Software selection and implementation is a major point of consideration for organizations in the initial phase of BIM implementation. Overwhelming initial purchase costs and other associated costs related to training and ongoing technical support are usually discouraging and confusing to most organizations. And no doubt, software/hardware selection is a complex and crucial question that needs thorough investigation.
As I previously discussed in my post, what is your BIM implementation strategy – the implementation matrix? It is crucial that you define your organizations BIM goals and internal processes before turning your attention towards software/hardware selection. This approach will give you a thorough idea about your specific needs, and will consequently lead you to the right software/hardware. And moreover because there are hundreds of competing tools in the market offering similar solutions; having a thorough idea about your needs will give you a better hand at correct software selection.
One of the favorable ways to narrow down your search is by identifying the functions your company is primarily active in, and then choosing the software those functions demand. It is also helpful to note that most softwares can be clubbed into one of the four major functional groups:
- Data management
And these functional groups are directly related to different phases of construction namely:
- Concept design.
- Design development.
- Construction documentation.
- Fabrication drawing.
- Construction, and
Knowing this you can easily picture the two correlated parts – functional groups and design phases – to understand how, where and which softwares will be required. For ease I have drawn an example below using the four groups and six design phases identifying the spaces where a certain software will be required to do a certain job.
As you can see there is no ‘one’ software that will match all your needs. Each function requires a different set of tools, so you will have to take it step by step and decide upon certain functions you want to integrate with BIM at a particular time. Once you have decided you can begin searching for those particular softwares in the market and simultaneously short list them to test and compare later. Some of the things to look for during software selection are:
- Software developer’s history.
- Software documentation and support.
- Integration with other softwares in the market.
- Compatibility with existing softwares used by your company.
Once your hunt for the correct software is initiated and processed, another challenge is going to open its doors to you: finding skills to operate the new softwares and coordinating processes. And here, a debilitating question is inevitable: whether to train existing staff, or hire new skilled resources?
Clearly, hiring professionals who are pre-trained in using BIM softwares and have prior experience in BIM projects has an advantage. Hiring such professionals not only saves time and money, but also gives your organization a head start with BIM. Further such professionals can guide the processes within your organization, minimizing the learning mistakes, and simultaneously mentor members on BIM essentials. However, there are two problems that make this approach counter productive. Firstly, it is extremely difficult to find a competent team of professionals who will dedicatedly work for you, and secondly though such professionals are masters at BIM, they are clueless about your company’s project workflows.
Also, training your existing staff has two advantages. Firstly, you will gain continuity by educating your own resources because they are familiar with your company’s project workflows; and quite understandably experience on projects and company’s proceedings are more valuable than technical skills. And secondly it is motivating for staff to know that their job is not in danger, and on the contrary they feel valuable and important to your company’s future when trained within the organization.
So when this dilemma occurs, as to hiring a new employee with technical skills but no project experience, against training existing employees with project experience but little technical skills. It is always advisable to train your existing employees, because BIM is essentially about project work and not about BIM itself. It is a medium to reach a goal. And further you can teach someone technical skills, but can you teach them project experience?
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