Yes, your firm needs a BIM Manager

As a BIM Manager, I’m sure the title may appear purely self-promoting. Hopefully I can be clear and concise enough to help you understand the benefits of a BIM Manager, thereby only being somewhat self-serving!

I consulted for a time at an architecture firm and heard an all-too-familiar spiel about the status of the firm’s Revit library and standards.

“We haven’t had a BIM Manager. We have a big Revit library, and we just grab files and families online as we need them. We save them in our library, but it’s really a mess. We usually copy a project we finished and use it to start a new project, but our standards and symbols don’t always match. We really should get a template set up with our standards.”

These statements are then usually followed by, “But we don’t need (or have the ability to have) a BIM Manager.”

While it’s true many smaller firms do not have the workload to support a full-time administrative person, the tasks which a BIM Manager performs within the firm remain a necessity. Whether your firm has a full-time BIM Manager or someone within the firm capable of the role’s duties, ensuring the tasks are completed keep productivity up and frustrations low(er). Here are some of the tasks in the realm of the BIM Manager:

Transitioning to New Software Platforms:

Many BIM Managers are called upon to perform a major task: transition the firm’s workforce to a new program (i.e. from AutoCAD to Revit). This process can take anywher from several months to several years depending on the firm’s approach, which should be determined through discussions with the firm’s BIM Manager to set up a plan of actions and steps which meet the individual needs of the firm and progress the company along its goals. The transition from platform to platform is quite intensive and encompasses many of the following tasks simultaneously to be effective. Support from the company’s principals and executives is crucial for getting the process started on the right foot.

Software Training:

For most firms, training users in specific software is a large portion of a BIM Manager’s day. Whether teaching someone in a program from scratch or re-affirming office standards and processes for seasoned software users, the BIM Manager is responsible for proper training and support of the users. As such, the BIM Manager must be an expert in that software, have the ability to train well, and have a refined sense of patience to ensure the trainees never feel intimidated, insecure or less than capable.

Software training isn’t limited to just the main drafting program the firm uses (Revit, ArchiCAD, Microstation, etc.), but is expanded to include a variety of programs meant to boost the productivity of the users (i.e. Bluebeam, Autodesk 360, Recap, Adobe’s Creative Suite, Google apps, etc.).

Essentially, it is the BIM Manager’s responsibility to ensure people have access to the tools and the training they need to boost their effectiveness and productivity.

Hardware Consultant:

Along similar lines to providing the digital tools users need, the BIM Manager also needs to ensure the workstations being purchased are sufficient and effective for the plethora of programs installed. Futhermore, the BIM Manager must be, or work with, the firm’s IT support performing tasks which range from server maintenance and software licensing to computer builds and making/running CAT5/6 cable.

Content/Template Creation:

once a firm’s staff is adept at using the software, the BIM Manager’s role can shift to generating content for the firm to use. Creating a project template is crucial to ensuring every project looks the same and offers the ability to pre-load commonly used tools and content, thereby saving time for the users who won’t need to track it down and load it in. Whether creating content themselves or training others to do so, the BIM Manager oversees the development and storage of the firm’s content, ensuring it is readily available to the user.

Development, documentation of and Adherence to Company Standards:

This task is always a tricky one for several reasons. Developing the standards gets tricky because everyone has their own way of doing things and do not always agree how something should be done or appear. Trying to ensure everyone follows the documented standards is even trickier. I do not like to use the term “enforce” when speaking of company standards because it can connote a certain condescending air and produce ill feelings. However, a BIM Manager must strive to enforce standards without enforcement for the sake of productivity and to ensure everything produced accurately represents the firm.

The BIM Manager has an obligation to work with the firm’s principals, executives and managers to determine, document and distribute/train on the company standards to the users. Furthermore, encouragement to adhere to the standards must be done tactfully and effectively. This aspect takes most BIM Managers months, even years, to develop fully.

Research & Development:

As technology constantly shifts, BIM Managers must keep “in the loop” with what is currently available and what is coming down the technology pipeline. As mentioned previously, the BIM Manager has the responsibility to ensure the users have all the tools to be productive. If a new tool offers more productivity, the BIM Manager advocates for its implementation, finds new programs and methods, and studies the industry’s best practices while discovering what works and doesn’t work at other firms.

Workflow & Process Development:

To be effective and productive, one must know both HOW to draw and WHAT to draw. BIM Managers assist the firm in determining to what Level of Development (LOD) the Revit model is to be created, develops the firm’s BIM Execution Plan, and determines/trains on the Best Practice processes for a multitude of tasks.

Proposal/Contract Language and Involvement:

Which LOD will the final model be? What are the expectations and intended use of the owner/client in regards to the model? Will the consultants be required to work in Revit? Who retains ownership of the final model? What becomes of the firm’s proprietary information stored within the model? All of these questions, and more, must be identified and hashed out prior to issues arising. It is the BIM Manager’s responsibility to ensure the principals and executives have, and understand, the information they need when writing proposals, signing contracts and accepting consultants.

Employee Assessment and Improvement:

Even after 5+ years of working and training in Revit, I still find little tricks and tools I haven’t spent time learning before. The more one knows about the program, the more productive that person can be. Therefore, one must continually improve their tool set. Along the same lines as providing training support, BIM Managers must also find ways to quantify a person’s growth in the software and graphically represent it for the firm’s review to assist in identifying areas of improvement and employee feedback.

Project-Specific Support:

BIM projects benefit greatly from BIM kick-off meetings which identify certain tasks and issues in relation to project collaboration among the project teams. BIM Managers assist in creating and leading the agendas for these meetings. They also help develop project-specific content and resolve project-specific issues which arise during the life of the project. As conflicts and/or questions arise, the BIM Manager can help the team determine the best course of action and act as mediator between the users and the company/project standards.

Not Just a BIM Manager:

In my opinion, the most effective BIM Managers are ones who come from backgrounds specific to their target audience. For example, I worked for nearly a decade in the architecture industry prior to developing my skills as a BIM Manager. As such, I have the ability to apply my knowledge of design and construction document creation to better understand which of the many software tools would be most effective for production. I emphasize training others not as a Revit-user, but as an architect who uses the tool.

Similarly, I have a friend and fellow BIM Manager who made a career as a plumbing and mechanical engineer before filling his firm’s need of a BIM Manager. Through his experience, he customizes his training to give the users certain tools and information to assist them which may otherwise be left out.

There are other tasks which arise for BIM Managers in differing firms, and each discipline within the AEC industry has its own necessities and quirks. Whether your firm has a full-time BIM Manager or someone filling in as best they can, I hope you can see the benefits a BIM Manager can provide.

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