Implementation and BIM

What is this thing we have been calling BIM “implementation” for so many years? As a professional who has been working in and around the move to Building Information Modeling for over 15 years, I am appalled at how few people I have seen that would really consider themselves successful with the change to it.

Why is this? I would suggest that it is because of this elusive word – implementation. Everybody talks about it, but what they really want is a quick fix to a very complex challenge – a little bit of training here, creation of a little bit of content there, a pretty rendering, some “clash-detection”, some “how to’s” – the challenge of taking a bunch of disparate participants and bringing them all together into one cohesive environment.

So, let’s have a quick look at the meaning of the word implementation and see how it applies to the move to BIM and a true digitally deliverable that provides value to all participants.

“The process of putting a decision or plan into place”

Process: Everyone seems to talk of how BIM is a change in process, so let us agree that successful implementation depends on understanding what that process is. Let us also agree that we cannot possibly gain consensus on exactly what the definition of that change is, but that it IS a change. Some would say that it is the use of a model to aid in design; others would say that it is the amalgamation of data and the mining of that data to improve decisions at every stage of design, construction and management; still others would say that it is the use of a single source of information to guarantee a coordinated result. Regardless, one must at least have an objective of what that process means to you, your organization, your project team and/or your project owner.

Decision: This one is simple – somebody, or a group of people (which takes away the simplicity) must make a decision regarding what this process is going to do for that particular group.

Plan: This is the key. Everybody talks about a plan, but few take the time to define the steps of the plan, monitor the plan and ensure that the plan is meeting the initial goals of the process.

Once we have agreed that an implementation requires a process and a plan, we can move onto the more intricate parts of that plan – the requirements of each stakeholder, the scope one wishes to cover with the plan, the customized information that needs to be created to support the plan, the ability to take these steps and integrate them for all participants to use, the standards and protocols that will be adopted, and finally a way to disseminate all of this information to the stakeholders through a learning process of some kind.

This will be for another time. For now, let’s just agree that an implementation is necessary, and an implementation is complex – the more one expects out of the process, the more complex the implementation will be and the more important it is for a well thought out plan to be put in place.