BIM Implementation

By Bob Garrett, Marketing Director, Excitech Ltd.

In previous articles in this series we have considered the different project areas and stages that Building Information Modelling can bring benefits to and what some of these benefits can be. In this article I assume that you have chosen to go down the BIM path - or maybe it has been suggested or even forced upon you by a project or client requirement. So what is needed is a brief overview of how to plan for the implementation of BIM in an organisation and in a project.

The first thing that must be recognised is that the task ahead should not be underestimated. There is a well-trodden path of organisations which have taken a less well informed approach to what is needed. Some have thought it is just a question of retraining some CAD operators to use different software, others have simply delegated responsibility down and named someone "BIM Manager" - and I am sure there are many other examples we could quote. Such approaches will certainly fail to deliver the best outcomes from BIM and, as some have found to their cost, such an approach can introduce huge risks into a project with potentially disastrous results.

BIM is not software; it is not about deliverables; it is not about changing how you do things now; it may not even be about what you do now - at least at a detail level. It includes all these things and much more. Building Information Modelling is a process - a business process which is likely to impact across your project team and beyond.

It may well change what you actually do, how you do it, and who does it. As such it needs to be developed within the context of the broader implications for the organisation and its strategy and plans. These can be an even broader topic which is beyond the scope of this article.

Like any business process change affecting a number of people it needs a plan; a plan which all agree to and are committed to, including senior managers. This plan will usually start with a BIM Strategy document, which will then feed a BIM Implementation Plan for the organisation. Then, when a project is identified, a BIM Execution Plan will be produced firstly pre-contract and then post-contract. We will focus on the BIM Implementation Plan and BIM Execution Plans.

The BIM Implementation Plan should set out how BIM is to be introduced to an organisation (or maybe just a department) while the BIM Execution Plan will detail how BIM is to be used within a single project; this recognises that how BIM is used will vary from project to project.

Like all plans these should be seen as live documents reviewed and modified over time in the light of experience or developments. In this way there is a future plan to work to, and you can identify when something is being changed and why. These plan, or parts of them, will be shared with project partners and should tie up with their own plans.

For both of these key documents there are samples to be found in the public domain as well as other documents which can help guide you in writing your plan. However, don't be misled into thinking you can simply download a plan and work from it. They may be useful frameworks but every organisation and every project is different, so it needs a different plan.

There are many other documents you should read in assembling your plans, which come from a whole range of bodies including BSi, RIBA, CIC etc. All of these will help you identify what needs to be planned for - if not necessarily exactly how to plan for it!

The BIM Implementation Plan is all about how BIM is introduced (or developed) within an organisation. This might set out a programme for implementation across a whole organisation, or simply a single team or for a single project. The timescales and investments planned would need to be appropriate to the objective. Key information it should set out would include the following:

1. An executive overview
2. Strategy and objectives
3. Key responsibilities which should include a senior executive charged with ensuring its success as well as an Implementation Project Manager
4. Processes to be introduced/modified
5. Skills development
6. Systems (hardware, networks, etc.) implementation
7. Applications (software installation and configuration) implementation
8. Support
9. Data management (including standards and collaboration)
10. External relationships e.g. other organisations affected
11. Contractual changes
12. Budget
13. Timelines and milestones
14. Risks and mitigation
15. Review

In our experience it is often the case that the BIM Implementation Plan is the first stage of producing a BIM Execution Plan for a particular project. This makes the whole procedure more relevant and focussed - and so more likely to succeed. Choosing the right first project can also help ensure success.

The BIM Execution Plan is all about how BIM is to be managed within a particular project. Some might argue that this should be an integral part of the overall project plan but currently it does tend to be a separate but related document.

This plan will often be produced and published in two versions: one at the tender stage and one post contractual. The former document will be briefer and its goal is to set out capabilities and the planned approach in order to aid winning the contract. The second will be detailed and confirms all the key parties within the project and their part. Key information for these documents includes the following:

1. An executive overview
2. Project description and key information
3. Project strategy
4. Employer's Information Requirements (EIR)
5. Supplier assessments (BIM, IT and resources)
6. Project organisations and key contacts
7. Roles and responsibilities
8. Objectives, goals and aspirations
9. Processes and workflows within and between teams and organisations
10. Standards (including coordinate systems, naming etc.)
11. Data management and exchange methodologies
12. Collaboration procedures
13. Timelines and milestones including Task Information Delivery Plan (TIDP)
14. Technologies to be used
15. Model structure and standards
16. Project deliverables and Master Information Delivery Plan (MIDP)
17. Risks and mitigation
18. Review

Many of these items overlap so there cannot easily be a uniform structure to the document. Some plans may be changed during the life of the project; indeed with the rate of change and improvement in methodologies and technologies it might be considered unusual that changes would not occur during the typical life of a project. This document would typically be shared across the project partners so its communication and revision processes also need to be managed.

Surveys show big variations in the benefits seen by those adopting BIM. Some of these variations will be down to the particular types of projects but our experience shows the variations are also explained by the ways in which BIM has been implemented. To put it frankly, the variations will often be explained by how well it has been planned and executed. As Benjamin Franklin said, "If you fail to plan then you plan to fail".

Today, there is more experience of implementing BIM to call upon than ever before, but there is still the opportunity for innovation and differentiation which can make one organisation more effective and competitive than another.

So my final message is, don't just do as others have done, question it, study what more could be done to meet a client's needs better and to make your own organisation more successful.