Thursday, May 29, 2014

Question: What is a VA-BIM? (Variation Administrator; BIM Re-measure Coordinator)

Answer: A VA-BIM is a Male/Female, 35+ old, QS professional that has had (some) ‘exposure to BIM systems for quantification’.

The role quoted in the title-question originates from multiple, analogous job-ads currently floating around the UAE’s AEC market, posted by/or on behalf of a ‘A Multinational Construction Company’ stating that, “Highly skilled candidates are required for a multibillion US$ construction project in the United Arab Emirates”.

This could be good news for the BIM campaigners active in the region.
The new Abu Dhabi (Airport) Midfield Terminal is currently under construction.
It is a large project, blessed with an elaborately spec’d, mandated BIM.
According to this job-ad, it appears, BIM recruiting has reached deep into the bowels of the project’s everyday-works, since we must be talking about the role of the administrator of nitty-gritty variations here.
Nitty-gritty variations because surely, wouldn’t major variations have been prevented by the mandating of BIM in the first place? Or is BIM a strategy for rescue rather than prevention?

Yes, it is pleasing to see the need for BIM skills filtrating down the ranks.
It is also lovely to see HR companies looking for multi-skilled professionals.

My perception so far, has been that ‘the modern AEC industry’ has not liked the idea of multi talented people very much.
It appears to scare the living daylight out of HR people to have to deal with roles that are not one-dimensioned and clear cut.
For example, most times when I rock up with my experience-logbook of 25+ years working in the industry, project samples picked from all over the world and references by some pretty agreeable and highly positioned industry figures, HR people of the field tend to be happy to accept that I am a solid, sound, capable Architect/Design Manager.

Or a BIM expert.

But not both.

Definitely not both and definitely not at the same time.
They see nothing wrong with me having started off as an architect and then moving onto the BIM-ish fields, people often do this.
Or I could be accepted as one of those that are destined to turn into technocrats, as another step on their career path.
But an architect that retains, or even more so continues to develop her skills while gaining top-end BIM capabilities is something few HR people are hired to find.

It is strange then, to see that the role as described above, suggests that they are looking for someone with similarly varied skill-sets I like to be claiming to have.
Consequently, I’m curious about three aspects of this specific recruitment drive aimed to secure that obviously urgently needed ‘VA-BIM’ for this particular Contractor;
(must be ‘Immediately available’):

First, what are the criteria the ideal candidates need to meet – i.e. what exactly does it entail to have had “Exposure to BIM systems for quantification”?
Would it be enough to state an attendance at a BIM conference, or waive a certificate earned at a brief Revit course? Or would one need to demonstrate thorough understanding of different types of modelling (for design vs. for construction) – explain the risks BOQs taken from design models carry and offer mitigating measures for managing those?
Would they be asked to create or administer VICO type, powered-by-recipes databases or would they just have to name three QS software packages currently on the market?

Secondly, I’d be really interested in how the HR agents will be evaluating in practice the suitability of the applicants, not just for compliance with the obvious questions (15 years experience, good English language skills) but also looking at these two different, technical disciplines in a bit more depth.
Will they be interviewing the candidates separately, on the subjects of Cost Control and later on BIM?
Would this be done by two different professionals or are ‘multi-headed’ anglers already available within their own ranks?

Lastly, talking about cross-disciplinary people, a Contractor (or consortium) engaged on such a mega-BIM project, surely needs masses of hand-reared BIM literate ‘other’ professionals, like BIM enabled Design-, Project-, Construction- and Planning Managers as well as the previously discussed Cost Control Managers. As a CFO or CEO would you?
And not just at the ‘bottom level’ or, God’ forbid, as an in-sourced (subcontracted) capability, but spread over all levels of management including those that sit at the very top of the ladder!

If they do indeed possess these resources, it is going to be a tremendous boost to the local industry, to release this highly skilled workforce into the market, once the project is successfully completed.
Alternatively, If their army of people is not even close to what is suggested?
Well, I’d then be pretty worried for them… and for the future of BIM within the industry.

Footnote: I have no personal interest in this position, I have no formal QS qualifications and am happily employed at the moment, as a ‘single-discipline professional’, somewhere else.

Picture from here: