BIM Focus

Gearing for the transition

Adopting the BIM process involves a successful implementation strategy that should ensure smooth transition and seek to maximise productivity and minimise work disruption, says TAHIR SHARIF, president of buildingSmart ME.

September 2011

BUILDING information modelling (BIM), newly emerging in the Middle East market, is poised for a dramatic increase in usage as organisations seek to harness the competitive advantage and stay ahead of the game.

The implementation of BIM is neither simple nor straight-forward and its effect can penetrate to the core of business practices prompting change in the tools deployed, the skills required and the processes of operation and delivery. For many firms, the issue becomes one of managing change more than developing specific skill sets.

Studies have been done in more mature markets, such as Europe and the US, to identify the perceived barriers to implementing BIM, and how these can be addressed. Among the most commonly voiced concerns are the following:

Drop in productivity during the transition period;

Poor return on investment; and

Disrupted workflows.

The transition to a new technology or work process is often reflected in a short-term drop in productivity. A 2003 Autodesk web survey on BIM cited an average productivity loss of 25 to 50 per cent for organisations during the initial training period of BIM tools. However, the reality is that an initial slump in efficiency is offset by long-term productivity gains, and with an effective implementation and training programme this downtime can be controlled and minimised.

In the same web survey, respondents noted that it took an average of three to four months to return to previous levels of production with BIM-based tools. And as BIM processes and proficiencies increased, respondents measured gains in productivity of over 50 per cent (more than half respondents) and even up to 100 per cent (close to 20 per cent of respondents).

Return on investment
Return on investment (ROI) is an essential factor in assessing the impact of adopting new business practices, but can be difficult to track. In 2008, McGraw Hill Construction published a survey report on the usage of BIM in the US market. The Smart Market Report, entitled Building Information Modelling: Transforming Design and Construction to Achieve Greater Industry Productivity, reported that companies who were actively tracking BIM return on investment recorded ROI's as high as 300 to 500 per cent.

Some of the most important aspects of BIM ROI being measured by firms included:

Improved project outcomes such as fewer RFIs (requests for information) and field coordination problems (79 per cent);

Better communication because of 3D visualisation (79 per cent); and

Positive impact on winning projects (66 per cent).

Disrupted workflow
A common resistance to making the transition to BIM is the fear of change, specifically the disruption of existing workflows. BIM will most certainly affect workflows.

In the 2003 Autodesk web survey, 83 per cent of respondents reported that their design process had changed as a result of using BIM.

Generally speaking, the processes that are disrupted are inefficient, and quite often these workflows are likely to be identified as those that a company is seeking to change through the deployment of BIM.

Organisations at the beginning of a transition to BIM are likely to perceive more disruptions and fewer benefits than those that are more advanced in BIM usage. The 2008 BIM Smart Market Report highlighted that the positive impact of BIM on a company’s practice was experienced by the vast majority of experts (82 per cent), but few beginners (20 per cent).

The BIM Smart Market Report further noted that expert users were three and four times more likely than beginners to say BIM had had a dramatic impact on their internal and external processes, respectively.

This is can be partly attributed to the initial productivity dip of a learning cycle. However, it is also reflective of the fact that many organisations only gradually come to realise the interdependency of technology (that is, software) and process (workflows).  

Strategy for implementation
BIM represents a decisive shift to more effective business operations; reflected in streamlined processes, better coordination, reduction of errors, and general increased productivity. 

However, simply adopting BIM tools does not by itself make these benefits immediately achievable. The transition to BIM can be, for some, laborious and hard-won and demands a reworking of processes that go to the core of business operations.

The question is how can an organisation get the greatest benefit from BIM without disrupting the workflow? A successful implementation strategy should seek to:

Maximise productivity, by establishing clear objectives; developing appropriate processes that are aligned to the organisation's vision and capabilities; ensuring that suitable tools have been selected (best in class, fit for purpose); and providing customised training (tools integrated with processes).

Minimise disruption, by ensuring that objectives are realistic and achievable in the short-term; anticipating potential disruptions to workflows and rework them in advance; integrating process development and technology training, and progressing them concurrently; and staging implementation appropriately.

Successfully implemented BIM can activate changes in an organisation's practices that have a lasting effect on the way future activities are performed.

Effective and comprehensive implementation can prompt restructuring of delivery workflows (process), operational skills (people) and deployment of tools (technology). In this respect, BIM goes to the core of business practices and has an intricate and far-reaching effect.

Developing an effective strategy
In November 2009 at the buildingSmart ME launch, a guideline was presented to assist organisations in the transition to BIM. The guideline consisted of three phases: preparation, development and implementation (see Figure 1).

This guideline was further developed into a four-stage strategy that now forms the basis of the buildingSmart ME BIM training and certification processes, which entails assessing current and desired capabilities; developing an implementation approach aligned to an organisation’s vision and mission; developing a training programme; and seeking verification and certification of this process.

The buildingSmart process seeks to establish industry standards that will guide and regulate BIM deployment.

These standards can provide a framework in which an organisation can structure their BIM deployment, and can establish a benchmark against which the level of operation (both current and desired) can be measured.

The recognition of the value of such standards prompted the development of training and implementation templates, and the establishment of recognised certification processes.

buildingSmart has been instrumental in developing such resources both globally and regionally, here in the Middle East.

Training & certification
buildingSmart Alliance Middle East (BSAME) offers support services to guide and assess the deployment of BIM. At the core of these services are individual training and certification and organisation certification.

buildingSmart ME individual training and certification provides a progressive training programme in the concepts of BIM and OpenBIM practices and principles applied to specific BIM functionalities. Individuals can obtain progressive levels of professional certification within specific industry and discipline sectors.

The organisation certification provides independent, third-party verification that an organisation meets the highest BIM and OpenBIM performance standards. Organisations will receive a certification rating on the application of specific BIM uses within a project environment.

The process
buildingSmart ME proposes a four-stage BIM implementation programme that culminates in the training and certification units. It is structured to develop a unique strategy for each organisation, based on their current capabilities, desired objectives and perceived needs.

The stages of this strategy are: undertaking an organisation capability assessment; developing a BIM implementation strategy (and BIM execution plan); undertaking individual training and certification for operational staff; and undertaking organisation certification.

Organisation capability assessment: Organisation capability mapping is a process to establish the existing conditions (resources and capabilities) of an organisation; agree a target level for future capability; and map a strategy for implementation and certification to the target level.

The mapping process comprises an initial self-assessment by using an established template and questionnaire known as the ‘Capability Maturity Model’, which scores areas such as business processes, delivery methodology, data richness, information accuracy and interoperability.

The output of this assessment is a percentage score that establishes the current level of BIM (Minimum BIM, Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum). The basis of this process is established as the assessment tool for the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS).

The capability assessment presents a picture of current and desired capability, identifying the process and knowledge gaps. This assessment will inform the development of an organisation’s BIM implementation plan and will also serve as the reference point measuring the progression of capabilities and corresponding certification.

BIM implementation strategy and execution plan: an implementation strategy should be developed tactfully and rigorously in response to the existing conditions, requirements and aspiration of an organisation.

The major components of this strategy are:

Identifying potential BIM uses;

Assessing current BIM capability (as above);

Establishing desired goals against business operation considerations;

Developing an overview map, including process maps (workflows) and information exchanges;

Identifying appropriate BIM tools and required technology infrastructure;

Developing a training programme; and

Fostering a strategic partnership with a recognised support bureau equipped to support the implementation process.
Individual training and certification: This customised four-level training and certification programme that caters to distinct functions and varying degrees of BIM involvement (see Figure 2).

Level One is a general introductory seminar to introduce all project staff to the basic concepts of BIM, Open BIM and IFC interoperability;

Level Two explores the essential processes of the application of BIM for specific sectors (owner, contractor, engineer etc). This is also an overview-style session covering relevant modules for each discipline to lay groundwork for more specific training;

Level Three comprises a series of basic training modules. Each module relates to a distinct BIM function (as outlined below) customised to the relevant sector.

Level Four takes any of the specific training modules (as per Level Three) to an advanced level (see Figure 3).

Organisation certification: This is an assessment of the application of BIM processes in a live project environment, and across company-wide systems and processes. The certification process comprises four distinct activities:undertaking of organisation/individual capability assessment; development of BIM implementation/execution plan; project audit; and final assessment and certification.

Link for Figure 1:

Link for Figure 2:

Link for Figure 3:

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