We need the right people with the right mix of skills to be promoting the uptake of BIM


Forgive me for starting with some platitudes. “BIM is more about culture, less about technology.” “BIM is all about collaboration.” “BIM is 10% technology, 90% sociology”

Valid statements, but are we seeing a change, or are these still just hollow words?

When it emerged into the wider consciousness of the UK construction community in 2010, BIM was seen as panacea for an industry traumatised by the worst economic downturn in 30 years. It seemed the opportunity to finally realise the long overdue ambitions of Latham and Egan to put right an industry with a long history of dysfunction and waste.

BIM is a very seductive concept, but the allure of solving the ills of industry should not distract us from recognising the challenges associated with implementation. It’s generally recognised that BIM involves a combination of technology, process and behaviour and the challenges can become complex if not recognised and tackled head on from the start. Dealing with the technology and process can be relatively straightforward, changing behaviour is a different matter.  Repetition of statements about cultural change at countless BIM conferences and seminars over the last three years has blunted our perception that this fundamental aspect is far from being resolved. Collaboration isn’t driven by a set of protocols, diagrams and flowcharts, nor is it achieved through re-engineering of procurement strategies and contracts.

Maybe we could learn a few lessons from the great man [Bill Shankly]

So what will make a difference? BIM doesn’t work without leadership and too many organisations still believe that BIM is an optional enhancement to be left to the supply chain, or bolted to the tail-end of existing inefficient workflows. If we are to fully realise its promise, BIM demands a combination of client vision and tenacity and a very particular mixture of technical, process and people skills within those individuals who lead it at a project level. Industry at present is struggling to find those individuals. A colleague of mine noted this week that the number of people in the UK currently equipped with the right mix of project and technological experience is probably the size of a Premier League squad.

I’ve been reading David Peace’s epic volume “Red or Dead” on the legendary Bill Shankly. Shankly’s career success was founded on a clear vision of where he needed to get to, meticulous research and preparation and a readiness to challenge. All combined with clear, direct and constant communication. Maybe we could learn a few lessons from the great man.

Peter Barker is managing director of BIM Academy