BIM Competency – taxonomy is crucial
By Melanie Robinson
Melanie is something of an expert when it comes to BIM competency research, having helped create the recommendations for the ‘structure and principles of a BIM Competency Framework’ commissioned by the Scottish Futures Trust and the Construction Industry Training Board in 2018. She is also in the very final stages of writing up her PhD which takes an in-depth look at the role of BIM competencies in affecting wider BIM adoption. Melanie is now a Project Manager at BIM Academy and works on a wide range of projects in the UK and across Europe.
…I was asked to write a short blog on “BIM Competency” and, despite having written literally tens of thousands of words on the subject, I found myself thinking “huh, where do I begin?”. We seem to be in that funny period of our relationship with BIM, akin to the seven-year itch, where we both know it’s all been for a good reason but we have to challenge where we’re heading and whether we are heading there together.
Having been sitting on the periphery of industry, trawling through the very active BIM Twittersphere, for the past four years, I’ve had the unusual ‘luxury’ of being able to be part of a wider conversation that not many in their day jobs have time for. More and more, I see the digital evangelists of the industry beginning to move away from the term “BIM” in favour of more general information management principles. Okay, yes, the fundamentals of what we have come to know as “BIM” are about effective information management and less about the technology-enabled creation of the information. However, I’m hesitant to promote a shift away from the term “BIM” when I am a firm believer that the maturation of its principles has transcended it as a mere acronym.
“Okay Mel, but what does this have to do with BIM Competency?” Well, as the industry quite rightly pushes forward with its digital agenda, we need to be able to support and encourage the many people within it to be able to join us on this journey. I don’t believe enough is being done to facilitate this and yet the digital pioneers, who have advocated what BIM stands for since day one, charge towards sexier technology-laden innovations (ahem, I’m looking at you, digital twins). In fact, whilst BIM has itself been promoted as the technology-shrouded embodiment of everything the Egans and Lathams promoted, we run the risk of slipping right back into our old habits of “best practice in small pockets” with these attitudes.
This, for me, brings the focus of the conversation firmly onto BIM Competency. Our industry, and its ability to progress, is only as effective as the capability of its individuals. Yet, our industry’s upskilling model increasingly relies on internet-based, unstandardised knowledge acquisition, and a highly variable landscape of education and training provision. Not only this, but the concept of BIM as a complex, systemic innovation, which requires multi-stakeholder buy-in and organisational (and project-level) support, tends to steer the conversation away from the individual. If we’re to achieve our industry targets, we need to stop reinventing the wheel and define what BIM Competency means for our current professionals and our future workforce, whilst remaining cognisant of the wider digital discourse.