Friday, April 18, 2014

Can 2 decades of mismanagement of a global industry be bridged over? What responsibility do ‘veteran BIM practitioners’ need to take for the current state, where the entire global AEC is simply unable to keep up with the times?

For me, probably the most irritating thing about the ‘BIM field’ within the global AEC industry is its un-preparedness to face up to reality.
I have previously likened it to a big baby not willing to grow up; nowadays even that parallel seems too mild for it.

I went into this area over 20 years ago and I was not the only one, there was a considerable part of the industry that had similar interests, goals and dreams as I valued and believed in.
What happened in the last 2 decades is that many of those enthusiasts left the field due to realising the futility of an unwinnable war, while others mellowed themselves into a marginal group of specialists that are by now getting just enough attention from the industry to justify the long, hard work they suffered at the coalface.

Where these loyal devotees are making their current mistakes is by giving their own, hard earned credibility to the ones that for years had ridiculed them for not understanding how money was made within the AEC industry.
These ‘ex foot soldiers of the BIM innovation’ are now brought in en masse to rub some of their expertise over the many ‘dinosaur companies’ up till now largely BIM ignorant, so their brazen leaders can carry on calling themselves as the ‘leaders’ of the industry.

Those same leaders, pushed by more recent peer pressures to ‘keep up with BIM’ readily buy into strategies that the alien BIM expert will be the necessary catalysts for their companies to burst into the limelight of BIM excellence, yet they ignore the age-old saying that ‘One swallow does not a summer make’.
And for most of these ‘swallows’ the time is slowly running out, they themselves, once the leaders of the field are finding it hard to keep up with the ‘enabling technologies’ they used to feel so comfortable in – their bodies and minds are getting better suited for wise, advisory roles than the pretence of being the fresh-digital-innovator jockeys these ‘catalyst’ roles ask them to be.

As pessimistic as this view may sound, I do not see the status of BIM within AEC to be that bad or worse than it deserves to be considering its origins.
It is, what it is and I concur with this situation.
What I see to be catastrophic in this, is the reluctance by almost anyone at any level of operation to name, examine, let alone accept publicly and set out to genuinely do something about the way the SQ of BIM in AEC is.

So, again, those that once fought the ‘good war’ of innovation, bringing better processes, increased productivity or just more enjoyable working methods to the industry are willingly being used to legitimise the industry embarking on another 1, 2 or 5 years of pilot BIM projects, timewasting conferences and endless theories that have never, and most importantly are unlikely to ever work.

20 years ago, I believed in my own generation to bring on the innovation, 10 years ago I still did, but putting my faith in a more mature set of strategies than those simply relaying on smart tools and processes.
Up to  a year or two ago my hopes shifted to new generations to come – trusting some savvy young opportunist to see more in this massive global market than a giant pot of money easily harvested with a bit of non-comprehendible techno-jargon.

These days I continuously re-examine this belief, as the young ones I see do not seem to be in a hurry to take charge of this vital industry. Even if they have the will, knowledge and bravura to give it a go, they seem to lack the experience of the seasoned fighters that fought these battlefields to take on the incumbents in no hurry to change.
Unfortunately to them the old pioneers have compromised themselves too much to become real allies in their younger counterparts’ quests, so the most capable ones of the new generations are leaving this particular field for some easier targets to aim for.

Maybe those last 2 decades will prove to be too big a gap to bridge for the AEC industry and BIM.

Pictures of my nephew Viki; 


  1. Zolna, I agree with you that our industry too often throws away the experience earned and learned by the digital pioneers who have widen the path, even if leads us in a serpentine and less direct journey than we would like. The frustration you are expressing is not one from unpleasant user interface experiences but of genuine desire to have the technology perform as envisioned, promised, hoped and expected.

    But here is where I am disappointed. Someone with your knowledge and vantage point missed an opportunity to provide details. What is missing in BIM? What needs to be delivered? How can it/should it be improved?

    For me, the biggest BIM issue deals with data -- it's creation and extraction. So much of the intelligence is locked into models, great for the software designers who can maneuver their way through menus and functions. But try to get that data into a common SQL format that can be shared across an enterprise.

    Autodesk, clearly the leader in Architectural BIM, still depends on exporting drawings initially started with Revit that are pushed out to DWGs so a company can maintain their drawing standards. Along the way, someone forgot to mention that the intelligence left behind inside the BIM model is worth more than the beautiful construction drawing they finally generate.

    Bentley, the leader in Infrastructure BIM, is creating models where the intelligence can be viewed across their non-BIM software foundation products but how does the rest of the organization get to that data? Both Autodesk and Bentley offer BIM viewers, but at a cost -- some free but with limitations.

    Right now, we are depending on these leaders to step up and deliver more than just software upgrades and polished talking points. But this frustration may be something many experienced before in other industries, as they waited for technology and implementation to catch up. How long did it take software to finally deliver a color system that matched the real world and forever altered the path of Interior Design?

    Third party companies, such as Midwest Cad Solutions, is trying to fill in the gap and they know how to extract the BIM data into a common SQL format. Or consider Tekla's BIMsight software that provides a Model Review Solution that enables collaboration and full functionality for free.

    My point is that you have a valid gripe. BIM has to deliver more. And I would even agree with you that software companies may have lost their way. But without details and an attempt to at least offer suggestions, you step off the high ground and the join the rest of those who find comfort in just complaining about the technology.

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