Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Katy's Birthday - An Allegory About BIM as a Digital Asset

Welcome to the Collaborative Revolution!

Clients often ask me why owners are not willing to invest in BIM. The unfortunate answer is they don't get much from BIM.
The image to the right depicts the classic "Federated BIM Model that many project teams utilize to deploy BIM on a project. As the story below highlights, BIM in this format is not very useful to owners.

Ultimately, owners will find value embedded in the As-BUILT-BIM, but it needs to be delivered in a useful form. Accordingly, owners won't appreciate or invest in BIM until As-BUILT-BIM represents flexible digital assets that support facilities / infrastructure and grows with the facilities / infrastructure over the life of the facility / infrastructure.

When I meet with clients I tell the story of "Katy's Birthday" to help the team understand the limited value of a federated BIM model to an owner if the team - especially the BIM Consultant - fails to remain engaged with the owner over time and the owner receives a stunted or ineffective digital asset.

Katy is Daddy's little princess and she wanted a Castle for her birthday. Daddy told her, "Honey, you cannot have a real Castle," and she cried. So Daddy rented an inflatable Castle, which was better than nothing. And Mommy invited Katy's friends to bring their wooden toy blocks to the party and build her a real Castle.

Johnny brought BIM blocks by Revit, Sally brought Bentley BIM blocks, little Susie brought BIM blocks produced by Tekla, and half a dozen other children brought special BIM blocks built with their favorite software application. The children built a beautiful Castle and Katy loved it.

As the party was winding down Johnny's Mom said, "Grab your blocks Johnny, and let's go." Johnny ran to the table and began grabbing his blocks, causing Katy's Castle to collapse! Katy began to cry, upset at the sight of the collapsed Castle. The parents gathered in the corner whispering, and the decision was made to leave all the blocks with Katy.

All the blocks were placed in a single box, Revit Blocks, Bentley Blocks, Tekla Blocks and half a dozen other brightly colored blocks. Smiling, Johnny handed Katy the box, saying, "Here's your Castle Katy!" Katy stared sourly at the box and mumbled. "Thanks" in a very ungrateful tone of voice.

Katy retreated to her room and sat staring at the box of blocks, trying to remember how the beautiful Castle fit together, but she was unable to rebuild by herself. Her departed friends were the only ones who knew the secret of how the Revit, Bentley and Tekla blocks fit together. Almost none of her friends knew how the special notches in the remaining half dozen blocks fit together. Katy could never rebuild the Castle.

Owners face Katy's dilemma at the end of every project. They are handed a "box" of BIM blocks that don't fit together and the owner has now idea how to put the Castle together again. Of course, those are the sophisticated owners who know enough to demand BIM in the first place. Most owners allow the Castle builders to walk away with the BIM blocks and are left with nothing.

Ultimately, owners need As-BUILT-BIM with flexible mechanisms for managing the vast amount of information contained therein, connecting that information to and leveraging it over the Web and treating the information like the valuable digital asset it is. New entrepreneurial business processes will emerge as owners and others leverage these new digital assets to add value to the underlying business purposes the facilities / infrastructure constructed to fulfill. When owners learn to leverage these new digital assets real demand for true As-BUILT-BIM will skyrocket.

James L. Salmon
Collaborative Construction
300 Pike Street, Suite 500
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
(o) 513-721-5672
(f) 513-562-4288
(c) 512-630-4446
(s) 859-912-7747

Collaborative Construction Resources, LLC

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