Why Information Management is a smart career choice
As digital construction evolves, so does the need for better information management. A career in information management is looking increasingly exciting and smart.
INFORMATION IS EVERYWHERE
We rely on information throughout our daily lives to make decisions. This could be information about the weather and travel for planning a trip or simply accessing the news. Information is freely available to many of us across all our devices whether it is your TV, laptop, phone, tablet or smart watch. We largely take the availability of this information for granted.
Yet in the construction sector the quality and availability of information is often poor. The Grenfell tragedy has highlighted the lack of quality and availability of information. Whilst truly shocking it has lessons for every project. Can anyone truly answer ‘yes’ if they were asked to produce a full history of all information and how decisions were made on a project today? It is highly doubtful (although we are sure there may be some exceptions!). Can we all do better though? The simple answer is YES and this is creating exciting career opportunities.
A BIT OF INFORMATION MANAGEMENT HISTORY
Since the UK government announced back in 2011 that projects would need to meet ‘BIM Level 2’ by 2016 the construction industry in the UK has been on a journey to digitisation.
In the early years, the journey was largely focussed on building information models (BIM). The industry has slowly matured and the UK standards have now evolved into international standards with the publication of the ISO 19650 series. The emphasis is now towards better information management rather than simply building information models – although models are still a key ingredient in digital transformation.
INFORMATION MANAGEMENT TODAY
This subtle shift has been important as it places more emphasis on thinking about ALL information across projects and assets not simply data extracted from building information models. In many ways this change is a ‘back to basics’ step as the move to building information models meant the focus on information was often divorced or worse, forgotten about. The industry probably also introduced a lot of waste when it came to producing information as part of this evolution.
The need to clearly define and produce information around purposes is somewhat obvious but somehow this was lost in the focus on upskilling to produce often complex 3-dimensional models.
Clients often currently request both COBie (a data schema for exchanging information from design and construction into operations) and traditional Operations & Maintenance (O&M) manuals. Not many have a joined-up approach to these yet. Better alignment will prevent conflicts, discrepancies and waste. There is a real need to truly digitise traditional documentation parts so that they are retrievable and searchable rather than being information embedded in a PDF.
Like industry though, clients and facilities managers that embraced BIM early are beginning to mature. ISO 19650 offers a natural point to reset thinking and approaches (as it is not simply a ‘find and replace’ of previous standards with the latest ones) and re-evaluate a more joined up approach to defining and managing information.
Information Management is now widely recognised as a key function to ensuring that information is defined and managed properly throughout both the delivery phase (design and construction) and during the operational phases. It is beginning to be embedded within key industry publications like the recently published Construction Playbook and its use in frameworks and projects will naturally increase over the next few years.
So, will specialists not be required in the future? Is information management a passing phase that will disappear as the industry upskills? Won’t automation replace the need for specialists?
THE FUTURE OF INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
Information management is a function that involves everyone in project delivery to some degree or another. Over time, large parts of information management will become increasingly embedded directly within organisations. Improvements in technology will mean that specialists will be required less for certain tasks. However, some tasks will include highly technical processes and in-depth knowledge that will still require specialists to undertake. This specialism might be within an organisation, provided by third party specialists or a combination of both.
Information management is often complex and requires individuals and organisations to understand information across a variety of stakeholders. Individuals undertaking specialist activities of the information management function do not in themselves produce information, but they can play a part in its assessment and delivery phases. They act as the guardians for information to ensure that the right people have the right information at the right time.
Information Management specialists will play an increasingly important role defining, collecting, checking, manipulating and presenting information.
If we want information to be as accessible as the information we take for granted in our day to day lives then we must have individuals who are fully focussed on this activity. Information management needs to be seen in the same light as project management, design management, construction management and asset management.
The need for information to be more consistent and robust across multiple projects though will be vital if we ever want to realise the true potential of Digital Twins. Information needs to be built around robust and open standards and part of this journey will mean that the processes and standards themselves will need to evolve alongside real life project work. The future of information management is not a static end point to reach, it is very much a journey.
A CAREER IN INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
The evolution of digital construction makes information management an interesting and exciting area to be involved with as it allows individuals to shape the future of where we are going.
The pandemic has only accelerated and increased our use of technology and the need to access the right information from a greater number of locations. Effective information management has become key to delivering day to day projects during the pandemic. The pandemic though has simply accelerated the change. The pandemic for information management in many ways has been a positive in making more people understand the importance of being able to access the information they need.
Information management is very much here to stay and whilst increasing automation will assist there will always be an increasing need for information management specialists to ensure the construction industry moves forward with our digital journey.