Riding the Hype Cycle: BIM in Australia

I was recently asked by the lead estimator of one of my clients what I thought estimating and project controls would be like in 5 years. The thought that leapt immediately to mind was ‘exactly the same as now with a bit more grey hair’. I considered sharing the notion but instead said we’d be happy to formulate our thoughts and respond.

When I got back to the office I presented the question to my team who, total credit to them, set about exploring the innovations, concepts, new technologies and ideas that are being discussed and published currently. In the process, they discovered the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.

The Gartner Hype Cycle is published annually by Gartner Technology Consulting Group. The cycle for 2016 is shown below and maps the progress of emerging technology through various phases; Innovation Trigger, Peak of Inflated Expectations, Trough of Disillusionment, Slope of Enlightenment and onto the Plateau of Productivity.

Gartner Hype Cycle for emerging Technologies 2016
Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2016 | Gartner Consulting

Although Building Information Modelling (BIM) no longer appears on the Hype Cycle, it is a good example of an emerging technology that is still progressing along the adoption continuum. Its position on the Hype Cycle probably varies depending on which country, business and industry you’re in. Most UK contractors would claim BIM is well along the Slope of Enlightenment heading towards the Plateau of Productivity, whereas in Australia, opinions will vary widely, with many wallowing in the Trough of Disillusionment.

This disparity has its origins in the different approach to BIM adopted by the respective parties.

The adoption of BIM in the UK construction industry occurred in the early 2000’s and, as a result, the approach is more mature and industry support far more extensive. Its adoption has been supported by numerous professional bodies, government agencies, and a joint public-private BIM program that has seen the UK government target construction project savings of around £2 billion per annum.

In Australia in 2011, everybody thought BIM was going to be a panacea to many, if not all, the problems encountered on projects. Quantity Surveyors were going to become redundant, design variations were going to be eliminated, months were going to be shaved off construction durations, and end client asset management processes were going to be optimised. Government agencies were even talking about mandating the use of BIM on major government funded projects.

Since then, the hype surrounding BIM has quietened down somewhat in Australia; organisations have either adopted it and are happily treading the slope of enlightenment, or have assigned it to the future technology basket and remain languishing in in a trough of disillusionment.

When identifying emerging technologies and assessing their potential to improve productivity and performance, I believe it is critical to take the time to fully understand the new technology and ensure that it aligns with the desired outcomes for your business or your client’s business.

In Australia, many still fail to appreciate that BIM is more than a software solution, it’s a process and its successful adoption requires due consideration of the desired outcomes and objectives at project inception. For example, is the client hoping to detect clashes during the design phase, better monitor progress during construction, or more effectively manage the asset after construction?

We have found the best benefits have been achieved when we have:

  • Engaged with our clients to understand the drivers for wanting a ‘BIM project’,
  • Interpreted those desires into a strategy with tangible deliverables and communicated these to all parties (project team and contractors), and
  • Regularly verified adherence to this strategy and the alignment of deliverables.

As a business and in my office in Perth, we have invested in the development of RICS accredited BIM Project Managers who are trained to pragmatically explore the potential benefits of BIM with clients and interpret their needs into a specific BIM strategy and Employer Information Requirements. This ensures that the project team understands the client’s expectation with regard to BIM, is able to develop an appropriate fee and, upon award, is able to develop processes and structure the model to align with the client’s desired outcomes. This approach will also ensure that our own and our clients’ view of BIM continues along the Slope of Enlightenment.

BIM manager
Developing a shared understanding of what BIM is and what BIM is not, is critical to assessing and harnessing its potential to improve productivity and performance within your business.

 

So a word of caution before picking the next hot technology and thinking it will improve productivity. If you don’t want to ride the Hype Cycle and end up in the Trough of Disillusionment, do your homework and ensure that you understand the potential benefits and make sure that they truly align with your desired outcomes and objectives.

And as for the enquiry regarding the future of estimating and project controls, we outlined our thoughts and were invited to present to their team as part of their strategic team as a trusted advisor for their future and have forged a closer relationship with them as a result. Good job I kept my quip about grey hair to myself.


Jon Brown is our Director – Perth office and a forward thinker who likes to push conventional boundaries to deliver extraordinary outcomes for his clients.