When is a BIM Manager not a BIM Manager?

The role of BIM Manager is a relatively new role, that for many, has evolved out of the CAD managers role.  With the advent of BIM there was a need to formalise the practitioners and provide a logical hierarchy of expertise.  Someone must manage all this cool new stuff after all. 

The traditional definition of a BIM manager has in the past focussed on the technology and process side of the role.  This is understandable when you consider the role as a corporate position designed to build and maintain a capability, at a national and regional level. A typical list of core responsibilities will look like this:

  • The BIM Manager establishes the proper BIM procedures and methods for the organisation, programmes and projects
  • Ensures that the Contractors’ BIM processes serve the Engineering and Business requirements for managing multi-discipline collaborative workflows and BIM uses
  • Ensures that tools and processes are properly used to comply with the guidelines in place and Employer's requirements
  • Coordinates IT solutions required to deliver the projects
  • Measuring and setting BIM performance targets
  • Determines training needs, and organises training when required within the organisation
  • Coordinates the agreed guidelines and ensures compliance with those guidelines and methods

 

And that’s great at a corporate level, but what about at a project level?  It is here that the skill set for a BIM manager changes significantly.  Once you are a project based BIM Manager the role is all about teams, delivery, coordination and stakeholder management.  Not only is the skillset different, but the mindset is completely different to.

 

The corporate BIM Manager must provide strategic direction and thought leadership, they must be cognisant of the changes in technology, but not be a slave to that technology.  They must be able to produce a solid business case when asking for funding for software or training or better hardware.  They must be able to engage with the IT team to ensure that the overall corporate IT architecture does not in any way impede their efforts.

 

Typically, when a large project starts a BIM Manager is appointed that tries to get the necessary infrastructure, processes and people into place for the project.  To do this they draw on their knowledge of the Corporate standards, or they read and interpret the client standards to configure the system and on-board the design team.

It is once the project starts enters production that this role changes fundamentally and becomes one more aligned with delivery.  A BIM manager on a project will typically need the following skills:

  • Ability to drive and manage the output in line with the project delivery plan.
  • Attend meetings with other project stakeholders where BIM is an issue.
  • Coordinate with clients and subcontractors on all BIM related matters
  • Ability to lead and inspire a team to reach the project targets

 

So where does that leave us.  I think that the corporate BIM Manager role definition is almost exactly right, but the BIM Manager role on Projects needs to be redefined.  I would recommend that on small to medium projects that they have a BIM Delivery Manager, and on large projects that they have a BIM Delivery Manager and a BIM Technical Manager.  The BIM Delivery Manager has detailed knowledge of BIM Processes and sufficient Project Management experience to be able to lead the delivery of the BIM aspects of the projects.  The BIM Technical Manager is there to ensure that the processes and software are all fit for purpose, while initially a full-time role, after a couple of months this role should be no more than one week a month.  These two BIM managers should both report directly to the Engineering Manager or the Design Director.

Finally, the BIM Manager position is not much older than 7-8 years…so, be wary of any person stating they have ten or more years as a BIM Manager.  And recruiters, understand that asking for a BIM Manager with ten plus years’ experience, will limit the field to about a dozen people worldwide.  What’s more important is to look at the quality and type of the experience, and ask whether they can deliver?

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