Enabling BIM

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Michael McCullen from Asta Development explains why successful Building Information Modelling implementation needs project scheduling software and process transformation, backed up by a tailored BIM education programme

Michael McCullen
Michael McCullen was a founder of Asta Development. Formed in 1988 Asta was acquired by Eleco plc in 2006. Michael is executive chairman of Asta and sits on the main Board of Eleco. He holds a computer science degree (Manchester) and an MBA (Warwick).

The 2016 Building Information Modelling (BIM) readiness deadline is looming large. A frenzy of activity followed the UK government’s 2011 announcement that it would mandate the use of BIM but that initial enthusiasm and hunger for knowledge has given way to a realisation that practical steps must be taken to update tools and processes. In a 2012 NBS National BIM Survey 39% of respondents claimed to be using BIM — but only half were meeting the required level.

The government is trying to stimulate transformation of the public building process, which will impact all players in the construction, engineering and building design sectors. The plan has already driven new best practice in public construction and, as participants reap the benefits of lower risk, lower cost and increased collaboration these new norms will inevitably be adopted in the private sector.

When considering business transformation, smart leaders look to their people. When such transformation is about collaboration and new ways of working, people become yet more important. Having the right people in place with the skills to understand and implement BIM processes is critical.

Unfortunately, hiring expert recruits with 20 years’ BIM experience simply is not possible, they do not exist, so we expect the focus in 2014 to land firmly on BIM education and enhancement of the current skills base.

Two things are required: strong leadership to drive the BIM process adoption and the technical skills to generate and manage plans and projects capable of being shared across the value chain. A Recent Project Management Institute study, the PMI Building High Performance Project Talent 2013, suggest that such leadership skills are hard to teach; technical skills, however, are far easier to train.

Government requirements will not only drive companies to embed BIM into recruitment, training and talent management, but into new ways of working.


Creating new processes that put information management and sharing at the heart of operations and finding ways to integrate the different stages of the construction lifecycle are arguably the hardest tasks, since they will require a new philosophy and culture of information sharing across professional and competitive boundaries.

Despite the chain of different experts from design through architecture, engineering, construction and facilities management, building projects must be approached from the start as one project with one plan — successively enriched and refined by each player. This comes down to people: training everyone to understand the project lifecycle and the information transmission required to make the process more efficient and productive.

Success will require a degree of whole project integration, but what does that actually mean? Common definitions suggest that ‘integration’ means bringing together disparate things into a harmonious, functional, well co-ordinated and seamless whole. Project integration must be co-operative, combinatory and non-competitive, a major cultural shift that will require new skills from every project manager and, indeed, every manager who is involved in projects. In other words, training must spread beyond the traditional project management expert groups.

BIM-enhanced project management training is now a core learning and development need; not only must it cover BIM theory and the use of BIM software tools, but it must come from industry experts with deep knowledge and recognition of BIM dynamics.

Optimising the planning and control of building projects end-to-end is key. No company can afford to continue without a clear project management software platform strategy. The role of standardised, shareable information about project plan milestones, dependencies, resourcing and scheduling is as essential as the exchange of visualisation and 3D models.

Project scheduling software is a BIM fundamental; the challenge for many will be to weed out the raft of inferior tools and DIY spreadsheets that are endemic. In order to support the coming revolution in information exchange it is essential to choose a solution that has a tried and tested industry-standard scheduling tool at its heart.

Relying on a software solution alone — even if BIM-ready — will be insufficient. To embrace BIM practices the implementation of software solutions must be accompanied by process transformation, backed up by a BIM education programme, ideally connected to the specific tools. Time is ticking down … the time to start focusing on practical BIM training is now.


Asta Development offers an educational programme in co-operation with the BIM Academy. The latter has been analysing and seeking best practices for BIM for several years, and is helping Asta to help spread the word to the wider construction community.

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