Friday, January 23, 2015

Balfour’s troubles nearing end, despite the latest £70m profit warning

“An expected cut in dividend also won’t please shareholders, with more details to come in the firm’s full-year results in March, when it will reveal its second successive pre-tax loss.
On the other hand, Balfour Beatty doesn’t seem to be struggling to win clients’ faith. Its appointment to Scape’s latest framework, worth up to £1.5bn, is proof of that.”

Writes one of the army of analyst that tries keeping up with Balfour Beatty’s shenanigans.

I parted with BB in mid-2013 and by the end of 2014 I almost totally lost interest in the largest UK construction contractor. I have since also stopped expecting for it to fatally fall on its own sward of historic dodgy activities and I got on with my own mundane life instead.

Yet, BB keeps on popping up in headlines of Construction related news, daily alternating between the good and the bad.

Today, a ‘what if’ thought crossed my mind as I rolled over the multitude of BB banners.
What if one of them said something like this:

Balfour Beatty figured out a way to end all its troubles!
The reconditioned management of the deeply troubled Construction Company has unveiled its revolutionary idea that will fix all its historic and more recent difficulties.
BB are going Paper Free in all their activities. This approach has benefitted many other industries before and BB is pleased to be the true pioneer of the industry to recognise and first implement it within construction.

Starting immediately. Including all of their construction sites and involving every staff member, all the employees of the company.
To ensure this approach – destined to revolutionise the global construction industry is trademark protected all the legal work has already been completed in the critical geographical markets including registering its name with the relevant authorities:
BB Paper Free by Decree, BB-PF-BD in short.
The historic moment of the Decree becoming live is being celebrated by simultaneous public burning of all remaining paper-matter on 100 BB construction sites located all over the globe, involving the highest of local dignitaries as first-match-lighters.

… and the story could go on – mentioning hard hats and wiz-wests and an array of digital gizmos that BB had already granted with compatibility certificates. A subheading could describe how the BB-PF-BD academy has been churning out PF-enabled graduates by the hundreds since its inception a couple of months ago, biggest campus being currently established in the UAE (why not?).
Of course I know there is a fat chance for anything like this to happen any time soon, even on a relatively, small scale – let alone under the sponsorship of a big beast like BB.

To keep up a bit of hope, of a better (paper free?) construction industry at least for the sake of future generations, I re-watched the video my daughter made for me when I had my pretend –‘show down’ with the mischievous Balfour Beatty some year and a half ago:

Friday, January 9, 2015

“BIM is struggling in USA” The Role of BIM Minions in spoiling the Global BIM initiative’s potential to succeed

“BIM is struggling in USA” is the title of an article by Mr. Iftikhar A. Gaur. The statement itself s deducted from the end-of-year reporting of the buildingSMART alliance™ USA’s financial performance summary.

Nowadays, I rarely react to such obvious BIM-baits as this, LinkedIn promoted article appeared to be – still, the blatant generalisation the title implied enticed me to read it.
The last two sentences were ‘the cherry on the top’ of the writing, in them Mr. Iftikhar A. Gaur addressed the wider BIM community with a request:
“I am interested in BIM. Can somebody tell me where can I find write resources to learn more about BIM as a manager?”

I have been known to publicly whinge about the somewhat dodgy activities of the global buildingSMART organisation in the past, yet this time, the figures quoted – as fascinating as they were, did not entice me to write yet another useless analysis of the sad state of the Global AEC industry and buildingSMART’s role in getting it there.

More fascinating did I find the phenomenon, that a professional, pretending to be active in the field of BIM, with no fewer than 6 CAPITAL LETTERED acronyms behind his name, is brave enough to make such a statement – as the title quoted, even though he obviously (see end of the article) knows little about the topic.

So, leaving the question of the buildingSMART alliance™ USA’s financial performance in 2014 for another blogpost, I’ve set out to delve a little into the topic of the ‘BIM Minions’.
In the past I called these individuals BIM-Careerists, ambitious professionals active within the global AEC somewhere mid-career taking on BIM with the goal of giving their own job prospects a major kick.

In principle, not a bad thing – the industry, a bit starved of truly smart drivers can do with the positive initiatives of its smartest players. The by now reasonably well experienced, well qualified middle-level workforce is opening its eyes to the BIM ‘potential’. This should be a good sign.

BIM has traditionally been powered by the army of foot-soldiers, ex CAD – often self-trained modellers and the occasional top level smart thinker, but the middle benches have been generally ‘BIM free’ for the last 2 decades.

I attributed the usual apathy of these mostly 30 and 40 somethings towards BIM to a combination of factors. The main one has been, the ability to get-by in Construction without needing to know anything about BIM.
Furthermore, not just ‘able’ but almost actively discouraged to stay away, CAD-ish looking acronyms after one’s name did not generally prove in the past to be a good career booster. (as opposed to a couple of ‘p’s, for example).

The fact, that the likes of Mr. Iftikhar A. Gaur are appearing to be ‘en masse’ setting out to add something BIM-ish to their strings of letters, points to the changing attitude of the previously disinterested layer of mid-level AEC professionals.
More and more often they find themselves put into positions that require them to act knowledgably on the topic of BIM, either by their superiors charging them with BIM-merising parts of the company or their subordinates requesting leadership for upskilling into BIM.

And this is where things start getting scary for the global BIM.
While these would be BIM Minions stayed away from BIM, too busy building their own careers, there was a blissful stage of ‘live and let live’. Sure, they chimed in occasionally, presented at a BIM-related conference or contributed to BIM-flavoured events, but at least they made sure they did not get their hands dirty with anything real BIM. The closest they got to it was in them outsourcing or in-sourcing BIM packages and occasionally pressing the ‘go’ button on a flash animation prepared by others. They were even prepared to admit to their ignorance.

Unfortunately for all, this stage had come to an end.
Even in the sluggishly slow overall BIM progress of the global AEC industry there, are now strong pressures on the top managements of companies to ‘keep up’ and/or better even, lead with BIM initiatives. Various government mandates on BIM processes add weight to this urge to ‘do something’, ending mostly on the shoulders on these ‘at first reluctant’
Minions to ‘Make BIM work’.

A nice little challenge for them, one would think, but unfortunately a disaster-prone one.
These Minions, while having clocked up a decade or two in the industry are at the upwards climbs of their careers are also blatantly ill-equipped to pick up BIM.
They are too old, too comfortable and very often too lazy to learn BIM from scratch; so instead, they try to get-by through bluffing.

Finding themselves on various BIM implementation committees and other subject-forums, asked to make important BIM decisions, they learn to look knowledgeable on the topic. Their managers, themselves only barely literate on ‘high-level’ BIM topics, appear in turn only too eager to let them steer the company across the choppy BIM waters, unchallenged.

And so it goes, the global AEC industry, having started on the back foot with meaningful application of digital tools within its processes some 2 decades ago, carries on the downward spiral of self-deception and pretence.
Rereading the article quoted from the top makes me believe that this charade is only going to get worse in the near future.

Image from here: