BIMBeing: The Journey #35
#35 – The personnel standard…
Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels.
I’m moving away from viruses in this post (be it computer or Corona type) and getting back to BIM. On several occasions I’ve discussed, separately, the enormous array of standards that govern our industry (#11) and also the required attributes and abilities of individuals to build successful careers (#9, among others). However, I’m yet to have put these two together; where are the standards that govern the individual?
There is still not a recognised, industry-wide framework that clearly defines the BIM roles, defines what an individual must be able to do to be considered competent within that role, and how they as an individual can progress from one role to the next. Without any form of standard in place, the entire industry is suffering. How have we managed to get this far without defining such a crucial standard? As an industry we’ve defined absolutely everything, with an almost ludicrous amount of detail; what types of document a project needs, how to name a CAD layer, the types of line style we should use, what each hatch pattern means and even which character symbols we’re allowed. How can we define all of these detailed requirements, to the nth degree, and yet still miss the most important thing of all; the people. Why have we not defined what the people do?
A wise man simply defined the issue as this: “How do you know if somebody is sub-standard, if there is no standard?”. In exactly the same way that a Building Control Officer would not be able to assess the compliance of a building without a standard to define exactly what must be achieved, assessments of an individual are of no value at all without a method and a benchmark to asses them by. The impact of not having this, a personnel standard or framework, is felt by everybody; the companies, the individuals and the industry as a whole. Here’s the current situation:
Without a consistent framework to define the BIM roles, companies have all taken their own path. As always, when left to our own devices, the outcome isn’t good. The result is an endless number of ‘roles’, many of which contain the acronym ‘BIM’, thrown together randomly with words such as technician/coordinator/modeller/designer/engineer/manager/junior/senior/lead/director etc. That list goes on for a while, but the bottom line is this: we’re completely inconsistent.
Next is the definition of what each of these roles actually mean. What does an individual need to do within that role? How competent are they? What do they need to do to progress within this role, or to move on to the next role? What training or support may that individual need? All of these questions remain unanswered in a world without any sort of framework. Companies don’t know who they need to fill a particular job role, they don’t know how to assess new candidates or existing staff members alike and they have absolutely no method for ascertaining how competent any BIM individual is. This impacts on recruitment, project and resource planning, career planning, retaining of staff members, graduate programmes…yet another list that could go on and on. If you don’t know who you’ve got, who you need or how capable anybody is you will struggle to achieve anything meaningful with the individuals that are standing before you. And yet, here we all are. An entire industry sitting in this very same boat, paddling against a complete lack of definition, clarity and consistency.
For the people of our industry, the frustration caused by this inconsistency is no laughing matter. Careers weigh heavily on people lives; this is nothing to be played around with.
As a graduate, or somebody new to the realms of BIM, how do you know where to start? What do you need to know before you can get into a BIM role? What position are you aiming for? Where might you be in 1 years time? In 5 years? 10 years? How do you know what to aim for, what you could achieve and how can you plan to get there? It’s currently impossible, particularly when each company you speak or work with has a different opinion, a different job title and a different set of requirements or expectations. It’s a confusing minefield of misinformation.
The same issue resonates with those already placed somewhere on the BIM career ladder. How good are you at your current position? How can you measure it, rather than just telling people that you’re good? How do you assess your own capability? Is it clear exactly what you should be doing and what knowledge you should have? Do you need to seek additional training? If so, from where and what for? Do you know what the BIM people above, around and below you should be doing? And how competent they are? Do you have even the beginnings of a clue on what you must do to progress to the next level? A wealth of unanswered questions that leaves you on a path to absolutely nowhere, as opposed to a universal framework that should set you up on the path to success.
These unanswered questions lead to frustration. Frustration destroys motivation. Unmotivated individuals will either stagnate in their current role or leap to a new one that may not be truly beneficial to them, the company or the industry. It could be an unwarranted promotion, a sideways step to another company or a jump from the BIM world altogether – none of these outcomes are anything to aim for. People need guidance.
When companies and individuals suffer, the entire industry suffers too. The result is a broadly untrained, mismanaged workforce of unknown capability without any clear direction at all. It’s a brutal picture to paint, but it’s an unfortunately accurate one. The introduction of BIM is now a considerable amount of time behind us, but how much progress have we really made? Forget drones and VR headsets, are we all really improving? In terms of roles, responsibilities and careers, are we being collectively efficient? One of the principals of BIM is consistency, yet we couldn’t be further from it.
That’s a wrap for today, at the end of a rather ranting post. Almost unfortunately, I, and many of you, can see the industry for what it really is. We can see the absence of consistency among companies and individuals and the impacts that it has on us all. We see over-qualified individuals in positions they should have moved on from and, more commonly, underqualified individuals in positions of seniority that they are simply not prepared for. We see companies that don’t know what their looking for, what they need or who they need to do it. And we see the jumble of roles and responsibilities that continue to be created in isolation.
The only solution is a new standard; a guidance or framework created by the industry with a reasonable consensus among the people within it. The roles must be defined, the requirements of each role detailed, the career paths mapped and an assessment criteria created to provide us all with the guidance we desperately need. BIM is about consistency, and we must all work towards achieving just that. Lets create a path that can really lead to somewhere. The question remains, who can assemble such a framework? How can this be achieved? The need is obvious, but the methodology seems yet to be discovered.
As always, your comments and emails are greatly received – don’t be shy, this topic affects us all.