Opinion

openBIM: “Best of Breed” Solutions pt 1

 

From BIM Journal. Click Here to Read Issue 1

Taking a step back from the immediate benefits of openBIM with regard to the wider building process, openBIM itself constitutes a removal of boundaries for smaller software vendors to confidently make their products available on the world stage. Through the development of clear standards and modes of communication between different software packages, one can perceive an intrinsic opening of the market whereby smaller software vendors are more able to effectively compete with larger, more established vendors which may (or may not) have historically restricted interoperability to products of their own or those of their partners.

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Q: How do you see openBIM altering the landscape with relevance to smaller software vendors and the impact of this on the already-established brands?

A: I see the competition created by open standards as being very positive. If we all start to use the same open language worldwide it becomes much easier for smaller software providers that really do provide wonderful niche applications a space in which to enter the market.

It’s also critical to note that the internet plays a key role in openBIM – delivering systems via internet means ensures that these smaller players are no longer restricted by geographical boundaries - which brings a healthy competition to the field[23].

KEVIN HOLMES, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, HxGN SMART Build

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Not only does openBIM see boundaries of direct entry into the market reduced, but it also sees indirect benefits from the refocusing of innovation as well. Anthony Buckley-Thorp, Managing Partner of Flux Advanced Services + Technology explains a perceived increase in focus on the delivery of a platform to overcome client challenges can be expected, as opposed to the delivery of a platform designed solely to plug into pre-existing BIM processes and models. This refocusing of time and effort could very well see the values of BIM taking precedence over such formalities – something that can only benefit the industry in the long run.

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Q: How does the alteration of boundaries to entry, and potentially increased competition from smaller software vendors impact industry overall?

A: openBIM should empower small to medium software vendors to focus their development efforts on solving their end user’s pain points instead of focusing on integrating with the latest version of endpoint BIM packages.

Standardised and backwards compatible interfaces will help them offer their valuable products and solutions to a wider audience and minimise dependency risk on a single software environment.

Drawing parallels from the video game industry, development environments such as Unity3D have enabled indie game developers to offer their products cross-platform.

The era of exclusive titles is rapidly diminishing and this is a good thing for innovation across the industry; for vendors, for developers and for end user choice and experience[34].

ANTHONY BUCKLEY-THORP, MANAGING PARTNER, FLUX ADVANCED SERVICES + TECHNOLOGY

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Of course this is far from saying that larger software vendors will be unable to stay commercially viable. Indeed, many of the leading software vendors are in their present industry position due to the excellent software packages that they offer, and Open BIM processes do nothing to change this or take customers away from any given package. Quite the opposite. Yet at the same time, with an open marketplace for BIM software packages emerging, participants within the BIM are provided an opportunity and a wider choice of packages wholesale. Meanwhile vendors can continue to compete on cost, reliability and features.

This very choice however is where openBIM really holds its own. As participants within modern construction projects maintain specialisms of their own, so too can the software packages utilised in order to maintain an equal degree of specialism. One shoe does not fit all and one vendor cannot (at least not yet) provide the best solution to all of the problems outright[35]. Perhaps this could be achieved in a backhanded way by acquiring other companies or by partnering, but whilever a closed BIM process presents restrictions for use, openBIM allows for architects, structural engineers, property managers, building surveyors and just about any other role of participant to select exactly the right tool for the trade.

In this respect, while one software vendor may provide an astounding solution for architectural design and data management, the very same vendor may only present a mediocre offering for the structural engineer. Yet this very software package may well be forced upon structural engineers wishing to participate in a specific closed BIM operation. Again, the requirement to really open up to collaboration (and to test software compatibility beforehand) comes to the fore but the drive of openBIM clearly aspires to see no one participant penalised.

On the flip side, through the opening of the market and the ability for seamless integration and communication between differing partners and vendors, each participant within a specific openBIM project is able to select a software package which suits their needs, preferences and specialisms exactly. This allows for architects to select the strongest offering on the market without subjecting any other participant to utilising sub-par or mediocre software by way of a trade-off because they’re worried each time they click export. Instead, each participant is able to select the “best of breed” solution simultaneously[36], with fluid communication between the different packages that does not question or interrupt the specialist expertise held by the individuals at all.

In an education or at least awareness sense, with organisations now able to select software packages of their choosing, and no doubt those of which they have a strong understanding of and experience in utilising, so too can we see a strengthening of understanding being made available as well. Indeed, in a closed BIM system, we would perceive the opposite, with smaller organisations potentially being pushed to use software packages which they are unfamiliar with and are far more prone to struggle.

continues in pt 2...

Read both parts (and more) in BIM Journal