BIM and the Unbelievers

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I just had, for probably the hundredth time in the last 5 years, a depressing conversation about the state of BIM in the Architecture industry.  For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll use “Revit” in the place of BIM, as I believe Revit is a first-step process to getting to true BIM, and from there to advanced project delivery.

The conversation was depressing because it reinforced a belief I’ve held that when it comes to Revit, there is a clear division of the two camps; those who have drunk the kool-aid, and those who have not.  There are few ambivalents out there. For better or for worse, Revit’s success has almost been a grassroots effort – the push to implement coming from the bottom, until the top finally gives in.

I watched a man who literally wrote the book on Revit attempt to get the ball rolling at a large firm with a huge amount of resources.  After five years, with limited success, he was let go.  Through no fault of his own – on the contrary, despite a feverish attempt to succeed – there just wasn’t the buy-in from senior leadership.  Too new.  Too risky.  Too much time to train.  Too many bugs.  etc. etc.

Now Revit obviously has a foothold, of varying sizes in various firms – and I hear phrases now like “we’re on Revit because the client insisted on it” – which sounds good on the surface, but creates complications of its own.  If your firm uses Revit merely as a dumb replacement for AutoCAD, it is missing the whole point of moving up the BIM evolutionary ladder.

I have tried and failed to think of an industry that relies on a software application as Architecture does with Revit.  Perhaps video editing?  Regardless, it is not a large pool to choose from.  And yet despite this reliance, this 1:1 relationship of product to producer – Revit support is almost universally given short shrift.  Lack of standards, lack of training, lack of model optimization – these are the norm rather than the exception.  How many of you feel like your firm has an excellent Revit support structure?  My guess is very few.  Which is in direct conflict with the idea that your firm relies on Revit to make money.

Revit is *not* AutoCAD.  It is not a matter of putting lines on paper.  It requires Architects to *know how to assemble a building*, rather than putting down segments that they hope will all come together at a later date.  And it has intelligence, and a complexity that demands a higher level of support and knowledge than AutoCAD does – and that’s saying something, as it can take several years to master AutoCAD.

If you ask a believer, proper Revit support is a must-have, and it has a direct impact on the bottom line; better trained users produce faster- more optimized models reduce waiting on Save To Central times- etc., etc., -but they all believe there is a economic impact.

So why doesn’t Senior Leadership agree?  Why are they not the ones demanding that their teams be converted to Revit, and that those teams receive the highest level of support?

In my last post, I talked about how hard it is for IT to show value to an organization when it has become ubiquitous.  I believe the same situation exists with Revit.  Senior Leadership sees deadlines being met, documents being produced, product going out the door – and there is no hard and fast metric to show *what could be*.  It is time that the true proponents of Revit (and BIM) begin to create actual case studies, rooted in fact, not marketing hype, that conclusively show how beneficial proper Revit support can be for a firm – of any size.

Leadership wants numbers, facts.  In a firm size of xxx, having defined standards saved xxx man-hours per year.  Spending xxx hours on model optimization resulted in xxxx hours of quicker STC times.  We have to move beyond “BIM is good for you” and “you can do more with less”.  We cannot expect an investment in support without a clear ROI.  And so far – from what I’ve seen, that has been the message.  “We’re all moving towards BIM” is enough to get Revit’s foot in the door – but it is not enough to get a firm to commit to investing money in a full-time Revit Manager.

If this industry is to truly move forward at a proper pace – Revit must have the support it needs to succeed.  Thinking *must* be elevated beyond lines on paper and into relational data sets.  Revit (and BIM) are strong enough on their own that they will eventually succeed anyway – but will your firm be the one that truly takes advantage of it now, or wait the 10 to 15 years it will take the entire industry to get there?

 

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IT has lost its sex appeal – and that’s dangerous for your firm.

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Let’s face it – even at IT’s “peak”, back ten years ago, it was never *particularly* sexy.  We we more Harry Potter than James Bond, even on our best days.  There was an air of mystery, yes – of wizard-like powers and black boxes and mysterious cures for all sorts of ailments.  But the industry has matured, and more importantly, the general guy-or-gal on the street has a much higher familiarity level with technology than ever before.  And as the Army likes to say to its officers – beware, because familiarity breeds contempt.

This has created an environment where the fundamentals of IT have become taken for granted, expected without question, and therefore devalued.  Despite the fact that there’s no clear understanding of *exactly* what sort of work or effort goes into it, basic IT operations have become ubiquitous to their own detriment.  When was the last time your company suffered a large virus attack?  Any outage of systems for more than a day or two that wasn’t a telecom provider’s fault?  Loss of data?  The sophistication of the tools and their effectiveness have helped us, but perhaps not our image.

Let’s travel into the mind of an executive.  You say “anti-virus” – he thinks of a GI getting a penicillin shot after a weekend in Hong Kong.  You say “monitoring” and he imagines someone asleep in front of a huge glowing NOC monitor.  You say “email” and he groans, thinking of how many emails he gets in a single day.  Executives, flat-out, do not want to think about IT.  They want to cut a check and erase it from their minds, and if they go a year without hearing any complaints about IT, they’re happy.  Which is *exactly* as it should be.  But that makes it extremely hard to create any sense of effort, value to the firm, or demonstrate skill or ability when you are out of sight, out of mind.

Combine this with the fact that you can no longer wow anyone with speeds, or sizes.  2 terabytes of project data?  Great, I just bought a 3TB external drive for $200.  We have a 6 MB connection between offices?  I pay $50 a month to AT&T for 24 MB.   Offsite backup to a private cloud for thousands of dollars?  I pay $50 a year for Carbonite.

Now you, as a professional, understand that the devil is in the details, and these are not apple-to-apple comparisons.  But from a layperson’s perspective, they’re all in the Fruit category, and that’s good enough.  The danger occurs when they stop providing adequate funding, or other resources, because IT just isn’t front-of-mind enough for them.

So how do you achieve the goal of ubiquity, and still engender a sense of value and importance?  There’s a few ways.

First, you need to be proactive about reminding leadership about your contributions.  Even if that is done through a monthly status report, so be it.  You know there’s a ton of metrics that you can generate fairly easily from the built-in reporting tools (spam statistics, virus statistics, backup amounts, etc).

Second, be proactive in your communications with leadership.  Don’t be the butler standing off to the side, waiting to be asked for something to do.  Report, request, interact.

Third – no matter how ordinary any service is – the customer service is always a way to distinguish yourself.  Poor customer service is noted; excellent customer service is appreciated.  Bending over backwards for mundane requests can make a difference, in the long run, on how the firm perceives your value.  It is always amazing how much people will accept, or tolerate, if they feel the service is excellent, or at least striving to be the best it can be.

So get out there – promote yourself, and your team.  Be a bit noisy in regards to the contributions you are making for your firm.  And above all, leave your leadership feeling like your service levels are second to none.