Have the BIM Truth Talk with Your Boss, Part 28 Jun, 2011 By: Robert Green
Readers share their struggles with managing their managers' expectations.
In the previous edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, we talked about the realities of BIM (building information modeling) and how to convince your senior management team that despite what marketing hype might indicate, BIM implementation doesn't just magically happen. I hope that since reading that column, you've thought about how to present this information to your managers.
In this edition, I'd like to expand on a few of the comments I've received from readers. My goal is to broaden the discussion of what management expects from BIM, and explain how you can best manage those expectations. Here goes.
A BIM Reality Story
I received a very well-written response from a CAD manager who has taken a company through the grind of BIM implementation, and it perfectly illustrates how the process really works. G.S. writes:
"When we first started using Revit there were many obstacles, like learning the software, developing our library, and developing Revit elements to harness the power of the software, such as well-made schedules. This is why I really feel we have turned a corner in our development, but we have been working on this for over three years. Not everyone in the office is using the software, but we are getting closer each day. One obstacle to upgrading people's skills to include Revit is users resisting the change. For example, I worked for more than a year on a Revit project with the project architect saying, 'I will get into the program and learn it all through the process.' We finished the job and he has still not opened the file even once. He is too attached to how he has done it in AutoCAD, and has gone kicking and screaming through this project (almost literally). What has helped is management being there to back me up and say to him, 'This is what we are doing, and this is the future.'"
I love G.S.'s comments because they take us through the chronological progression of BIM implementation (learning, standards, customization) and the frustrations (user resistance, continued use of old tools), and the ultimate fallback strategy of having management back you up when times get tough.
Also note that in this example, the time frame cited is three years, and the implementation is still a work in progress! If your management team still thinks that the switch to BIM takes place overnight, use G.S.'s comments as a starting point for an honest conversation about a realistic BIM implementation plan.
Another great reader e-mail came from a CAD manager at a mechanical contracting firm that works as a subcontractor to architectural firms. W.P. writes:
"Until a fee structure is decided upon and implemented for BIM, its implementation will continue to be a low priority in the architectural community. This comes directly from my boss, who is also the owner of our company."
This statement hits the nail on the head with respect to the lack of financial incentive for companies to use BIM. To put it another way, companies will never truly prioritize using BIM until they can get paid to do so. So until the building owner is willing to pay for BIM models, there's no compelling reason to provide those files.
CAD managers must be aware that when management feels that there is a lack of definition around the business parameters governing BIM, they will be skeptical until project contracts define those parameters. CAD managers should focus on being involved in project contract requirements and ensuring that any BIM-related issues are examined in detail, so management fully understands the ramifications.
A number of readers reported that their company sees no compelling reason to delve into BIM until everybody else does. A well-worded example of this was sent in by B.B., who writes:
"As a 2D CAD operator/manager for an HVAC/plumbing subcontractor, the conversation that I had with senior management went like this:
Me: 'The BIM software — even though it is new and untested, and will take months to a year or two to fully implement and run properly — is something that we should start looking into and understanding how it will not only affect how we do internal drawings, but also how we will interact in the future of our business doing design/build work.'
Management: 'None of the customers, GCs, and architects that we deal with are using it. The engineer that we hire to seal our work for permitting doesn't use it. We will deal with the BIM issue when our customer base starts using it and asks us to do the same.'
End of conversation. And this happened three years ago, before the bottom of the market fell out."
Amplifying this point, W.P. wrote:
"Autodesk and Bentley can push BIM all they like, but what we get paid for is generation of 2D legal documents on paper."
I've heard these exact lines of reasoning from many senior management staffs who are hesitant to take on the risk and cost to implement BIM until a clear requirement to do so is articulated by their clients. Since this argument is based on finance and market demand, there is essentially nothing a CAD manager can do to move BIM forward in this situation.
The best CAD management strategy to pursue in this case is to read as much as you can, download trial software, and generally be as ready as possible for the day when BIM becomes a project requirement. And since you'll have to confront BIM when customers demand it, you should understand that the need will be urgent once it does arise.
One of the most important conclusions I've come to regarding BIM implementation is that nobody really knows what BIM means yet. BIM is still in its infancy, and given the uncertainty of what will happen with BIM tools, it is totally understandable that many business owners will continue to misunderstand it.
Uncertainty is part of any new technology, and moving from where we are now to being fully BIM will take years and be very disruptive. In fact, I see little difference between the transition to BIM now and the transition to 2D CAD in the late 1980s! As a CAD manager, all you can do is manage the process as best you can.
In the next issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll conclude this series on BIM by contrasting BIM implementation with 3D mechanical software implementation techniques that have been working for decades now. I think you'll find the comparison thought-provoking.
In the meantime, I welcome your feedback and stories about BIM at your company. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.