Are You Experiencing Bad BIM?: Rescuing Difficult BIM Projects

Building Information Modelling is gaining momentum on a global scale within the construction industry.  With this increase in BIM adoption, we have come across a number of projects that are facing serious delivery challenges which can be attributed to bad BIM processes.  In the vast majority of cases, the root causes of BIM problem projects is a lack of technical capability, capacity, and/or commitment to information management and collaboration.  Given that these issues span across the people, process and technology aspects of BIM, there is no simple cure for BIM project recovery.  While BIM project recovery is a challenge, the target is straightforward – approach the implementation of BIM from a different perspective in order to deliver real benefits to all project stakeholders.

The overall BIM project recovery process can be seen as the admission of a patient through a hospital emergency room.  First responders need to be called to the scene of an emergency to begin the treatment process, triage decisions are made to stop the bleeding and determine the preliminary course of action, stabilized patents are given a more in depth assessment, and a long term plan of care is subsequently developed.  In BIM project recovery terms, teams firstly need to recognise that there is a BIM and information management problem, which requires expert assistance.  An initial assessment and preliminary intervention can then be used to prevent the effects of bad BIM getting worse, while the real cause of bad BIM is identified to find a sustainable solution.  Once project issues are fully understood, an actionable recovery plan can be developed and implemented.

Here is an overview of the 5 step recovery process for BIM projects in difficulty:

  1. Get some help – Recognising a BIM project is in trouble and expertise is needed to get back on track is key to rescuing a BIM project. Chances are the project plan as designed is not working and a new approach towards project delivery is required.  The person that you want to bring in needs to have the business process, people management, and technical capabilities to identify and address the people, process, and technology related issues facing the project.  A BIM project recovery specialist needs to be appointed with the understanding that objective and independent advice will be provided for the overall benefit of the project.  It is preferred for the BIM project recovery specialist to be directly appointed by the project client and given the authority to implement BIM and information management improvements.
  2. Identify the BIM and Information Management challenges facing the project – Think of this step as recording the pain points associated with BIM going wrong on the project. If BIM is costing the project and team member’s money instead of adding value, then part of the BIM process is not working.  BIM deficiencies can result in delays, uncoordinated deliverables, abortive work, wasted time and effort.  Rescuing BIM projects is a collaborative effort, just like working in a BIM environment.  In order for difficult BIM projects to be rescued, the impacts of bad BIM process on all stakeholders need to be recorded and addressed.
  3. Determine the root causes of BIM issues – Once the effects of bad BIM on all team members are identified, the next action is to drill down and expose the real reason for project disruptions associated with BIM. This step is typically the most difficult, as the truth can sometimes be painful.  The individual responsible for BIM project rescue must have the people and organisational management skills to discover the root cause of BIM issues and communicate with team members in a manner that does not breed unnecessary conflict or distrust.  Having an independent BIM project recovery specialist helps with this issue, as no single project team member is elevated above the rest.  In the majority of cases, a few dysfunctional business processes cause wide spread damage to the project.
  4. (Re)define BIM and Information Requirements – Corrective action must be taken to resolve the core sources of problems on difficult BIM projects. This may seem like an obvious statement, but the reality is some aspects of BIM project recovery can be sensitive and project team members may push back on proposed resolutions to avoid negative implications. Developing remedial solutions in the form of redefined information requirements, responsibilities, and dependencies in the context of providing benefits to all stakeholders helps to reduce negative reactions to proposed project solutions.  In some cases, this part of the BIM project rescue process may be the first time information requirements, responsibilities, and dependencies are discussed or formally identified on a project.  An undefined information or BIM requirement scope is a root cause of BIM project problems and continuing without clear targets will result in an unsuccessful BIM project recovery.
  5. (Re)establish the BIM Execution Plan – Revising the BIM and information management scope is half of the BIM project recovery plan. The rules of BIM project engagement also need to be reset (or initially set in the case of projects without an existing BIM Execution Plan) to target efficient and effective project delivery through BIM.  It is highly likely that poor BIM planning and/or execution is a root cause of difficult BIM projects.  The revised BIM Execution Plan needs to account for correcting previous deficiencies, set the direction and methods for meeting the reconfirmed project information requirements and gaining performance benefits through BIM.  Positive interventions in a post-recovery BIM Execution Plan include the strategic addition of BIM enabled resources, deploying technologies to improve specific project tasks, increasing team member skills through targeted training, and developing revised workflows to streamline information production and collaboration.

BIM as a journey is a relevant metaphor for its implementation and the road will have bumps, potholes, and hairpin turns along the way. The 5 steps for BIM project recovery outlined above provides a framework for navigating difficult stretches of road or picking up the pieces after a crash.  Even with the best intentions to run a BIM project smoothly, it is important to monitor BIM projects and identify difficulties as early as possible to limit the cost and time associated with project recovery.  Early indicators of BIM project difficulties include additional cost being attributed to BIM, information transfer delays, a lack of model progress and information relative to the project stage, increases in non-BIM to BIM generated information, unproductive or non-existent BIM coordination workshops, or a negative sentiment towards BIM within the project team.  If your gut tells you the project is heading for trouble because of BIM and your project metrics support the notion, than you should act and kick start the recovery process.  Catch problem BIM projects when the fix is a band aid and not when it’s too late and open heart surgery is needed.

Do you suspect a BIM project in your portfolio is in trouble?  Are you working on a BIM project that isn’t going to plan?  Contact us to see where we can help.

Posted on 16/06/2017 in BIM, Implementation, Risk

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