The UK BIM Alliance has adopted a new name, nima, and a new approach, putting the emphasis on information management – rather than BIM – and its importance to as wide an audience as possible.
Nima is the Greek for thread, alluding to Dame Judith Hackitt’s golden thread of information. The name is not an abbreviation. According to nima, the name was selected “to help give the volunteer-led organisation an identity, sense of purpose and a set of behaviours that are better aligned with current and anticipated future UK thinking about digital working in the built and managed environment”.
Nima chair Dr Anne Kemp OBE is due to speak at UK Construction Week tomorrow (Tuesday 4 October). She will say: “The UK has been hugely influential in the international adoption of BIM since the launch of the government’s drive for change in 2011. Setting a BIM mandate in April 2016 did much to stimulate people, process and technology change and to help build a standards-driven movement. And since 2016, the Alliance has also helped maintain momentum, by, for example, supporting development of the UK BIM Framework.
“However, the debate has started to shift. It is no longer just about BIM – often seen as a technological change – but about wider industry information management challenges, including building safety, climate change, and delivering value across the life cycle of our built and managed assets.”
The move to a new name (that doesn’t contain BIM but does contain the ‘I’ and ‘M’ of information management) recognises how digital adoption in the built environment has been hindered by misunderstandings about BIM.
For example, various surveys recently have highlighted how construction professionals have misconstrued BIM as 3D design technology “rather than a process supporting purposeful use of information across the whole landscape of the built environment, from the inception stages of projects, through construction, and – most importantly – then to support efficient operation, maintenance and use of assets through to their end of life”, according to nima.
Dr Kemp will tell UK Construction Week attendees: “Our new name reflects the evolution of our industry and our organisation. We are keeping an international perspective, continuing to support digital transformation across the sector, and aiming in our behaviours to be as inclusive as possible. We are not the ‘BIM police’: we are a self-help community that anyone can tap into if they want to improve their information management.”
BIMplus spoke to Paul Wilkinson, who is maintaining his chairing role of what was the Alliance’s technology group, to find out more.
Tell us more about the name change
“As nima, we can widen the applicability of information management. It applies to everybody across the built environment where information needs to be digitally managed.”
Paul Wilkinson: We’ve been debating a name change for a couple of years. BIM was the happening technology when we started, but the industry debate has moved on. BIM, for some people, is all about 3D modelling, but information management is a process that is much wider than the model itself.
We wanted to pick up where the industry is heading in terms of thinking about information management as a much wider set of activities, and embrace more than just that 3D mentality.
I think the Alliance was also getting pigeonholed. BIM was seen as a specific type of technology that was not necessarily relevant to everybody across the built environment.
As nima, we can widen the applicability of information management. We’re talking about the use of purpose-driven information across the whole of the built environment, whether that’s new build or whether it’s repair and maintenance on legacy buildings. This is about information management in many different manifestations. It applies to everybody across the built environment where information needs to be digitally managed.
Is there a new mission statement to go with the new name?
There are hero phrases by which we are seeking to position ourselves and guide our behaviours.
There was a connotation sometimes that the alliance was a group of technical experts, sometimes called the “BIM police”. We’re trying to get away from that. We want to be seen to be approachable, helpful, and potentially even inspiring. And helping people to move forward with their information management practices.
It’s about bringing together communities of best practice across the sector.
The Alliance did a lot of good work in bringing communities together around BIM, and the intention is to continue that work and hopefully bring more connections with other organisations. And not necessarily always just in the built environment.
What’s nima’s strategy?
“We’re not abandoning the legacy. We’re seeking to provide a level of continuity and start to talk about the wider challenges.”
It’s a development of the strategy that the Alliance had. That is, helping industry to embrace management of data across the whole life of the built environment. The intention is to continue to engage with key decision-makers across industry institutions, including the Construction Leadership Council and so forth.
Our strategy is to also maintain our continued involvement and development of the UK BIM Framework with the BSI.
We’re not abandoning the legacy of what we’ve been doing. We’re seeking to provide a level of continuity, but at the same time to refresh the organisation and start to talk about the wider challenges. That means building safety, which the industry is heavily focused on at the moment, and pressing issues like climate change.
How will nima operate differently to the Alliance?
We’ve been talking about new ways of engaging rather than being a kind of clique where people come to forums. We’ll be more proactive in going out and talking to new audiences.
Construction lags other sectors in terms of digitalisation, so we can be open to listening to what they offer. It’s a dialogue we’ve got to engage in.
While the Alliance had an executive board, nima has a facilitation team: why?
A board sounds hierarchical, it fits into that elitist view that some people have. If you get into the BIM police, again, it’s like the senior ranks. And we’re trying to break that perception and come across as a flatter organisation where there isn’t a hierarchy and it’s easier for people to engage with us.
We’re keen to position ourselves in ambassadorial or even evangelical roles.
We’re also trying to broaden the church, so we’ll bring in newer faces, and in some cases, younger faces and get them involved in the repositioning. I think some of those faces will come to the fore as we go forward over the next few months.
What will success look like for nima?
Looking to 2030, aligning with the TIP Roadmap, success then would be where information management is an accepted term.
By then, nima would be seen as an inclusive organisation that people can go to talk to other people about information management and to find guidance and help.
Information management in 2030 shall be something that is implicit in most of our daily work. It will be supported by technologies that enable the sharing of information as seamlessly and efficiently as possible. We would hope to overcome some of the obstacles that at the moment condemn us to think and work in silos, using technologies that don’t necessarily connect with each other.
We will embrace a much more holistic, whole-life view of things. So information flows perhaps from the very earliest stages of the product manufacturer creating information about components to the maintenance person being able to access information because it’s part of their FM tasks.
They shouldn’t need to think about information management as a complex process. It should be something that they can access through a mobile phone, as simple to use as an app.
You don’t even have to think you’re doing information management. It could be that you’re using the construction site equivalent of Citymapper. It presents you with everything you need to do that task, and when you complete it, the app says you’ve completed your task, the asset register has been updated, job done.
And in the utopian view, because the task is certified as completed, you or your employer get paid. We get to the point where we’re enabling prompt payment: that is information management as part of an entire transaction.
To find out more about the evolution of BIM to information management, register for our webinar on 1 November.
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