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What is a BIM Manager?

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This is a question that goes through many Project Manager, Directors, Procurements Manager’s minds involved in major projects here in MENA when they are reviewing tenders and putting together their technical teams. I have spent about 6 years in Qatar working for several companies, and I can honestly say the BIM Manager is a very misunderstood role here in MENA. Some companies tend to merge or confuse BIM with CAD. To me this is a big mistake and if you still don’t understand the difference between those two acronyms I would strongly suggest you read up on BIM before you submit your tender that has BIM requirements.

In a nut shell I believe a BIM Manager is a professional who can manage BIM processes, policies, technology and people. Just plain and simple! Now let’s break this down a bit further because it sounds very general and I’m sure you want more specifics and some real life samples.  So let’s start with 3 important questions, and in the comments below please feel free to share your own and I will do my best to address them in the following post.

 NOTE: I must remind the readers that all of the opinions and ideas below are from my personal experiences.

What should I look for in a BIM Manager? 

The ideal BIM Manager (BM) is a natural leader, this person is your BIM captain that fully understands and manages the team, and is fully responsible for the most important asset of all, the people! He knows each member’s BIM roles and responsibilities and how they all interact with each other. This person should also have a strong technical background that will allow them to synergize with the project stakeholders from the site engineers, to the design manager up to the Client.

In my experience a BIM Manager (BM) sits at the same level of a Design Manager, for this reason I personally believe it should be an Engineer/Architect with at least +10 years of professional experience. Someone who has performed engineering and design tasks and understands the technology and procedures required to create, review and submit a design. This person should also have experience on-site dealing with contractors and site teams, understanding the nemesis dynamics of the design versus construction drama! But the fun doesn’t stop here… this person will need to be able to mitigate disputes and solve BIM related problems between stakeholders as per the project policies, as well as present results and explain errors to the Client. This person is the face of BIM.

This person is the focal point to all BIM matters, the lucky person everyone will complain to when things aren’t going the right way, but also go to when help is needed. I read once that a great leader is not someone who tells you how to do things, but someone who shows you how it’s done! The BIM Manager needs to clearly understand the flow of information between all stakeholders not just the processes but also the technology behind it, needs to be able to get his hands dirty and jump in when needed. From the early project planning to design engineering, construction processes up to handover of data for Facility Management integration.

The BM needs to be a strong communicator, in the current market of large scale infrastructure project where you have powerhouse JV’s with a wide array of specialist and design teams you will need someone who can effectively communicate with them and most importantly get them to collaborate! BIM is all about open communication and transparency of information; we are here to work together for the common goal of making this project a success as a team! The collaboration topic is a major challenge and could even be a post on its own!

Conclusion: You need to look for a person that can lead and manage the team (people) to effectively and efficiently implement the BIM processes using the proper tools (technology) as per the Employers Information Requirement’s (policies) in a very dynamic environment. These are the 4 pillars of BIM: People, Processes, Policies and Technology!

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Now please take a moment to digest this 1st answer because we have 2 more. Does your current BIM Manager fit the bill so far? Does the current position your HR / Talent Acquisitions team is looking for sound anywhere close? If the answer is yes, I’m pleased to say you are on the right path, if not you might be underestimating an important role in your organization, so please continue reading and feel free to share this post with your team.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a BIM Manager?

 As mentioned above the BIM Manager is the “focal point” for all BIM related issues throughout the project and responsible for managing all BIM processes. The BIM Manager is fully responsible for supervising and managing all matters related to BIM and ensuring they are effectively supporting the project. So for this to properly function the BIM Manager needs to be involved in the early stage of the project and kickoff the BIM Implementation stage. Below are some key questions the BM should be able to tackle:

  • Does the BIM Execution Plan (BEP) clearly addresses the projects BIM uses and is aligned with the Employers Information Requirements (EIR’s)?
  • Does the BEP answer the: who, what, where, how and why of BIM for this project?
  • Are all stakeholders fully aware of their roles and responsibilities related to BIM?
  • Does anyone need BIM Induction / training to bring them up to speed?
  • Do all stakeholders have the necessary hardware / software and resources and skills to deliver this project?
  • Are all the BIM processes and procedures clearly described and ready to go?

Now let’s play pretend and close our eyes and fast-forward into the future a few weeks once the initial BIM Implementation stage has been completed and the BEP has been approved and the stakeholders know what they are supposed to do…. What does the BM do now? Well he/she needs to take the reins of the BIM processes and make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to. For example during the design coordination process the BM needs to lead the clash meetings (always looking out for the best interest of the Client and following the EIR’s) ensuring the stakeholders are following up on the clash solutions and providing the necessary feedback to work towards a “clash free” design. If the design engineers are not amending the design and the conflicts end up on site guess who the contractor is going to blame? Everyone will look at the BIM team and place the blame on the BM. So this person needs to be like the BIM police, and ensure all the processes are being followed as required. This person needs to be able to mitigate risks before they become big problems.  As I said above the BM will have the important task of reporting not only the successes of BIM but also face the Client when things aren’t going so well.

I could describe more roles for the as-built data collection stage but I think you get the point. If not please let me know and we can elaborate more on this later.

Conclusion: This person is the focal point for BIM in the eyes of all stakeholders, needs to be the BIM police and enforcer, always aware of the BIM policies and the status of BIM making sure it never veers off track. The captain of the BIM boat, if anything BIM related goes wrong he/she is responsible!

So after going through question #2 do you believe your current BIM Manager is fulfilling these roles and responsibilities? Or are you in a bit of shock because you just realized that your “BIM Manager” is way in over his head because you didn’t understand the importance of this role, and instead promoted your seasoned CAD Manager to “BIM Manager” because they took a Revit course or are Autodesk certified and know how to make 3D models?

What are the challenges of a BIM Manager?

Have you ever seen a juggler at a carnival? Notice how they start off with 3 – 4 colored balls and then transition into flaming machetes and bowling balls! This is how BM’s feel at times, or at least I have!

Being able to effectively multi-task, coordinate and manage the BIM team is a challenge! You might have a group of BIM modelers taking care of authoring the models because very likely the designer of the project still does old school 2D designs. You will also have a handful of BIM specialists linking the BIM model to the P6 schedule in order to develop the 4D BIM model. You might also have some more specialists linking the model to a BoQ’s for the 5D BIM model (BoQ extraction for quantity and cost analysis). If you are on an advanced BIM project where the Client has been educated on the wonders of BIM (and there are many out there) you will have more people with unique COBie knowledge/skills that have the fun task of finding needles in a haystack by linking valuable data (specs, O&M, FM, etc) to a beloved excel spreadsheet full of colors and tabs. So as you can see this person will be handling many issues and solving problems at the same time; however he/she can never lose focus on the EIR’s and the four pillars of BIM (processes, policies, technology and people).

Communication is vital and as mentioned above the BM will have the great challenge of identifying and gathering important BIM information. This implies that you first need the knowledge to understand what you are looking for, and secondly able to approach the stakeholder(s) that possesses this information and persuade them to give it to you. Sometimes not all stakeholders are “team players”, so you will need to have the right people skills to make this happen. Thirdly you will need to have the technical know-how to use this information correctly to guide your team of BIM Specialists to plow away creating the 3D, 4D & 5D models. Here are a series of questions that a BIM Manager should be able to answer: Do you have the latest drawings, schedule, BoQ, specs, O&M, data drops? Are you filtering through these files before you hand them over? or just acting as a post office? Has the designer/contractor made changes that could affect the integrity of the BIM Model? Have you developed the strong and healthy relationship with the stakeholders so they will inform you in a timely fashion when this occurs?

It’s a living pressure cooker and being able to deal with stress is vital. Keeping your cool when everyone else is freaking out and playing the blame game it vital for your mental health and project progress.  The BM can never lose composure, the right attitude and keeping a balanced mind is fundamental when problems arise and everyone is concentrating their frustration on BIM… thus YOU! Designers love to blame the construction team, and the construction team shares the same love for the design team, this can be seen all across the globe and even when both sides share the same company name! When you put BIM in the middle of these two you have two options: they can team up and both blame the BIM Manager, OR this can be turned around into a great opportunity to show how properly implemented BIM lead by a competent BIM Manager supported by a strong BIM team can help mend the differences between these stakeholders and resolve design issues, analyze schedule delays, better understand constructability problems, quick and reliable quantities take offs and much more!!

Organization is vital, at all times the BIM Manager needs to know Who? What? How? Where? and the Why’s of each BIM task.

Conclusion: the BIM Managers challenges are summed up with multi-tasking, collaborating, communicating, mediating, mitigating, directing and leading.

The BIM Manager role should not be underestimated; you will need to have thick skin to deal with the mounting pressure, a cool head to react quickly and effectively when needed, and most importantly a good attitude to keep the BIM bus going in the right direction at the right speed.

 

In closing, the ideal BIM Manager is a well rounded seasoned professional with strong technical and managerial skills, capable of leading the BIM team and stakeholders to follow and implement BIM processes. Intense communication and collaboration with designers, contractors, specialist and most importantly the Client will be a daily activity. This person is a “doer” not a talker, a person with a proactive and positive attitude that has been in the shoes of the other stakeholders to truly appreciate and understand the efforts and challenges they are going through. A person that has the knowledge to comprehend what can truly be accomplished with the BIM Model.

How can you lead and manage something that you have never done yourself? For this reason the BIM Manager in my opinion needs to be an engineer or architect that has real hands on experience, someone who understands how to create, read and modify design files (I’m not saying they will do this task as a BM, but they need to understand what it takes to be accomplished). Same goes with the Gantt Chart, the BM doesn’t need to be a scheduler or P6 expert, but they at least need to be able to read the chart and identify the critical path, understand the milestones due dates and when they need to submit each deliverable! The BM needs to be able to understand and identify what COBie information his BIM Specialist is looking for, if the massive amount of pdfs the FM consultant has just provided is at least a searchable?

So as you can see the BM role is very important and if placed in the right hands can be very powerful and helpful to the overall project, however if placed in the wrong hands then we are looking at massive delays for both design and construction, endless variation orders from the contractor when he starts to find clashes on site that he was expecting the design team to catch, fights between contractors because the project interfaces are a mess and not matching, miscalculation of quantities and budget due to manual counting of outdates drawings.

 Is this déjà vu from your last project, or in the worst case your current project?   Are you up for the challenge? Do you still want to call yourself a BIM Manager? Do you see your BIM Manager with the same eyes as before you started reading this post?

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