Monday, December 24, 2012

This ‘fat lady’ has not sung her last song yet…

Merry Christmas iTech and stop spreading rumours: I’m still here!
Yes, I know it is the season of goodwill and all…

So in line with that, here is a well-intended advice from me to you on this occasion of Christmas:
Focus on your own performance!
Remember what you set out to do in May 2011?

In case you’ve forgotten some aspects of your commitment, let me remind you:
To successfully implement Building information Modelling (BIM) on Al Mafraq Hospital, you developed a detailed BIM Project Execution Plan. That plan included everything that would allow the project to run not just smoothly, but extra smoothly.

In fact to quote you direct from the document:

The BIM processes and solutions executed on the Al Mafraq Hospital are designed to set the example for successful contractor BIM implementation in the Middle East and North Africa regions.

 Even now, some one and a half years later, re-reading this sentence, the mixture of tenses puts my knowledge of English grammar and comprehension to test:

Have these processes already been executed at the time of writing the plan?
I do recall asking the project PD to clarify this at the time.
I also recall her getting extremely agitated about this question and some others I put up, since you so successfully charmed her into believing that you could deliver something no one else could.
Any type of scrutiny into the viability of this mutually held dream was unwelcome.

In fact, it still is.
As recently as in March this year we had your team promote ‘iTech uses BIM bang – whizzery at Al Mafraq hospital’ in local construction media, while opposing comments (mine) were left un-published.

 In your plan you also promised us that:

It would set the standard for processes and expectations for BIM deliveries in the region and the benchmark in efficiency and quality for the entire BIM process encompassing all involved parties to deliver a fully-coordinated, as-built BIM that can be effectively and efficiently used by the client for continued benefit of FM during the entire lifecycle of the facility.

OK, you said ‘should’ not ‘would’, but there were no ‘ifs and buts and maybes’ to qualify it so I assumed that this was just another example of the cavalier way you treat the language.
All the above underlined words were in your Plan and in exactly the same context as shown here.

I could hardly believe your arrogance and ignorance.
I still hardly can.

 18 months should be long enough to start really rocking the BIM/AEC world in the region, not just by talking and flashing up pictures at conferences but actually delivering the goods.

Merry Christmas iTech and stop spreading rumours about me: I’m still here!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The global AEC industry has become a large swamp

These days I observe that the majority of people working in construction tend to fall into one of two categories:
The ‘plodders’ or the ‘lily-pad-hoppers’.

The ‘plodders’ make up the larger of the two groups, mostly good people with fundamentally decent goals and principles at heart:
get through the day, do a reasonable job, don’t over stretch yourselves, bring home the bacon.
I’m not referring to just labourers, tradesmen and construction managers here but also architects, engineers, client representatives, even clients themselves.
You’ll recognise them everywhere that any type of building creation is done – from the early days of ideas where feasibility is explored – well into operation and maintenance of the finished product they’ll diligently do their plodding.
They staff construction projects all around the world, from the smallest hut that is pulled together in a remote village  to the highest skyscraper that there is, currently being nudged further up into the clouds of a metropolis.

Curiously though, the really able builders we have in this industry fall into the other group,
the ones I call the ‘lilypadders’.  (the shorter version of the tongue-twister ‘lily-pad-hoppers’ I mentioned earlier);

Most excel in building, that is building their ‘own careers’.
Mostly by jumping from one lilypad of a ‘wobbly project’ to another and repeatedly surviving unscathed, even if the pad gets fully submerged not long after they abandon it.

I know project based lilypadders that periodically move from one company to another.
These are the ‘freelancers’ that manage to get away with doing as little damage at any certain day on any certain project to not be caught out, or are just so well-honed with their timing skills, that they move off the project before any type of performance becomes critical.

The ones eve more cunning than the freelancers, tend to join-up larger organisations, preferably multinationals and if possible early in their careers and focus all their skills, effort and attention on understanding, maintaining and supporting ‘the pond’ that their organisation is.
They rarely concentrate on the final outputs of the projects they’re responsible for, not to mention clients’ wellbeing or the betterment of the industry as a whole, but maintaining the ability to predict the point when the part of the pod they’re residing on will become too hot or to wobbly to hang around there any longer.

Fortunately, most of these moves – as uncomfortable as they can be – are also upward-travels on their carefully cultivated career-ladders and will bring in more money, flashier titles and better perks.

We might manage to ignore the question of morality of these widely used practices.
After all, due to the lengthy processes most projects usually go through, it will take on average, probably only 10 screwed up projects to reach the desired climax of a lilypadder’s career spanning 20/30 years in senior AEC management.
Most of these guys then retire with dignity to make space for the new generation of budding lilypadders.

It is the wasted opportunity that bothers me.
All that skill and talent carried by these power-houses and input somewhere in the system (not to mention paid for handsomely), yet we are still left with no better AEC and no good building outcomes generally.
Just murkier swamps and even fatter frogs that are harder to get rid of and messier messes they leave for the others to clean up.

Lily Pad Place Photograph - Lily Pad Place Fine Art Print - Dave Martsolf

Monday, December 17, 2012

“I’m thinking of going BIM way – what software packages should I consider?”

I’m so over this topic! Haven’t we all heard it before?
And soooo many times?
And seen helpful ‘would be advisors’, tripping over each other to be the first to fire questions back to the questioner asking to clarify –
Are you a small company? A large multinational?
Do you do residential? Industrial, commercial, healthcare?
Are you wedded to Autodesk? An indie-CAD supporter? A closet Sketchup-er?
A traditional soft penciler or prefer the ‘H’ range?
Would you choose Staedtler over Rotring?
Is your butter paper yellow or white? Thin or thick? Rolled or in sheets?

I’m so over all of this…..
‘Déjà vu’ is no cliché stale enough for what I feel re-reading,
or even just skimming over these discussions…
And don’t tell me, I can always opt-out from reading them…
they ARE everywhere…

I hate seeing ‘real’ BIM-mers (myself included) walk into traps set by these quasi innocent questions and gift some of their hard-earned ‘BIM credibility’ to discussions that are nothing more than software advertorials or naïve, but lazy attempts to catch up with reality by, the up-to-now largely ignorant.

Butt out; let them be, stop the whinging! – you may say…
Well, I’ve got to carry on whinging;
This ‘Armchair BIM-ming’ is what needs to stop, or at least the real ‘doers’ need to resist the urge to participate in perpetual, sophisticated-sounding,
yet ‘oh-so-shallow’ forums
on what colour of ‘spatula’ to use to stir the same mushy ‘nothing’ of AEC project information…
The understated Jamie Oliver equivalents of the AEC asking for the type of oven to buy –
go electrical or stay gas, freestanding or built-in…

Just get on with the bloody cooking, will you?

So, if you’ve been already practicing in any of the fields of AEC for 5+ years and you truly do not know how to get started on BIM, but are eager to, go and try doing it!
Live, in real time, on a genuine project.
That will teach you a lot!
Including what sort of a ‘potato-head’ you’d been up till now.
You may also see how your luck is now running out and you do need a major change in attitude.
And you can succeed, if you finally get your hands dirty.

On the other hand, if you are asking these types of questions because you are a student,
go beat your lecturers with them!
They are supposed to know the answers to all of these…
Real armchair-BIM-mers, the majority… if you ask me…
(not that anyone does, but to counter that lack of action from others is what this blog is good for).

Friday, December 14, 2012

Do you know who owns this villa?

Or any of her sisters on this island?
I need to find this person urgently!
Email contact details to:

Please share! Your action could save lives!
(also, translate onto other languages)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

BIM makes you beautiful….

In turbulent times like these, it is the unexpected little gems of kindness and recognition that light up my days.

One of my first BIM recruits here – a front-line solder  – thrown into a battle with little more than her wits to fight with, has just left the company and sent through a nice ‘thank you note’ before departing.

It is quite personal, so I will not share it with you, but there is something in it, that is definitely of possible wider value – and all BIM- sufferers out there, should take note:

….she says… being involved with BIM kinda thickens my skin a lot”…

A pretty creature she is, no need for this special ‘beauty treatment’ –

I still do hope, that her 15 months in the deepest of trenches of BIM-ridiculicity will leave her with more than just bitter taste.

Now that she has exited the company, I can also make public my opinion that her and the two comradesses left behind could have prevented that project running off the tracks, single-handedly.

Had they been given the chance and support.

And in support, I let them down.

I sort of pulled back after they voicelessly signalled to me that my sponsorship was hurting them – life was too difficult already, could I please ‘help them’ a bit less.

So, good luck Joan, forgive me for sending you into that particular boot camp,
enjoy your future with BIM, ….

Saturday, December 8, 2012

BIM @ universities (the previously promised follow-up to the Causeway post)

Last Thursday I got invited to a black tie event – (Construction Week Awards)
I guess this is the closest I'll ever get to a Hollywood type of award-show, must make the most of a good dress-up opportunity;

Correspondingly, I urgently need to ‘tie’ up some loose ends here, and do it well before the night, 
in case I bump into Phil from Causeway (inevitable, since they are one of the sponsors) and he grills me on my unsavory comments regarding his team within this blog, a couple of days ago.

Maybe it was too late in the night; maybe I was trying to be too clever –
but the post in question did not come out too well.

So, let’s stop bamboozling about it, and tell the story as it really went:
At a recent Causeway sponsored event (coincidentally titled Hollywood BIM) Tim Cole from Causeway, a professor based at a Dubai Uni and I were discussing the role universities have (or should have) in shaping the future of BIM in the AEC.
The chat was informal, before the official discussions.
Naturally, the question of the fine-line between education and training had come up too, and how various representatives of universities get hung up on doing one (or the other);

To make it easier to distinguish between the two, Tim told us a nice little analogy:
Let’s say your daughter comes home from school and says ‘we had sex education at school today’ – you might frown a bit at the news but will probably leave it at that;
if instead she told you that she’d had ‘sex training’ at the same institution – you’d be concerned in a different way;

I really liked this explanation and not because of the ‘sex’ component.
So, to put everyone back at ease, let’s rethink the story using ‘driving’ instead, as in ‘driver education’ and ‘driver training’.
Then, once we are all on ‘board’ so to speak – let’s go back to how much BIM education vs. training should Universities do.

Could they effectively educate people on an extremely complex ‘product-delivery strategy’ without ever going into the nuts and bolts of the workings of the various available tools?
Discuss theories devoid of real application – and I mean really ‘doing it’–
not just by analysing  ‘case studies’ or ‘looking over the shoulders of others’ experiencing the ‘real thing’?
Base their programmes on industry anecdotes compiled from poorly structured and misleading surveys?

On the other hand – how would they choose what tools to teach and what not and still be able to fairly educate on the subject of the ‘large picture’ BIM?
Put their hand on their heart and say that they really offer the best tools on the market for the BIM knowledge-seekers and aren't commercially driven by software vendors?

The distinguished academic appeared to wrestle this dilemma easier than I could, going one step further and saying that Universities should also SET the STANDARDS on “how to DO BIM”.

At this point I pondered another two-liner I heard recently:
Q: Do you know how to fly a plane?
A: I should think so - I never tried it before…

(sounds better in Hungarian, trust me)

Picture of my friend Michael in a flight simulator – pinched from Michael’s FB;

Thursday, December 6, 2012

When the best bad plan is the BIM plan...

Prove it! Prove it! Prove it!

They’re demanding from me, ‘Prove your bloody BIM can do the job!’
Smugness never leaves their faces, the arrogant conviction oozing from their bodies.
I can prove my plans of course – but they never have the patience to listen through any length of explanation, too bloody complicated, too bloody difficult to wrap their fragile minds around.

See, it is crisis situation and they really have no time for yet another convoluted equation that will yet again end in me telling them to fire every-one-of their hands-off managers and start building up a real working work-strategy, from scratch.

Why do they have to waste their precious time on me, anyway?
When they have so much bigger wars to fight, crises to solve.

Or more precisely, projects and companies to destroy.
Because, that is what they are doing.
They  turn up their noses on every ‘smoking gun’ I present, while somewhere close-by a new ‘claim’ is born, created by one of our sub-contractors, a tiny baby-‘time delay’ emerges – ready to grow slowly into a monster force able to take down even the biggest of AEC giants.

Not only is my maths too complex for them, all that skipping of history classes at school is hurting –
knowing, that, not merely was Rome not built in one day, but many of the buildings well over-lived their speculative constructors – could give them some hints on what may yet come their way.
Poor souls must have missed out on bed-time fairy tales read lovingly by a parent – as they never learned that the ‘poor guy’ can win at the end of the story, or that the ‘little old lady’ from chapter 2 was the wise voice to listen-to on the way to fight the dragon.
And the fate of scores of overfed thanksgiving turkeys confidently enjoying their blissful lifestyles only a couple of weeks ago has a story or two to teach...

Let’s get this bloody show in a bloody order!

This cartoon has been ‘done to death’ by salesmen of ‘everything’;
I do like it though – as it rings so true –
I first came across a version of it almost 2 decades ago on one of Graphisoft’s presentations. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When a BIM-mer looks for a new job....

Oh, not me! Not quite, yet!
But as I watch redundancy envelopes being opened around me in desperation, I throw a tantrum or two...
 as they kick my best guy out – (an honest mistake – I’m told, reinstated after a hysterical shouting episode...)
... I keep wondering...
It is not the same for a BIM-mer to look for a new job, as it is for an architect, for example. Is it?
Yes, it is easier in a way, BIM-mers are ‘doers’ – can earn their keep even in the toughest of times, while architects.... well, some architects also can.

But an architect, if he gets a new job, needs only to prove his- (or OK, her)-selves– own capabilities in the new place.
Same goes for an engineer, a CAD-die, a construction manager, QS, almost anyone working in the AEC.

No such luck is afforded for jobless and newly re-employed BIM-mers.
All the goodwill you built up in your previous job, is gone, once they show you the door.
No matter how many people you enlightened about the different D’s in BIM.
No matter how much you pulled up your bosses knowledge of business benefits of BIM – if needed dragging them by their socks to understand that ‘no software will do nothing by itself’
and how many crappy models you've made pleasingly looking in your current place.
It is very likely that you will have to start totally from scratch in the new position.

Even if they have knowingly brought you into your new place as an ‘experienced BIM guy’, you’ll still have to do your ‘BIM 101’ rookie dance for them:
You’ll have to explain how Revit is not BIM on its own to 300 people.
One by one.
You’ll have to render endless construction sequences, as this is what BIM-mers do.
And ‘clash detect’ – constantly and at the drop of a hat.
Multi-disciplinarily.  With lots of pipes and beams hitting them.
Show cranes and axo sites in company colours, in multi-Ds.
Add soothing music to accompany all animations.

You’ll be cursed for crappy looking shop drawings and incorrect line-weights till you beat someone up.
You’ll be the butt of all office jokes – like, ‘we’ll build the building before you complete your model’ -
until you beat THE Project Director up.
Then, you’ll get disciplined publicly and the new BIM initiative will be dropped because of your bad influence on the others.
You’ll forever devise complicated equations to prove where all the wasted money is hidden by ‘traditionalist’ and how BIM could lift the company out of the doldrums.
You’ll make no new friends.
You’ll miss the first Christmas party, maybe even the second too, it will take an average of 18 months for a company to appreciate what they are getting from a good BIM-mer.
If they ever, of course – otherwise you end up going back to the ‘start’ position.

You’ll dream of ‘change management’ strategies and learn to speak very sloooowly.
You’ll start to wish you were an architect again.
Or a CAD-die, QS or engineer.

Or anything really, that does not have to justify their position and right for existence within an AEC company from scratch, all over again.
Every time a crisis hit.
A crisis that should be crying out for good BIM-mers.
There. No justice for us. A sad state of affairs for BIM.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sorry Hady, will not make it this time.

This is my public apology to Bentley Systems Europe B.V. (Dubai Branch)
I week or so ago, I had the pleasure to be invited to Bentley’s "21st Century Construction Processes" event, planned for the 11th of December, to be held in Doha.
Their programme looked interesting and as Hady (who so kindly sent me the invitation) suggested,

“The event will be also a very good networking opportunity with industry peers from top construction and rail firms in the Middle East such as Parsons International, Arabtec Construction, L.L.C, and Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC)”.

I will spare you of my comment on how brave this action of Hady’s I consider to be.

Not just because that would mean repeating myself, a habit I try to shake off, but also I do accept that mature companies like Bentley Systems have the wisdom to create their lists of event-invitees without being unduly influenced by a potential blog comment of a hysterical BIM-mer, afterwards.

So, I politely thanked Hady and sought permission to go.
Still, the bosses, said: NO.

By no means should this decision be taken as a reflection on the quality of Bentley's programme - nor the high cost of getting me to Doha.
After all, for at least the last half a year we’ve had guys travelling back and forth around the globe on the account of juicy RAIL projects to be had in the region, we must have by now secured super specials with the airlines.

Though, in tough times we are currently living, every cent counts, the ex ‘small-business owner minded’ person I am, I sure understand.

Still, the overarching cluelessness of this workplace of mine does bother me a bit - as a colleague said, even if someone showed us how to dig those rail tunnels within seconds using batman’s laser drills and offered to sell the tools to us - we'd still be too cool to listen to anyone.

In fact, they wouldn’t notice if a life-saving strategy has hit them in between their eyes.
Not if it was coming from me, anyway.