Whilst BIM is a relatively recent mandated standard and approach that is delivering drastic improvements in terms of accountability, communication and traceability, its benefits are going unnoticed throughout the majority of businesses. Taking this into consideration, which methods can be adopted to ensure better integration of BIM within businesses? What lessons need to be taught to maximise the benefits of this transformational approach?
In terms of digital adoption, the construction industry is severely lagging behind other major industries. Whilst legislation will undoubtedly push the industry to make more of a conscious effort to adopt digital technologies – the Hackitt Review’s recommendations, 7.5 and 8.1, identify that consistent digital records are essential to the effective management of built assets – rules and regulations are not the only factors that will unlock the industry’s digital future.
Understanding ‘digital transformation’
The industry’s ‘digitisation’ is large and multi-faceted, touching every aspect of how organisations design, manufacture, procure, deliver and operate built assets.
Whilst indulging in dreams of a total digital transformation is no bad thing, it is crucial that this doesn’t blur our understanding of the sheer scale of this change. A digital transformation is by no means simply to do with implementing new technology; it is about supporting workforces during this transition to a digital way of working.
At the heart of these new ways of working is Building Information Modelling (BIM). Often synonymous with digitisation, not only is BIM an approach to delivering and maintaining built assets, it ultimately cultivates a collaborative working environment. Currently, the UK Government has embraced the use of BIM and mandated its use to Level 2 on centrally procured major projects. Although the majority of large tier one contractors delivering Government projects comply with this mandate, many local suppliers are non-compliant and are at risk of falling behind.
Why digital transformation?
Companies might decide to integrate BIM or other digital approaches into their businesses for more reasons than one. Many organisations are digitising their businesses to increase profit, reduce risk and increase project efficiencies. Other companies might be changing their paths as there is increased competition, new legislation or plans to secure Government work.
Even though it might seem like a relatively straightforward approach, 84% of companies fail to see their digital transformation through to completion. Clearly, companies underestimate the time which has to be taken to understand the standards and implement systems successfully.
This statistic clearly signifies that the change must come from the top. This is in part because real cultural and behavioural changes must be set in motion throughout a company. From key stakeholders to senior management, there needs to be a defined strategy; otherwise, complete failure will ensue.
To materialise a culture change, education is key. It’s about changing the perceptions that, for instance, BIM is just a 3D model; BIM is a collaborative approach to working, improving the way information is produced, managed and exchanged. By stressing the importance of these perceptions, companies will be able to showcase the drastic improvements digital, collaborative ways of working will make to a company.
Medium-sized organisations on a regional or national scale are advised to have an in-depth understanding of their existing processes around information sharing, so they can trace what the impact and risks are. BIM cannot be chosen on a whim; leadership has to really see why and how BIM would help with business operation.
As well as this, it is crucial to map out what works within the organisation and what legislation and industry practice they must adhere to. Then companies need to ensure the information standards and workflows can be integrated into their business before they educate the project teams who will be working this way every day.
It is crucial that both clients and suppliers are involved from the early stages of digital transformation, as it is a process that will radically change a business’ culture. Suppliers need to know that they are not bringing risk into an organisation, and the client is responsible for planning the process and helping its workforce through the change.
Overall; however, to really enable this change, it is vital that business leaders push for a culture change across their organisation, so the people at the heart of this digital transformation can make the process work. Without question, bringing the workforce on board will make a substantial difference to the way BIM is adopted within a company.