BIM Journal Interview with Jonathan Hewitt, - pt 2


From pt 1 here.

What parts of the many roles out there tend to overlap? Is the interface between BIM Manager and Project Manager distinct, but the interface between BIM Manager and BIM Coordinator blurred? Size specific? Tell us more at your level of collaboration/ working.

They differ from organisation to organisation so no the interface isn’t clear across the industry and is very blurred between manager and coordinator.

Has your role changed from project to project, but have you kept the same title?

Yes, in the consultancy/advisor roles that I’ve been doing it varies - Anything from putting a strategy together, to implementing a process, to putting together some standard BIM documents/contracts, to training courses, to supporting on tender submissions, to just general guidance and advice.  My job title has been largely irrelevant – just normally “consultant”.

Did you consider avoiding “BIM” in your title at all or would this be career suicide? What would you say to people that had?

Great question – as a Consultant its expected that you know what you are taking about in a particular subject so “BIM advisor” or “BIM Consultant” gives some confidence that you should know something about BIM.  

On your current or most recent BIM project, were the “BIM” roles of the other parties clearly defined? How so?

One client that I was working with recently had made a great start with BIM.  They have some clear high level objectives that they want to achieve using BIM which is great.  The problem they face is that they are a massive and fairly new organisation so communicating what BIM meant to all the different stakeholders across their organisation was a huge challenge.  Most had a general understand of BIM but almost everybody didn’t know how it would affect them and their particular discipline or role.

How much, as a gut feeling percentage, does industry at large fully incorporate the PAS standards into the workplace at this moment in time? As in, 100% if everything is done in perfect accordance with the standards (if indeed fully possible), on the whole?

When I am advising clients my advice is to develop a process as close to the PAS 1192 range of documents as possible – especially if one of the end objectives is some sort of company certification – BRE, BSI etc.  

I would expect any organisation that claims to have true BIM capabilities is aligned to these standards – its fairly obvious when talking to them if they are clued up or not.  I’ve come across organisations that claim to do BIM or want to do BIM and when you scratch the surface they are simply talking about designing in 3D.   

Its really difficult to express as a percentage – the problem is there are a lot of companies out there claiming to do BIM (“and we have been for 10 years” I love that one!) but actually they haven’t got a clue.  I’ll go low – 20%.

What role did you occupy before this?

Commercial Lead for BIM development at Carillion PLC.

How exactly did you transition?

Transition was fairly easy actually.  My experience at Carillion and the contacts that I’ve made after nearly 15 years in the construction industry have allowed me to take my skills to wider audience in industry and allow me to help others on their BIM journey – my only gripe is that I didn’t do it sooner!

What would you have done differently looking back that would have made the transition into the role, easier/ better?

Not much I don’t think.  Transition from Tier 1 to Consultant has been fairly smooth.  I’ve had a lot of support and help from contacts (I call them friends now) that I’ve made in throughout my career.

Have you or your company had to hire in BIM “expertise”?

With the BIM guru I’ve set up a network of partnerships made up of individuals and companies that I know and trust and are particular experts in their fields.  I am from a QS background so I look after the 5D requirements as well as the whole process and contractual side of things (BIM Protocol, Risks & Opportunities up and down the line etc), I then have people that I turn to for 4D expertise, 3D modelling, information handling and software expertise.  

I have strong links with leading 5D Software Companyies like Exactal (CostX) and Nomitech (CostOS).

What did this expertise bring? In terms of end result/responsibilities?

To date I haven’t hired in anybody that I didn’t know and trust.  Again I think you can get a fairly good idea on how clued up people are with BIM after talking to them for a while.  So I wont hire in anybody that doesn’t feel right to me.

Does BIM mean different things to different construction professionals?

Absolutely and that is part of the problem.   Depending on where you sit in the life of an asset, be that the Design, Construct or Operate phase and the role that you carrying out, BIM and the benefits will mean something different.  I think its part of the problem actually.  As somebody that talks to many different stakeholders of the asset lifecycle you’ve got to be able to put BIM into a context that means something to them.

Does it mean a different thing to different asset owners (clients)?

Absolutely again! Depends on the client.  

If they are a hands on Design>Build>Operate or a Design>Build>Sell client they have different objectives, different business models.  

The Design>Build>Sell client isn’t really going to care about the asset data for FM purposes but the Design>Build>Operate client is going to be interested in the Whole Life Costing side of things.

Does BIM mean different things around the world? In what way?

In general it does, some countries are just setting off on their BIM journey and looking at the UK for a lead but some are moving a head at great speed.  I recently met with a smart tech company from Singapore who I was rather impressed with their knowledge of BIM.  

Singapore are probably further ahead than most anyway but I was impressed with their approach. They were all about keeping it simple with asset data to – something I support – let’s not make it too difficult to start with, let’s get the process working properly before overloading it with huge amounts of data that nobody will use (or know what to do with).  Get the important, big impact data pieces nailed down first for operating the asset.  80/20 rule.

What additional software have you purchased to be BIM “enabled”?

In terms of BIM software I’m not a model builder/creator so I don’t have Revit or Archicard or Microstation.  As I said I am a QS by trade so I’m obviously interested in the 5D packages out there.  I have a great relationship with Exactal who make CostX and Nomitech that make CostOS.  I’m currently using CostX more than CostOS.  Most of my clients are Building related at the moment rather than Infrastructure.  CostX for building, CostOS for Infrastructure – not sure those guys will agree with that statement though!

How did you choose it? Did you rush into it? Anything you regret buying or didn’t need in the end?

In terms of 5D type packages I’ve been in that field for sometime now so I’ve got a decent handle on what is available on the market.  I haven’t bought anything that I regret (yet!).

Are you “Certified” at all? Company wide or individually? What does this certification exactly certify that you can do? Give specifics.

I am personally certified with the BRE as a Project Information Manager.  I’m also just going through the BIM Informed Professional process – just weighing up the benefits.  

The BIM Informed person from the BRE is for people that want to demonstrate their knowledge of the BIM process but aren’t necessarily working on BIM projects.  Its appropriate for policy makers, advisors, educationalist and construction professionals who are implementing the BIM process.

Is industry winging it? How so?

I believe that there is some great marketing going on with some of the Tier 1 contractors but I would challenge how deeply their processes and ethos is actually embedded across their businesses and importantly in their people.

I feel from a client/asset owners point of view (really where BIM needs to be driven from) is falling short.  I saw a recent article stating that 80% of clients with BIM enabled projects are doing BIM “passively” i.e. allowing BIM on their projects but not really pushing or asking for the benefits.  All the benefits are sitting with the contractors.  

Also the NBS BIM Survey 2017 showed that 20% of clients said they currently asked for BIM Level 2 on all projects, compared with 23% the previous year.

What role has academia played in this evolution?

Academia has a huge role to play in the development and uptake of BIM.  

They are presenting the market the next batch of construction professionals, data savvy individuals that importantly won’t come with all the baggage that professionals of 10, 15, 20 years may have.  These guys are a blank canvas that need to be set off on the right foot.  Its like skiing – its easy to coach somebody that has never skied before into a decent skier if you work with them and get the technique right then it is to correct all the bad habits somebody that has been skiing 25 years has picked up an embedded into themselves.

Is there a “holistic approach” to ensuring educational systems and frameworks tie together to nurture even younger learners into the industry via clear progression routes from school to college to university to CPD?

I don’t believe there is at present, or If there is its not very well publicised.  I don’t see it put it that way.  It would be great if that could be achieved?

Know any BIM deniers (I’m laughing as I write this but I can’t think of a better term), even so, what would they say to all this “BIM” roles thing?

“Haters” I call them.  Naysayers – the type of people who are negative about everything, not just BIM.  “That will never work” is there moto.  A bit like my Mother in-law!  The real BIM Haters that I am thinking about won’t be aware of all these different roles.  To them its just a some fancy 3D model thing.

How many people work at your firm, roughly? And how many in a “BIM” capacity?

The BIM guru is a network of standard, day to day, experienced construction professionals.  We are Commercial Managers, Planners, Engineers, Project Managers and Software Specialist all with, not just a passion for BIM but a desire to make BIM accessible to all by making it as simple as possible.  Our Tagline is “No Jargon, No Geeks – Just BIM”.

Any other comments?

To summarise: My message is that we shouldn’t be creating a new industry of BIMers, the introduction of new job titles is just going to confuse matters.  Lets keep it simple, make sure the process is understood by ALL and that the new responsibilities are shared between current project members.  

No need for new BIM job titles.

Many thanks again Jonathan. BIM Journal is available here.