The BIM Manager 2.0


August 18, 2015

Content and images by courtesy of HOCHTIEF ViCon.

The BIM Manager now, more than ever, plays a fundamental role in driving the entire project delivery and ensuring completion on time and in budget. His core responsibilities comprise coordinating the modelling works, reporting the BIM status and maintaining the model integrity. The transition some years ago from CAD Manager to BIM Manager was essential to the advancement of BIM processes within the construction industry. Today, however, a more all encompassing BIM Manager is called for.

While BIM is becoming an industry standard, many governments are now mandating, BIM know-how and proven references for companies are now being seen as a pre-requisite for tenders. As projects grow in scale and complexity, industry professionals and group bodies are accepting that digital models and BIM processes are becoming the most effective way of reducing costs and risk while increasing quality. This forces the construction sector to develop its own knowledge to be competitive.

Adopting BIM means a new way of working. Along with this, the challenges of managing people, processes, policy and technology arise. Making the task more complex, those individuals and companies adopting BIM methods must still be able to coordinate and work with those who are not readily utilising it. They must be versatile, adaptive and quick on their feet. Not only does the model itself need its own Manager to ensure its integrity and proper use, such a significant change in the industry standards calls for a changed/evolved role which can act as a focal point for all BIM related activities on a project — The BIM Manager. Though the current role of BIM Manager already exists in the construction dialogue, it is loosely applied to those with CAD management experience, who are working with BIM related tools and software.

Today’s BIM Manager is often taking care of the model only – but there is much more to BIM than the model itself. If as an industry we are to take advantage of all the benefits that can be garnered from utilizing 3D models, we need to ask the following questions:

  • Who is defining the right BIM processes?
  • Who is taking care of the BIM related personnel?
  • Who is responsible for choosing the right IT environment?
  • Who is checking the contract conditions to fit in the BIM approach?
  • Who is leading the training and education required for personnel?

The evolution of virtual design and construction throughout the past decade is such that the existing model centric BIM Manager’s role description is now obsolete. To bring on all the desired changes, we must redefine the position.

As the virtual representation of the real facility, the digital 3D model has a wide range of requirements which cannot be fulfilled by a standard construction team. Processes are constantly changing, new ones must be introduced, alternative technologies are required and contracts need to be adapted. It is logical evolution that the responsibility of the BIM Manager has grown alongside the on-going development and acceptance of BIM in the construction industry. Currently the BIM Manager is steadily growing in to a multipurpose figure, taking care of several different management fields. How have his responsibilities changed? And which challenges is he facing with each new BIM implementation on a project, regardless of the size and type?

The first mandatory component of BIM-supported construction is defining the right processes. As the basis for all model based activities, the right processes can be the difference between the success and failure of a BIM Implementation. BIM processes should be defined and monitored by the BIM Manager considering the project life-cycle, for example:

  • Design creation and coordination
  • Quantity take-off • Cost estimation
  • Scheduling and progress monitoring
  • Change management
  • Operation and maintenance
  • Asset management

The team is the success. No achievement would be possible without the right people on board. Knowing that BIM is still a new frontier in the AEC (architecture, engineering, construction) industry, the challenge of finding and nurturing the right team of people is on-going. The BIM Manager’s role is also responsible for:

  • Imparting knowledge and experience
  • Defining the required team roles and responsibilities
  • Facilitating efficient and effective collaboration and communication
  • Instilling trust and commitment within the team
  • Fostering a supportive team culture

The conventional IT environment in construction projects today often requires enhancements to support the proper usage and utilisation of 3D models. An appropriate and cost effective set up of hardware and software has to be defined by the BIM Manager. Additionally, the data exchange and storage processes have to be defined and managed. The BIM Manager must be in charge of the following:

  • Certifying appropriate hardware and software
  • Defining data formats and structure
  • Controlling and regulating data versioning
  • Defining user specific workspaces
  • Ensuring clear internet connections, with minimum connection downtime, and sufficient speed

Complete and successful BIM Implementation requires having BIM in contracts. The BIM Manager should take care to create clear and thorough technical specifications to be the basis for the model development and exchange. Project conditions must at a minimum clarify the following:

  • The project guidelines and contracts in relation to BIM
  • Building standards
  • The ownership of deliverables and associated intellectual properties
  • Risks and insurance implications that could be encountered For a successful BIM Implementation, the BIM Manager must be capable of integrating and managing all those components.

This explains that the modern role of the BIM Manager not only means taking care of the digital 3D model, but ensuring that all BIM related tasks are overseen in parallel; the new role is, in fact, many roles. An important aspect of this is the understanding that the BIM Manager supports the project life-cycle approach and is not only focussing on a particular project phase like the design. Now the role also includes supporting HR, IT and legal departments in their work. He is the “BIM Manager, 2.0”.

Figure 2 shows four components that surround a successful BIM implementation: process, people, technology and policy. Encircling them is the Management (in this case, the BIM Manager), who leads them to work in unison. It is in these four key components, that we can identify the role’s evolved requirements.

In light of the new requirements of the role of BIM Manager, his positioning within the project organisation is critical. The organizational chart in Figure 3 shows the BIM Manager in a central role, directly between the client and the Project Management. The positioning enables him to ensure a life cycle BIM approach, get all stakeholders involved, encourage a top down strategy, and measure the project performance independently of the client or developer.

With this role progression, how does yesterday’s BIM Manager, become today’s new and improved BIM Manager 2.0? Training and education become the key considerations. Along with prerequisite skills such as on- site experience, CAD Software skills and the usual gamut of competencies, it is important to find someone who is proactive and willing to learn. Training on the job, and continued professional development (CPD) courses are vital. Certification by BIM competent education centres and probationary periods for junior BIM Managers will enable thorough understanding of the complexity of the role.

As the AEC industry strives to develop and refine its standard roles and processes to continue to be competitive, so too does the BIM Manager need to grow. With the myriad challenges facing BIM implementation in construction today, the difference between success and failure will surely be a versatile BIM Manager.