This interview with Scott Chatterton, international Building Information Modelling (BIM) integration leader for HDR Digital Design Group, provides useful insights for companies wanting to investigate BIM implementation standards.
Some would argue that South Africa’s local industry’s conservatism is holding us back from implementing new and improved digital construction technologies. Case studies and experience also support this statement, but there are also many local companies that have started investing in certain disruptive technologies and are enjoying a visible change in performance.
Is there a right approach for a company wanting to implement a BIM process?
When speaking with project managers I often hear of their frustration of not being able to fully complete the formal quality control documentation – that we have the “right approach” but “not the budget” when trying to incorporate quality control strategies into production processes. Managers are pressed to produce deliverables on a tight budget within a compressed timeframe, so time spent filling out documentation associated with a formal process is often seen as an inconvenience, a low priority, or even a waste of time. The pressure of having to deliver product, along with the challenges of inconsistency in team members and design changes, outweigh the perceived need to fill out forms or to follow a process they feel is not necessary.
We spend a lot of time developing processes, building the associated resources, having a clear path and the tools available to ensure success. However, we also need to include educating the decision makers on the “why” of any new process which has an impact on how budgets and resources are assigned, and ultimately contributes to the success of any implementation.
When is the best time to start implementing a process or phase?
Implementing a process during the early stages of a project dramatically increases the success rate, as success relies on having and implementing an initial plan which avoids later pitfalls. We need to start addressing issues before they become problems. The key to this is the education and implementation of processes at all levels of the organisation, especially at the higher management level where decisions on timelines and budgets are made. We don’t develop processes just for the sake of creating paperwork, or to satisfy the needs of a contract; processes are developed after learning from previous mistakes and lessons learned from past projects.
What do you need to know about implementing a new process?
Do your homework, find out what are the driving factors for making any changes to your existing process, and spend some time analysing what is the current understanding of the process and where the current breakdowns might exist. For example:
How will improving a process play into a business strategy?
Here are some of the expected benefits an improved process can make to your business strategy:
Often implementation fails not due to the lack of staff participation, but rather the failure of management to fully understand what the adoption really means. There is a lack of understanding how the new process will have an impact on how business is sourced, procured and executed. Management need to fully realise that short-term costs of implementation will produce long term benefits by adopting a new process.
A successful implementation strategy needs to be customised and assessed for each unique situation. However, looking at it from a high-level, there are four distinct stages that can be identified and help shape the outlines for a successful adoption.
What are these phases?
There is no laid down standard methodology, but we have found the following approach works well for us.
Phase 1: Preparation and evaluation
Analyse your current processes and abilities, create a baseline to help you evaluate areas of attention as part of the new implementation process. A review of the current operations will assist in recognising and addressing areas where improvements can be made that have the biggest impact.
Evaluate current technological needs. Make sure your computers and network will be able to meet the performance requirements of any new software. Research what you need and plan accordingly in preparation for moving forward – best to do this early on to minimise staff’s frustration and the impact of upgrading equipment.
Engage with your staff, build on their knowledge and understanding. It is vital to gain their confidence and trust in the implementation.
Phase 2: Establish goals and milestones
Objectives, stages and milestones: specific policy objectives, intermediate capability stages, and measureable maturity milestones, separating current status from a quantifiable future target.
To measure your progress and success you need to establish goals and milestones. These should include both short and long term goals. Each organisation has an ultimate ambition and long-term goal when it comes to adopting a new process. Based on the ultimate ambition, intermediate goals need to be defined together with measurable progress indicators and targeted milestones to avoid discouragement taking over a successful adoption.
Phase 3: Define the process
Defining your goals and milestones will shape the implementation process, which breaks down into the three categories of people, process and technology.
People: People are crucial to the success of implementing any kind of new process, and for this to be successful you need to gain their confidence and trust that the new processes is an improvement to the old. Identify when, how, who and what training is needed to reach the next milestone. The biggest hurdle for any organisation is the change in culture. Undertaking effective “on demand” training combined with “hands-on” expertise assists and reassures staff that they have somewhere to answer questions and play a supportive role. Training is an investment in your team, and your organisation. As your staff develop their skills and an understanding of your goals and objectives, you will start to see confidence develop.
Internally, look for drivers and champions – people within your organisation that are enthusiastic and supportive of changes that make improvement. These individuals will demonstrate a willingness to participate in the adoption and seek out efficacy and innovation.
If your new process or workflow involves new software, look for competent educators and learning resources that cover the concepts, tools and workflows. These can be either delivered through tertiary education, vocational training and professional development, or by training sessions held by “in house” champions.
Process: Develop processes that are flexible, manageable and can evolve alongside your organisation and the developing industry. Implement the process gradually and have key adopters take the lead and encourage the change in culture.
Technology: Technology is the tools of our trade. Having inadequate tools not only limit production but also play a major factor in staff morale. Technology plays an important role in any organisation. Consider future expansion while measuring against the immediate needs. Balance the need and associated costs, review accessibility and affordability of upgrading necessary hardware and upgrades to software and network systems.
Phase 4: Implementing and monitoring
Once a certain level of comfort is reached, the capabilities and process should be assessed and reviewed through developing metrics for benchmarking project outcomes and assessing the capabilities of individuals, organisations and teams.
The team should not only have a process to follow, but also have the resources available to them to be efficient in their tasks. Having unreliable resources, or worse still, resources your team are unable to find, gives them permission to create their own content, essentially disregarding any quality control and duplicating work already completed.
Invest in the time to fully evaluate your existing processes, what works, what doesn’t work and where gaps appear in the processes. Through a thorough review of existing processes, you will be able to clearly define the flow of operations and the impact BIM has to all aspects of business. Review your own processes with fresh eyes to see where you can make improvements, look at it from the standpoint of production and what resources you would need to efficiently complete the task at hand.
Phase 5: Measurement and optimisation
Adoption of a new process takes time, continual promotion through encouraging awareness and engagement with the processes until it becomes part of the culture. Monitor your team, provide constant reminders that will encourage the development of a culture that follows the processes.
Finally, be patient and flexible. You will need both to successfully implement change.
Contact Vaughan Harris, BIM Institute, Tel 021 557-4061, email@example.com