Change v Irrelevance: Dawn of BIM

In 2001, US Army General Eric Shinseki (ret) was quoted as saying, “If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more”. This quote has resonated with me over the years because it so ferociously defines what I’ve been trying to achieve in my career in design technologies. In reality, what we’ve all been attempting to get across to our users and project managers for the last decade. How do we instill a sense of urgency in our project teams and company leadership that drives them to change? For the most part, change comes when it’s expected, not change itself, but the outcome the change brings. This is usually when a client requires a particular outcome, like in the early 90s when facilities began requesting the design files in their native CAD formats. The problem is that unplanned change brought upon by immediate necessity more than often results in failure. Another way to put it, if you fail to plan, you can plan on failing. The real question is this: what does irrelevance actually mean? How “at risk” are we personally, professionally, legally if we refuse to change?

Personally

Anger and fear appear when change is actively battled. Long time experts now beginners, project managers who run their projects like a finely tuned watch are now questioning everything and are often the most ill informed about the process they are trying to manage. The type of person that succeeds in such an environment is one who can think quickly, act shrewdly, and move forward decisively. Once you start seeing your building, facility, plant or bridge as a series of interdependent intelligent systems, the sky is the limit on what one can accomplish.

The risk here is apathy that leads to irrelevance.

Professionally

BIM is the clear winner in this new world order. Data is king and our old toolbox is looking out of date. Everyday our struggle is to learn more, apply more, and augment legacy processes with new ways of thinking about solving old age problems. It’s not enough that I’ve become an expert in the tools of my trade. Functional expertise is an ever changing landscape; the real power is in understanding the operational framework and how my tools fit.  When one tool doesn’t, I simply build one that does, or I teach my very old dog a new trick or two with the help of advanced tools or expert help. I get it. It’s not an easy change, but with calculated implementation steps, clearly defined expectations, and a keen understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish, any BIM project can succeed.

The risk here is professional stagnation that leads to irrelevance.

Legally

Ignorance does not equal innocence or, in legal terms, “ignorance of law excuses no one”. Every day, a new agency, governmental body, or private client adopts BIM as their standard of delivery and/or maintenance. This means we are living in a world in which our next client is requiring us to use a process that we may not be prepared to support. We are put into positions daily in which we are legally bound to an agreement that clearly defines project goals such as timetables, LOD, software use, collaboration and transfer methodologies, all in the name of BIM. If we enter into agreements with strict guidelines for BIM with little or no prior experience delivering such a project, then trying to learn the hard fought lessons that BIM provides “on the fly” could be disastrous.

The risk here is obviously lawsuits that lead to irrelevance.

This isn’t meant to be doom and gloom, but instead a wake up call to our industry. This is the most exciting time to be an architect or engineer. We are, by design, a group of creative problem solvers. When we frame the conversation around the assets we design, rather than having it framed for us, we are mighty and the question of “why” can almost always be answered. Things like performance data drive decisions and lead us into new areas of design heretofore undiscovered. Join us at RTC this summer and see what kind of change we can help you deliver.

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