In the past few years, building information modeling (BIM) has moved from the new, shiny toy in architecture and engineering to a vital component of building success. A more comprehensive modeling alternative to CAD and other types of architectural drawings, it allows everyone involved in the process to get a full picture of the project to be completed.
However, buying into the concept is only part of the equation. Any stakeholder looking to take advantage of it needs to understand the variables involved, especially for companies and individuals relatively new to the concept. More specifically, the below seven factors tend to be critical in a successful BIM implementation project.
1) The Right Vision
The variables feeding into a successful building information model are complex. So is the concept that allows companies to stand up this type of comprehensive model to begin with. As a result, a strategic framework is absolutely vital to ensure an accurate, coherent, and strategic BIM implementation.
As pointed out by AutoDesk in a recent whitepaper, that framework has to begin with a vision. In the context of this project, a vision is more than just a statement; it’s a narrative of the results of the concept of BIM,
essential to the success of implementing BIM is a succinct and well articulated vision from executive leadership of what the BIM business transformation will achieve for the organization, what the principle elements of the transformation are, and what this evolution will look like at various stages.
This vision needs to be both inspirational and aspirational, able to easily be communicated throughout the entire organization. It needs to answer the Five Ws of BIM: who, what, when, where, and why.
2) The Strategic Goals
Based on the still relatively general vision, an organization embracing BIM needs to articulate exactly what it looks to accomplish by embracing not just the technical concept, but its underlying building and planning philosophy. Setting strategic goals can be challenging, especially considering the need to be at once aspirational and realistic.
The implementation of BIM in your organization will bring about major change, and staying realistic about that change is crucial to success. Strategic goals should outline the benefits, but also the challenges of getting to the final point of an implementation project. It also makes sense to insert individual, which allow you to better track your overall progress toward the larger end game.
Building information modeling is not as simple as flipping a switch. It requires careful planning, as the mere existence of the seven success factors outlined in this article shows. Without both overarching strategic goals and individual milestones to get to that point, successful BIM implementation will be challenging.
3) The Leadership Buy-In
BIM, especially when considered as the organizational philosophy that the complexity of the process requires it to be, requires buy-in throughout your organization. Leadership needs to be on board in order to gather the resources necessary for long-term, sustainable success.
Chances are that your staff directly impacted by a BIM approach will most easily see its benefits. Leadership, however, might notice and prioritize potential challenges, such as resource limitations. Yet, without buy-in at that level, even small challenges can be difficult to overcome.
Architects, engineers, planners, fabricators, surveyors all need to be behind the concept. But so do the higher levels of the organization, which you can only achieve through strategic messaging and engagement. A realistic overview of long-term benefits, along with a detailed plan for success, is an important step of securing that buy-in.
4) The Data Input
Perhaps the biggest advantage of BIM is the complexity of a building or infrastructure model that results from a successful implementation. The range of variables available for evaluation and the actual building process far surpass other, previous ways of planning and executing any type of building and construction project.
That complexity, of course, requires accurate data input from a wide range of sources. In their landmark theoretical model for BIM implementation published in the International Journal of Information Systems and Project Management, three Canadian researchers outlined eight individual variables that can move you toward accomplishing that type of accuracy:
- Legal data
- Financial data
- Geospatial data
- Designer data
- Specifier data
- Owner data
- Environmental data
- Sustainer data
The researchers treat these data points as individual dimensions, which have typically existed in isolation to build a variety of models that inform the building process. Successful BIM implementation, on the other hand, requires them to converge in order to build a more comprehensive and accurate model.
5) The Necessity of Collaboration
Make no mistake: BIM cannot be successful as an isolated process, developed by an engineer at their desk. Collaboration is absolutely essential to success, which is nowhere more obvious than in the data necessities mentioned in the previous section.
No single individual can collect data from such a wide range of sources. Even the traditional relationship between architect and engineer is not enough to accomplish that feat. Success requires every level of the organization to come together and collaborate on a single model that encapsulates the entirety of the variables involved in the process.
That means bridging the gap between professionals who might not otherwise interact. It also means assembling a team with representatives from each involved area. But most importantly, it means consistent and strategic communication between all stakeholders to ensure a successful implementation.
6) The Human Factor
It’s tempting to think about BIM as a linear process that moves from the planning and goal setting stage strategically toward implementation. But in reality, that process is much more complex, thanks in large part to the individuals involved to ensure that this implementation takes place successfully.
Success, in other words, requires more than just the technical collaboration mentioned above. It requires a team that works well together, is able to understand and overcome initial resistance to change, and can take advantage of its individual strengths to build a more consistent modeling process.
In other words, the human factor is a vital part of any BIM implementation. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the team members involved can be the key to success. Meanwhile, a strategic process designed to train and develop individual staff directly involved in the implementation can help to improve both confidence and technical skills for all stakeholders and participants.
7) The Right Partner
Finally, it’s difficult to undergo a successful BIM implementation without a reliable partner on your side. If nothing else, this article should have conveyed a simple truth about the concept: it’s complicated. Even with all of the above variables in mind, you still need to possess in-depth knowledge and expertise in building the actual model.
Depending on the size of your operation, BIM can be an entirely internal process. But in most cases, it makes sense to look to an external partner that can take care of the technical aspects and build-out of the process as you design and implement the more strategic elements mentioned above.
The right BIM implementation partner, of course, needs to have both experience and expertise in the concept as it applies to your individual industry and application variants. They should also help you move through some of the strategic elements mentioned above, especially as they relate to communication and goal-setting. Add software knowledge to the equation, and your BIM implementation process will be on the right path to long-term sustainable success.