Building Information Modeling

What's the BIM Deal? Part 3

23 Sep, 2009 By: Robert Green

Managing expectations and planning ahead will help minimize stress and ensure a successful BIM implementation.


In the past two issues of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I explained what BIM (building information modeling) is, deciphered its key terms, and outlined what you should prepare for. In this continuation of the series, I'll address the critical concept of positioning your BIM implementation for success — both your personal success as a CAD manager and your company's success with BIM.

So if BIM's in your future and management seems to be on board, what must you do next? Here goes.

Managing Expectations

Everyone in your company already has expectations about the BIM transition. Some users are dreading a negative experience that will require a lot of change and effort on their part. Management teams often expect implementation to be easier, faster, and cheaper than it really will be. And in some cases IT departments underestimate how taxing BIM applications can be on hardware and network infrastructures.

If you combine all these expectations and misconceptions, you can see that nobody is going to be happy when the reality of BIM implementation sets in. And if nobody's expectations are met, then you, the CAD manager, will suffer.

Expectation Checklist

How do you manage all those expectations? Let's look at a checklist that helps me achieve control:

Talk to management first. Even though BIM implementation affects users more than management, managers will be the ones to back you up, fund your budget, and provide the authority for you to proceed with implementation. Therefore, having management buy into your plan for BIM is critical and must happen first. You can achieve management buy-in by explaining the costs, benefits, and difficulties you anticipate during implementation, so be honest and open when speaking to your managers about BIM.

Conduct user acceptance testing. To make sure you'll have a critical base of users who actually want to learn the new BIM tools, you'll need to expose them to the benefits of the new software and invite their feedback ahead of time. Take your trusted power users to a vendor seminar, or load new software onto some laptops and head into a conference room for a quick training session. By taking these actions your users will see BIM up close, won't feel as threatened, and will feel as if they’re part of the process instead of being bystanders. The point is to get users enthused about learning BIM — and get their honest feedback — before the implementation occurs.

Be prepared for unhappy campers. As you gauge user acceptance, you'll undoubtedly encounter those who don't like the new software or the idea of change. Note their reasons and identify who has the most negative attitudes. Then you can modify your implementation plan to avoid problems and tailor your training to deal with unhappy campers. I’ll talk about this topic a lot more in the next installment, which will focus on training.

This multi-step process has really helped me to build trust with users, IT departments, and senior management staffs alike. As you work through the process, you force all parties to confront reality and adjust their expectations accordingly. Try it — it really does work!

Managing the Timeline

Even if you execute the previous tasks perfectly, you’ll still risk disappointing management and users if your BIM implementation seems too slow or costly. Therefore, you must establish a reasonable timeline for the rollout. (And only then can you start to build a picture of realistic costs.)

Here are a few truisms I've discovered regarding BIM implementation timelines:

  • Users generally think that BIM will be faster than previous implementations because they assume the software will be easy to learn and that they'll have all the time in the world to learn it.
  • BIM software is very different than 2D. The learning process isn't nearly as easy as users think it will be, so they spend more time on the learning curve than forecasted.
  • Management sees the extended time spent learning BIM software as something that slows down projects — and this is frequently true.
  • As training timeframes extend and projects slow down, management becomes increasingly anxious about the problem. Only then do senior managers start to understand how tricky BIM implementation actually is.

How do you deal with these attitudes and misconceptions? Training.

Training Expectations

The key to getting users on board with BIM software is training. For your users to have a great training experience, you must plan that training well ahead of time.

To assist you in your planning, let me offer a few dos and don'ts.

  • Do take the time to start at the beginning so that users don't have gaps in their knowledge. Sometimes we CAD managers think things are easy, but our users don't find them so!
  • Do use real-world examples in training. If your company manufactures airplanes, use airplane part examples in training. Don't model a chair.
  • Do teach users only the features they need; skip the features they don't need.
  • Do include standards in your training. It's better to teach users the right way first than let them start out with bad habits.
  • Do keep it brief. Most people learn better when taught in several shorter sessions as opposed to one long session.
  • Don't skip training. Whenever I've been pressured into skipping or skimping on training, I've always been rewarded with stressed-out and unproductive users. Skipping training is simply a false economy.
  • Don't train too many people at once. If you unleash 15 new users on a BIM system you'll be overwhelmed with questions and support problems. It is better to train fewer people in multiple batches.
  • Don't underestimate the stress of a software transition. You're changing the way your CAD users work, and they're going to feel pressured by that change. Acknowledge the stress and accommodate it, and both you and your users will be more relaxed.

None of these suggestions is rocket science, but I believe each is a critical part of a successful BIM implementation. Keep this list on your desk as a reminder during the training process, and you'll undoubtedly fare much better.

Adjust and Document as You Go

As you train users and put BIM software into use on actual projects, you'll learn more too. As your understanding improves, update existing users about what you learn and adjust your training for new users accordingly.

Be sure to update your standards to reflect what you've learned and keep everyone on the same page. If you don’t make these updates, your users are left to figure out their own solutions to problems using an unfamiliar, complex modeling system. They will diverge and you won't have any standards at all — and you could find yourself presiding over a train wreck in short order!

Summing Up

I hope this issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter has given you some ideas about controlling expectations and using training concepts to plan a smoother BIM implementation. In the next issue, I'll conclude my BIM series with more details about the training process and resources you can use to make BIM training less expensive and more accessible to your users. So map out your expectations, draft a training plan, and get your BIM training hat ready. Until next time.


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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