Have the BIM Truth Talk with Your Boss, Part 322 Jun, 2011 By: Robert Green
In the last two editions of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I encouraged you to have a "truth talk" with your management team about BIM (building information modeling) implementation. I also outlined some of the expectations (both realistic and not so realistic) that you'll have to manage as you prepare to undertake BIM.
In this edition, I want to expand our truth talk by sharing a BIM implementation technique that is virtually identical to what I've used for my mechanical CAD customers for years. The more I look at implementations, the more I've come to believe that managing that process for BIM is really no different than it is for any other 3D software. The BIM guys may call me a heretic for making it sound too simple, but here goes.
Expectations and Reality
As stated in the last two "truth talk" editions, management personnel must be educated so that their expectations align with the following truths:
- BIM doesn't just happen
- BIM implementation requires planning, training, and a financial investment
- It takes years to change to a BIM culture.
On the other side of the equation, CAD managers must understand that management is guided by certain firm convictions:
- We can't shut the company down for BIM
- We'll convert to BIM when our customers require us to
- We won't switch to BIM if it causes us to lose money
- If BIM doesn't give us an advantage over our competitors, we won't implement it.
Even if it makes sense to implement BIM in your company, you'll have to do so within the confines of the above expectations.
Follow the Project Checklist
Here's a chronological checklist you can use to move the BIM agenda forward without running afoul of management's expectations.
- Choose a BIM test project
- Select your test project staff
- Identify IT issues
- Line up reseller resources and other sources of support
- Use test project staff to evaluate training classes
- Work with test project staff to build standards and practices
- Forecast timelines and budgets.
You can already see that I'm an advocate of completing a test project to see how BIM will work on your real-life projects. All the sales literature and talk is simply conjecture until your staff members put the software to use. And as you work through the test project, you'll come to understand how your network systems, training curriculum, support personnel, and project standards will have to change to make BIM work.
Now let's break down the first half of the checklist, and establish some Dos and Don'ts.
Note: If your management team isn't willing to fund the process I've outlined above, they're not yet convinced that BIM is worthwhile!
Pick the perfect test project. Your first BIM project should pass the Goldilocks test: Not too hard, not too easy, but just right in terms of complexity. Remember that the goal of this project is to determine how the BIM design process will work in your environment, so go with a design task that is manageable and focus on the BIM learning curve.
Do: Take a typical design task that your team members understand and evaluate how it works using BIM methods.
Don't: Try to design the next Taj Mahal on your first BIM project.
Select the staff. Now that you've identified your test project, you can choose staff members who have the correct expertise to work on it. The tough part is you now have to pick people who will be able to learn the new BIM software tools as they work through the project. For the best outcome, seek out the following types of employees for your test project staff:
- Those who volunteer — they're already motivated.
- Those who view BIM as a career upgrade — they'll work harder.
- Those who value standards and process — they'll help you establish the best BIM procedures.
- Those who are flexible — they won't have as much trouble with new CAD tools.
While the above guidelines may not seem like rocket science, it is amazing how many companies I've seen go into a BIM test project with a skeptical staff that may or may not truly want BIM to succeed. Your BIM test project will be hard enough to work through without that kind of resistance, so make sure the staff you use are eager, motivated BIM believers — you'll need their enthusiasm to carry you through the tough times!
Do: Choose your test process staff in a way that gives you the best chance for success.
Don't: Waste your time trying to convince the "BIM will never work" crowd to join your first BIM project — deal with them later.
Identify IT issues. Some of the unforeseen problems you may encounter as you move into BIM implementation revolve around IT infrastructure. Consider the following:
- BIM projects tend to build huge file sets that dwarf 2D CAD by comparison.
- BIM building design and visualization requires beefier workstations than 2D CAD.
- BIM projects run over wide area networks (WANs) eat up Internet bandwidth and thus slow down file access.
You should have some idea of whether these types of issues will affect your BIM test project before you even start, but you won't know the whole story until the test moves forward. Be prepared to face IT problems and to raise the issues with anyone and everyone required to fix them.
My own rules of thumb for BIM IT environments:
- Storage: Assume BIM projects will take up 5 times more server space than 2D projects require.
- Workstations: Quad-core processors, Windows 7 64-bit operating systems, 12 GB RAM, CAD vendor–certified graphics processor.
- WAN parameters: Small BIM models may run over shared WAN connections without problems, but large BIM models cause unacceptably slow performance. As BIM projects grow larger, remote graphics or cloud-based computing become the only way to reduce access times to acceptable levels.
Do: View your test project as an IT readiness test for BIM.
Don't: Move forward with more BIM implementation if your testing reveals substantial IT problems.
Identify support resources. As you move forward with your BIM test project, you're likely to need training and technical support. Who will provide these services? Do you have the time and know-how to manage the test project yourself, or will you need help?
I ask you to ponder these questions and honestly evaluate whether you'll need outside assistance to get through the test project. If you decide that you will need help, then the time to identify these resources is before your project experiences problems.
Do: Line up reseller or consultant assistance before you need it.
Don't: Allow your BIM test project to flounder because you're too proud to ask for help.
The process I've outlined above is identical to the one I've used for 15 years to help companies implement 3D mechanical CAD. With BIM, we may have a new acronym to deal with, but the fundamental concepts of software implementation haven't changed.
In the next issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll address the final three items on the BIM implementation checklist and give you some pointers for observing your test project to ensure you've got optimal processes and procedures in place for future BIM projects. In the meantime, I welcome your feedback and stories about BIM at your company. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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