Employee Buy-In Is Key to a Successful BIM Transition15 Mar, 2012 By: Lynn Allen
A productive, positive workforce of new Revit users starts with communication, training, and a dose of reassurance.
Making the move to building information modeling is usually decided by those in a position of authority, yet those most affected by it are typically the users in the trenches. I have seen several situations where the communication to those on the front lines of the change has been less than effective. Instead of an explanation or discussion, it’s usually an unsympathetic declaration: "We are moving to BIM and you will like it."
After working with many large firms that have made the move to BIM, I firmly believe that the key to a successful BIM implementation is buy-in from your users. The more employees you get on board with this move, the higher the success rate, plain and simple. And getting those users on board takes more than just a blunt announcement; it requires good communication, proper training, and an understanding of their concerns.
A Whole New World — of Software
Making the move to BIM requires many changes, from workflow adjustments to hardware upgrades to increased collaboration among project stakeholders. But it's the migration to a new software platform that can pose the biggest hurdle in the process. In my experience at Autodesk, this typically involves moving CAD drafters and designers from AutoCAD to Autodesk Revit. These users are likely to feel anxiety about the move and wonder if there will be a place for AutoCAD and their AutoCAD skills in the company. Yes, of course there will, because AutoCAD is usually still part of the BIM process. But most AutoCAD users will need to embrace the BIM software that will be central to the new workflow.
I have heard many complaints from stellar AutoCAD users who are unhappy about being forced to move to a different software product. That said, I’m certain that in a couple of years, most of these same people will have embraced Revit thoroughly and be thrilled that they made the move. Well-versed Revit users rarely (and I do mean rarely) want to return to their AutoCAD roots.
The Grange Insurance Audubon Center near downtown Columbus, Ohio, was designed using Autodesk Revit Architecture. The building is one of the first such centers in Audubon history to bring nature-based learning into the core of a major American city. Image courtesy of DesignGroup.
Guiding Users through a Turbulent Time
So how do you get your AutoCAD users to accept and embrace this transition and get on the road to Revit sooner?
Let’s take a few steps backward and put ourselves in the typical AutoCAD user's shoes.
- They are well versed in AutoCAD, and they know they can get their jobs done with it.
- They have invested a tremendous amount of time acquiring and honing their AutoCAD skills. (Let me throw in a friendly reminder that AutoCAD isn't the easiest product to learn.)
- Many of them are still working in 2D — and making the move to BIM requires a 3D mindset. They feel fear, uncertainty, and doubt about making the move to 3D.
- Even if they are already familiar with 3D, there is a tremendous amount of anxiety that accompanies switching to new processes and software.
- Most don't relate to the business benefits of BIM that upper management preaches about.
Does the move to Revit offer benefits to the AutoCAD user? Absolutely — and I believe that showcasing these benefits will greatly help in getting buy-in even from your most resistant employees. Let's take a look:
- Revit is more user-friendly than AutoCAD. Anyone who was able to learn AutoCAD can certainly learn to use Revit. Revit is based on newer technology that is just plain simpler to use. Many AutoCAD users equate learning any new software product with their experience of learning AutoCAD, which just isn't a fair comparison.
- AutoCAD is a generic product designed to be all things to all people. Revit was designed specifically for AEC applications, with the building designer in mind. Revit users are often pleasantly surprised when they experience the difference!
- Model changes in Revit are automated across multiple sheets and views, removing much of the tedium of designing and drafting. Change it once, change it everywhere.
- Much of the 3D work in Revit also is generated automatically. Right out the gate you'll find that you aren't just creating flat 2D walls, but 3D walls, doors, and windows! Users who had a negative experience using 3D modeling in AutoCAD will have a much better experience working in Revit.
- Once users become comfortable with Revit, they will actually get their work done faster.
- More and more AEC companies are making the move to Revit. Adding Revit to their resumes will make your users more versatile and valuable in the future — and who wouldn't want that?
Training and Management Support
As I travel around the world, I meet more and more AutoCAD users who have made the move to Revit. In nearly all cases, they are extremely happy users. I find that those who are less than thrilled with Revit are usually the least trained — which brings me to my final point: Train your users!
Exploded 3D view of the Grange Insurance Audubon Center, created in Revit Architecture.Image courtesy of DesignGroup.
I promise you, any investment made in proper Revit training will be returned tenfold. You have to help your designers and drafters learn the new software; they need to be confident they can get their jobs done. Do not expect them to learn Revit on their own, or you will have anarchy on your hands. Thorough training on the new software (plus any new processes) is absolutely essential to a successful BIM implementation. In a perfect world, you would also have a Revit guru on staff who can help everyone along as they are making the transition.
Upper management also needs to realize that making the move to BIM requires time. Don't expect everything to get done in a shorter period of time right out the gate — no matter what your software vendor tells you! Productivity will ramp up gradually as the AutoCAD users adapt to the new software and processes. Eventually, a well-trained workforce will get projects done faster, and the result will include an intelligent 3D model that can be used throughout the lifecycle of the building.
The good news is that making the move to BIM is the right decision for nearly all AEC companies. The advantages far outweigh the downtime or added costs you will incur. Get your employees on board the right way and you will have a faster and more successful transition to BIM!