Why do BIM projects fail before they have started properly?

I deliberately made the entry question provocative. At the beginning, no BIM project will fail. At the beginning, however, there is usually already talk about completion dates without having a solid basis about the real time sequences. The factors of time and money determine the events from the very beginning. The first resulting project plans are based on the wishes of the client and are not based on the time promises of the planners and the later time promises of the executing construction companies.

BIM offers the opportunity to remove as many obstacles as possible at an early stage. However, it is not enough just to want BIM, but to implement projects predictably and productively with BIM. Many thinks that a BIM project starts with the BAP and the architect’s first model design. But, BIM starts much earlier and there are many moments when controlled agile action is required at the beginning to make a BIM project productive.

BIM Assessment

You have carried out a comprehensive BIM assessment in your company. All the companies involved in the BIM project have also done so.

You have procured new software and hardware where necessary. Your employees have been well trained accordingly. You have chosen a BIM platform in the cloud or created your own on the externally accessible LAN or in your cloud. You have also thought of appointing a BIM coordinator in your company and equipping him with the necessary software and knowledge. Their project managers have also been trained as BIM managers. Now the first BIM project can begin.

BIM Project

One of your builders has agreed to start a BIM project with you. Their contracts are designed accordingly. Together with the client, your BIM manager has prepared the AIA client information requirements and the BAP BIM settlement plan. All technical details and responsibilities are recorded and written down to the best of our knowledge and belief.

Your BIM manager invited the project team to a first meeting. He introduces the project to the team members. He prepared process graphics for the process and roughly divided the individual processing steps. The first step is to plan and the construction work to be carried out in the second step. None of the team members have dealt with the project before. Everyone will receive the technical information. So far, no one has been able to worry in detail about whether, how and in what period the tasks can be solved. The next meeting date is set. Everyone should deal with their topics and tasks until then. In the next meeting, the BIM manager wants to flesh out the project plan with the team for the planning phase.

How could the first meeting have been more productive and how could there have been more concrete preview planning? Is there a better way to manage the project and processes than with email and Outlook calendars?

In the next meeting, everyone will tell you how long it will take to complete their tasks. The order in which the tasks are performed is determined. The project leader is eager to take notes and will prepare a log after the meeting and adjust the project plan based on the statements of the team members. Everyone is sent the plan, and everyone must give a feedback on whether they can keep to the plan.

Is there a way to make voting on the project plan more efficient? Has the BIM Manager received all the information correctly? What are the consequences of him making mistakes unintentionally? Is it possible to avoid delays in scheduling? Is it possible to simplify logging?

Despite the good and elaborate assessment, there must also be a willingness to organize the teams differently than before. It is not enough for the project manager to think only about the technical changes in BIM projects. He also needs to see and reformulate his own role and position in the team differently. The hierarchical order and role distribution no longer fit. Project responsibility remains. His skills as a moderator are in greater demand. In addition, the BIM Manager must consider solutions for the following questions in order to make the BIM project sustainably productive.

More questions

How are additional requests or changes to plans by the client reacted?

Even if the AIA client information requirements were deposited as the first step in the BAP BIM processing plan as the basis for planning, changes cannot be excluded in principle. It may be that a detail has been forgotten or that after the first cost calculation, the planned budget is not enough. For whatever reason, the BIM team must respond. The BIM manager must review the impact of the decision as soon as possible and make statements about the impact. Without an agile project management environment, he and the team have no chance.

How can an agile contingency plan look and be designed?

Defects are not excluded wherever people work together in planning and construction. It is not a question of specific planning errors. The BIM coordinator must identify and eliminate this. But there are various disabilities, such as illnesses, accidents, bad weather, misunderstandings, etc.

How can processes be made more transparent?

Each team member should be able to find out about the status quo of the project at any time, without the project leader having to constantly write e-mails or make phone calls.

How can we prevent the inadequate preparation of tasks?

If you realize that a team member is unable to keep his time promises or acts too cautiously and permanently installs buffers himself, you must act in good time.

How can we avoid unexplained agreements on the order in which the executions are made?

Everyone on the team needs to know when their job is up and to be careful who acts before and after. Clear agreements and joint decisions are necessary.

How can I obtain binding commitments for execution?

If you already work in a team, you can also use it actively. Each team member makes their promises to the entire team. No one wants to be the one who never keeps his promises.

How should you customize and extend a project plan in an emergency?

We live in the age of digitalization. Use software to work together in an agile, transparent and cooperative way and with your project in real time. The software must be so easy to use that you can incorporate the changes into the project plan together and live in your meeting. No one must take notes, but everyone can focus on the discussion. After the meeting, everyone can immediately view the results on their desk. Changes should be made with simple screenshots immediately as a PDF document with timestamp and can be added to the project visible to everyone. The software automatically logs any change in the tasks in the background. Subsequent protocols are obsolete. And if a mistake should creep in here, then the team is responsible. Thanks to the agile customization option, such an error can be corrected easily and quickly.

If you also want to work more agile, transparent, cooperative and productive in the future, please contact me.

3 thoughts on “Why do BIM projects fail before they have started properly?”

  • Dear Ulf, thanks for your article. I agree, the rules of good project management apply equally to BIM projects as to non-BIM projects! However, many of the problems, you mention, are exactly those where BIM could bring a substantial solution:
    As it is normal that none of the new project members have dealt with a project before, it is even more important to take advantage of the aspects that BIM offers: reproducibility, repeatability and transparency through intraoperable systems. This way, the experience from previous projects represents a good starting point for any new project yet with a great time saving and a good potential for further optimizations e.g. through AI’s …..!
    The request for the project status is easily answered through the existence of a centralized/de-centralized platform which provides the relevant data to every stakeholder in every phase of the product LifeCycle, including Facility Management!

    • Dear Uwe, a common central data base is an absolute must for all participants in a BIM project. This would completely cover the technical side of a BIM project. However, there is still a lack of a common digital communication, project and process management platform that provides telephone, Whatsapp, email, … completely replace it. There are also a variety of tasks that are not mapped and documented in the technical platform. There are no digital mechanisms to support quality management. And there are no functionalities that can make a statement about the productivity of the teams.
      I do not want to make the observation at the end of the BIM project that everything is technically correct, but that productivity has fallen by the wayside.

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