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The human factor in BIM implementation

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

The human factor in BIM implementation, blog post

In this post, I discuss the impact of the human factor in BIM implementation. Building Information Modelling, BIM is about people, processes and technology. When introducing BIM in an organisation, there are a few things to consider that ensure successful BIM adoption.

Many studies highlight several factors that influence BIM adoption in an organisation, such as setting first strategic goals, creating a plan for the technology use, training and support, the gradual BIM maturity adoption and the financial and legal aspects of BIM implementation. However, when introducing BIM in an organisation, the human factor is considered crucial; not just in terms of the ability of a person to cope with technology, but to the fact that in general humans resist change.

People’s mindsets are difficult to change, especially for those who benefit from the traditional procedures or those that work with well-established and proven methods for a long period. Adopting new technology is often perceived to be risky and the lack of understanding of what actually BIM is about can also lead to resistance. In addition, there is always the assumption that technological advances have the potential to eliminate some of the traditional professional roles and therefore affect human careers.

When it comes to digital construction, it is undeniable that BIM can save thousands of man-hours by creating and managing digital information, improves productivity and efficiency and supports decision making during an asset’s lifecycle. Automation in design can reduce the number of administrative tasks carried out by humans. Automated data collection can free managers to do more interesting work: instead of spending time organising reports, they have the capacity to work with real-time predictions and decision-making. BIM is a set of processes that express digital innovation in the construction sector and even though technology leads to automation, robotics and sensors, it is important to understand that human skills are essential to the way that technological advances are being implemented.

The components of digitalisation and BIM_breakwithanarchitect
The components of digitalisation and BIM_breakwithanarchitect

Furthermore, digital collaboration lies in the heart of BIM. So, to change the current collaboration structure, we must first consider that the construction professional’s traditional attitude towards collaboration is well-established in their working norms for decades. Therefore, change management is perhaps considered the most critical aspect of BIM successful implementation in an organisation. Change management can be defined as the process, tools and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required business outcomes.

When implementing new technologies, one of the first challenges is to understand the way the change will impact the employees on a daily basis; therefore, leadership at both senior and middle management levels is crucial. Change takes time, so we need to have a plan and acquire the right resources, such as training and support, and engage all team members to participate and develop solutions that embrace change. The fact that every human has her/his own speed to learn and respond to change is undeniable so the approach to change should also include patience and guidance.

As a highly collaborative practice, Building Information Modelling, BIM introduces new roles, relationships and working practice paradigms by providing a digital collaborative working environment. The relationships among project teams, formal or informal, influence project performance. The formal relationships can be embedded into BIM contracts and create a powerful mechanism that facilitates collaboration and project control, while the informal relationships are based on mutual trust, knowledge sharing and support during the project execution.

Responsibilities of the BIM Manager, BIM Coordinator and BIM Modeler (based on AEC UK, 2012a)
Responsibilities of the BIM Manager, BIM Coordinator and BIM Modeler (based on AEC UK, 2012a)

In BIM, new project roles, such as the BIM manager, the BIM coordinator and the BIM modeller are introduced; however global studies show that there are many different BIM specialists titles and that the definition of the roles and responsibilities varies. In practice, a professional may execute one or more of the specialists' tasks depending on the country, project, and company size he or she is working. However, the new BIM specialist roles follow a general hierarchy: there is the manager, the discipline coordinator and the modeller/technician with different names assigned to their roles in different contexts, such as the BIM facilitator, BIM lead coordinator, BIM discipline manager, model manager and others. In general, there are three primary functions, the strategic, management and production functions that translate to the various BIM specialist roles.

The implementation of these new BIM roles into the organisation can bring great opportunities to improve business processes. A solid and well-thought change management plan can create enthusiasm in the workplace, minimize resistance and fear and create opportunities for personal development for all team members.

Following are some additional resources about BIM roles, responsibilities and BIM competency in the industry:

Author: Panagiotidou Nicoleta

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