We’ve already touched on the benefits of Building Information Modelling in the lab construction process, while also reflecting on its history, and how we can implement it in your lab.

An innovative development that has altered the approach towards project-centric processes; it’s impacted the project cycle from beginning to end, positively changed the roles of teams and firms, and transformed the way in which projects are delivered. But what does BIM mean for project managers? Here, we’ll look at the role of project managers with regards to BIM projects, the challenges they face along the way, as well as the future of BIM and project management.

Why is the role of project managers on BIM projects so important?

In order for a project to be successful, the roles and responsibilities of the project manager must be laid out clearly. Put simply, the process of BIM brings the project manager’s duties into sharp relief, since it involves synthesising the abilities and knowledge of different people in a way that cost, quality, safety and sustainability objectives are met. At all stages of the process cycle, the project manager puts these interests at the forefront; BIM is all about integration, therefore the project manager is required to integrate the talents of the team in an effective manner.

If BIM is to be part of mainstream lab design, then project managers have to be proponents of BIM and be the driving factor in its adoption by others. It must be understood by those heading up projects in order to be driven forward, further. In doing so, project managers can help companies to adopt BIM in a more holistic manner, providing strategic advice as the organisation, as a whole, starts to transform.

The role of the project manager in BIM project delivery

Adopting a BIM approach has a large impact on the role and responsibilities of the project manager, involving attributes that are both driven by BIM and serve to drive the BIM approach as the project progresses. Accordingly, at all stages of the project, the type, nature and level of BIM can subsequently vary.

At the outset, it must be made clear who is playing the role of the BIM manager. Determining and defining this role is an important stage in the process, as it delineates who is entirely responsible from the beginning. Whoever you opt for, whether it’s adding further duties to the project’s lead, or you bring in a specialist from elsewhere, it’s a necessary duty that has to be addressed first.

Once this has been made clear, what links exist between project management functions and BIM management functions, and how can they be defined? It’s a good idea to answer the following questions:

  • Is the organisation ready to implement BIM on its projects?
  • How does the project brief connect with the BIM requirements?
  • Who is responsible for the BIM management role?
  • Is there a selection process in place that ensures the right staff are part of the project?
  • Are the broad requirements for BIM defined, including the expected outcomes? Do all project team members know of these BIM requirements
  • Are the protocols for producing, managing and exchanging information clearly defined?
  • Is there a BIM Protocol and BIM Execution Plan in place, and is it understood by the team?
  • Whichever of the three disciplinary models are being used – Information Model, Model Management, or Model Information Extraction and Usage – is it in place and regularly checked, too?

Likewise, the BIM Execution Plan is an essential document, linking the BIM implementation on the project with the overall project management plan. The process will result in questions, which is where the Execution Plan comes in handy, as the information contained within helps to answer these queries. It’s crucial to the task as it details the processes and procedures that are needed to achieve BIM objectives, that will ultimately accomplish the project’s objectives on the whole.

What BIM challenges do project managers face?

Despite its benefits, there are still strategic issues surrounding BIM and project management, especially when the process isn’t implemented properly, or preparation has been lacklustre.

Adopting a BIM approach

The adoption of the BIM process should be a considered one. Failing to the do the requisite preparation and analysis almost always results in problems along the way, whether an organisation simply stops using BIM or struggles to successfully complete a given project.

Developing a BIM Vision

Once the approach has been agreed upon, a sound vision for BIM implementation has to be drawn up. Business-wide objectives of the implementation; how BIM will transform the organisation; and how this growth will take place over short to medium-term planning all have to be made clear. Additionally, it needs to be appreciably different from the project-level BIM strategy, that way you can translate these into specific project-based BIM objectives.

Leadership

When it comes to the issue of BIM and implementation, a certain degree of balance must be struck. If someone at the top simply suggests taking this new approach, it’s unlikely to convince the rest of the team. Likewise, people from the bottom suggesting the same thing may not have the influence to put such an approach into effect.

Someone who can balance organisational leadership and BIM leadership is integral to the process.

The future of BIM and project management

Moving forward, experts say that three important BIM areas must be addressed. Firstly, project managers must be less passive if BIM implementation is to become de rigueur at both a project and organisational level. As BIM becomes more pervasive over time, this will surely change – a drive for BIM will result in better collaboration, shared ownership of goals and greater synergy between plans and strategies.

Secondly, project managers need to be increasingly aware of the changes BIM will result in. Individuals and organisations should be in a position to better understand emerging technologies and paradigms that have the scope to change norms associated with respective industries. They can then use this knowledge to impart insights and advice to other organisations they’ll work with.

Finally, project managers must be in a position where the new skills and competencies required of them in a BIM manager role must be understood, especially as BIM becomes more commonplace.

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