty and building control) is being forgotten, as part of both we can influence various elements of a design significantly, yet we are rarely if ever mentioned in the BIM process, and yet to find any BIM experts who are interested in this part of the construction process – Help!

  2. Don’t worry too much about the chasm.

    Why not?

    Just look to Africa, where people in the bush have jumped a chasm by going straight from “snail mail” to mobile phones, SMS and IM without bothering with landline phones.

    With the right technology – tablets and smartphones – and the right software – packages like Bluebeam which can hold all project info digitally “in the Cloud” – allowing instant access by any authorized person from anywhere at any time to what is always the latest “ground truth”, “real-time” collaborative review and markup, and instant digital sign-off, one might well be justified in considering leaping straight from paper to BIM Level 3.
    Is this really being too ambitious? I don’t think so – you just have to have the confidence to jump in at the deep end and swim.

  3. Access to new platforms will markedly affect the acceptance of the Process. The users will be drawn along and because the learning curve has both steepened and flattened, the availability will enhance adoption. The mobile phone is an example. It’s real-time and that changes the way people accept.

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