BIM is gaining more and more relevance every year for a broad range of stakeholders in the construction, design manufacture and operation of as-built assets.
This is not only a game changer for companies but for people as well. Among all those new positions involved in this new technology there is a key role call BIM manager.
Currently there many companies around the world looking for BIM managers, but if we do a quick search over LinkedIn for example we would find that there are many different role definitions between many different companies, so do we clearly know what are the responsibilities and competences of a BIM manager?
This article aims to provide candidates and companies a summary of all the main tasks that a BIM manager should doing.
I’ve done surveys from many BIM managers on multiple countries, I’ve read the most relevant bibliography about this subject in the last couple of years and I’ve also been working as a BIM manager myself for the last couple of years, so I can guarantee that the information below describes accurately the role.
Best practice of BIM
We can clearly say that in order to understand what a BIM Manager do, first we need to understand the principles behind getting BIM right.
Before getting into describing the critical things for a good performance, we need to understand that given the fact that BIM is still a technology under development so is the role of the BIM manager so there are still many things that are evolving every day and there is a lot of trial and error involve.
Scope: Let’s start clarifying that the first thing that we need to do is have a clear scope that states the right LOD and what is our main goal for the project. This might sound a really obvious task but you would be surprise with all the projects that still mix the CAD process with BIM modeling and that ends being a pseudo BIM with catastrophic consequences.
Coordination: Given the fact that in order to perform a well-coordinated modeling and coordination effort you need to have an outstanding communication with all the stakeholders. Every once in a while I find myself in projects with not even the scope or the schedule are clear between the different teams and this leads to many other problems like quality problems, extra costs, lack of ownership, etc.
Documentation: We need to understand that BIM involves new procedures and technology so we need documentation (BEP, EIR, LOD, ETC) that makes a clear statement that everybody can use and be align into the same page. Remember that we are dealing with new technology in a really old school industry so everything should be dumb proof.
Software: Nowadays there are many software vendors in the market hence you can find different team using different platforms to develop their models in the same project so it is important that you have a tool ecology that allows you to exchange data between the different programs without compromising the quality.
Modeling: This is really tied with the scope and the documentation. It is important to understand what is the deliverable here in order to produce the correct model, if that is not clear we can end with a really low quality model or we can over model which involves wasting everybody time and money.
Quality Control: I always bring this up as a separate item because is critical to perform a quality control on what we are doing. A good example of this was a project where after a couple of months we completed the coordination process and then one of the subcontractors realized that the drawings he was using was an old revision and there were a lot of new elements in the latest one, so there was not enough space between the ceiling and the slab to locate them and we had to do the coordination process again which caused great delays for the project.
When thinking about BIM in the construction industry we immediately think that the key factor for a good BIM manager is technology, but that is really far from being true.
Given the fact that construction is an industry where things change all the time and that combined with new technology and procedures being develop every day the biggest challenge and the best skill for a BIM manager to have is being able to deal with change management.
As we all know the biggest challenge of all managers no matter which industry are they working for are people.
Yes, it is super important to know how to adapt and deal with the new technology but you won’t be able to anything if you don’t convince your sponsors on how this technology it is important for the company and on how they will get a return of investment. Even if you convince your sponsor then you have to make sure that the people who are working in the field for example are using the information that you provide to them, otherwise you will lose trust of your superiors.
So will have to use concrete actions like setting weekly BIM meetings with right people to make sure the processes are clear, you can provide training so people can understand how to do things from now on, you will have to audit different areas of the company to check if they are adapting to the new methodologies, develop key relationships with people, etc.
Even when we already stated that the key factor here is communication and change management it is through continuous technological advances that current-day BIM has become possible. Technology is one of the most relevant, yet also the most transient aspects of BIM.
The constant upgrading of software applications has an in mediate impact on processes and information integration, often with far-reaching ramifications.
IT / IT dialogue: The BIM manager is the person who knows most about all the new software that is being used, so depending on the scale of the company he will have to either deal with all the necessary configurations on each computer or will have to coordinate with the IT department to do it.
Hardware/Software selection: Our manager will be the one in charge on selecting the necessary Hardware and software to the upper management. This will not only be a simple selection but a really detail analysis of costs and advantages/disadvantages written in a way that a non-technical person can understand so they can understand your selection.
Tools ecology: I think that for many BIM managers this is the most exciting part of the job and consists of creating processes and procedures that allow all the internal and external stakeholders to connect their models, drawings, RFI, deliverables, etc so there is no data leakage in the middle.
This can go from where are we going to coordinate all the BIM models from different platforms( like Navisworks or solibri) to the selection of the cloud software( like Procore or Aconex) we are using for everybody to upload the production in a weekly basis.
This process can be a little bit tedious or boring sometimes but is critical to develop solid documentation for our process.
Depending on the scale of our project we might have to one from 1 or 2 pages to more than 100.
EIR: This means Employer information requirements and as per PAS 1192-2 defines which models need to be produced at each project stage – together with the required level of detail and definition. These models are key deliverables in the “data drops- contributing to effective decision making at key stages of the project.
Standards: These are the key reference for anyone who uses BIM within the organization. Standards are more than simple guidelines. Ideally, each individual working in BIM should apply the standards as a matter of course in their day-to-day workflow.
BEP: The concept behind the BIM execution plan is to provide teams with a baseline agreement about how and the extent to which BIM gets implemented in a project.
BIM Placemat: A useful tool for BIM managers to convey the most essential information BIM users within their organization need to know when working a project in BIM is the BIM placemat.
BIM Capability statement: You know how far you have come with your organization’s BIM effort, but how do you let outside parties know about it? The capability statement is there to make this explicit and to demonstrate in the most effective way how your firm’s BIM infrastructure, staff skill levels and BIM technology are set up.
BIM Library management: A lot of content is created or re-used on every project so in order to make sure there are not double efforts and that the contents is correctly store a BIM library needs to be created and maintained by the BIM manager.
Day-to-day BIM management
BIM management is a highly interactive process with a great variety of different tasks to be accomplished on a daily basis.
Our manager looks at in-house requirements, as well as the necessity for integration and coordination of BIM data across a multidisciplinary project team. He highlights how interpersonal and communication skills, as well as the ability to formulate concise business plans, are fundamental to a BIM manager’s role. Whether they get applied during mentoring of other staff or during large project coordination meeting, the BIM manager needs to be articulate in expressing his expert view clearly and effectively. In the long term, BIM managers needs to stablish a culture dialogue and, to a degree, peer-to-peer support with the goal of disseminating BIM knowledge across their entire organization and beyond.
If we have to speak about what a BIM manager so on a day to day basis the image above clearly illustrates his activities.
Our manager will be always multitasking between activities like coordination meetings, dealing with coordinates or naming conventions for the models, making sure the quality is the specked one, making sure the project has the necessary resources to be developed in a timely manner, updating the documentation, tracking how the deliverables are being used, maximizing the BIM output, etc.
Excelling your BIM efforts
What distinguishes a great BIM manager from a good or merely proficient one? Where are BIM and the management of building modeling techniques headed? All the skill previously mentioned are must to perform as expected in the manager role, but there are certain things that can he can do to be an outstanding one.
One really important attitude towards the position is not only to make sure that we complete our project correctly, but also to go beyond and see how our deliverables are being used in the field or by the facility manager for example, check what we can improve to maximize their experience using BIM, if our manager can do that a retroactive cycle of improvement will be created and will bring great benefits to the company.
Another key attitude is toward the current procedures and developments in the industry, there are two options here, the easy one is to wait until the market creates something and start using it as soon as it is clear that is a safe path or the hard one wich is being part of the development of new innovations for the industry, which can not only guarantee that our company is a leader in the technological field but also get a great competitive advantage.
Communication, Communication and more communication
I left this for the end as I think that for all the above skill you can always relay on someone to help you and that you can still have a great performance a BIM manager, but there is no way you can do your job properly if you don’t have great communication skills.
You can be that great technical guy who knows everything about all the latest programs available in the market and he can even be an awesome programmer developing custom and really creative solutions but if we cannot make everybody to understand and use those tools it is just a waste of time and money.
So always remember managing BIM is not that different from being a manager in other industries, they people skill are always a must here!