How to succeed in implementing a BIM process in 2017

edmonds-communityMany will agree that South Africa’s local industry’s traditional conservatism is holding us back from implementing new and improved digital construction technologies. Case studies and logic can also support this statement, but there are also many local companies out there that have started investing in certain disruptive technologies and are enjoying a visible change in performance. I recently setup an interview with Scott Chatterton, the International Building Information Modelling (BIM) Integration Leader for HDR Digital Design Group.

HDR is a leading international architectural firm in Canada, recognized for award-winning designs for healthcare, science and technology, government, academic and private-sector organizations.

Scott’s primary role within HDR is to integrate BIM technology and the digital design process into the daily functionality of HDR’s offices in North America, Germany, China, the Middle East, and Australia.

Scott is also a member of Board of Directors for the Canadian BIM Council (CanBIM). He had some encouraging points for companies wanting to start investigating BIM implementation standards.

VH: Is there a right approach for a company wanting to implement a BIM process?

SC: When speaking with project managers I often hear of their frustration of not being able to fully complete the formal Quality Control documentation. I often hear that we have the “right approach” but “not the budget” when trying to incorporate Quality Control strategies into their production process. Managers are pressed to produce deliverables on a tight budget within a compressed timeframe, so time spent filling out documentation associated with a formal process is often seen as an inconvenience, a low priority, or even a waste of time. The pressure of having to deliver product, along with the challenges of inconsistency in team members and design changes outweigh the perceived need to fill out forms or follow a process they feel is not necessary.

We spend a lot of time developing processes, building the associated resources, having a clear path and the tools available to ensure success. However we also need to include educating the decision makers on the “why” of any new process, those that have an impact on how budgets and resources are assigned and ultimately contribute to the success of any implementation.

smh-er_003VH: When is the best time frame to start implementing a process or phase?

SC: By implementing a process during the early stages of a project we dramatically increase the success rate as success relies on having and implementing an initial plan which avoids later pitfalls.

We need to start addressing issues before they become problems, the key to this is through the education and implementation of process at all levels of the organization, especially at the higher management level where decisions on timelines and budgets are made.

We don’t develop processes just for the sake of creating paperwork, or to satisfy the needs of a contract; processes are developed after learning from previous mistakes and lessons learned from past projects.

VH: What do you need to know about implementing a new process?

SC: Do your homework, find out what are the driving factors for making any changes to your existing process, and spend some time analysing what is the current understanding of the process and where the current breakdowns might exist.

For example:

  1. Deliverables: Specify exactly what your organizational deliverables are. Regardless of whether that’s a service or product your organization should have specific goals and expectations on what is delivered to your clients. From this you will clearly be able to provide what is required and recognize opportunities where additional services can be promoted.
  2. Create specific policy objectives and measureable milestones separating current status from a quantifiable future target. Through this you’ll be able to gauge success and improvement.
  3. Drivers & Champions: These are individuals who are excited about the prospect of developing an innovative system/process and engaging in the implementation process.

VH: How will improving your process play into your business strategy?

SC: Review your objectives and strategies; you may have to adjust your goals and objectives to suit the needs of your organization.

Here are some of the expected benefits of an improved process can make to your business strategy:

  • Sustainability
  • Innovation
  • Quality – Efficiency in process
  • Competitive advantage
  • Collaboration, opportunities to collaborate with similar businesses
  • Risk Mitigation – Information management, time efficiency, saving $$
  • Data Management

Often implementation fails not due to the lack of staff participation but rather the failure of management to fully understand what the adoption really means. There is a lack of understanding of how the new process will have an impact on how business is sourced, procured and executed. Management need to fully realize that short term costs of implementation will produce long term benefits by adopting a new process.


A successful implementation strategy needs to be customized and assessed for each unique situation. However, looking at it from a high-level, there are four distinct stages that can be identified and help shape the outlines for a successful adoption.


VH:  What are these various phases?

SC: There is no laid down standard methodology but we have found the following approach works well for us.

  • Phase 1: Preparation and Evaluation

Analyse your current processes and abilities, create a baseline to help you evaluate areas of attention as part of the new implementation process. A review the current operations will assist you in recognizing and addressing area’s where improvements can be made that have the biggest impact.

Evaluate your current technological needs; make sure your computers and network will be able to meet the performance requirements of any new software. Research what you need and plan accordingly in preparation for moving forward – best to do this early on to minimize staff’s frustration and the impact of upgrading equipment.

Engage with your staff, build on their knowledge and understanding. It is vital for them to gain their confidence and trust in the implementation.

  • Phase 2: Establish Goals and Milestones

Objectives, Stages & Milestones; specific policy objectives, intermediate capability stages, and measureable maturity milestones separating current status from a quantifiable future target.

To measure your progress and success you need to establish goals and milestones, these should include both short and long term goals. Each organization has an ultimate ambition and long-term goal when it comes to adopting a new process. Based on the ultimate ambition, intermediate goals need to be defined together with measurable progress indicators and targeted milestones to avoid discouragement taking over a successful adoption.

  • Phase 3: Define the Process

Defining your goals and milestones will shape the implementation process, which breaks down into the three categories of People, Process and Technology.


People are crucial to the success of implementing any kind of new process and for this to be successful you need to gain their confidence and trust that the new processes is an improvement to the old. Identify when, how, who and what training is needed to reach the next milestone.

The biggest hurdle for any organization is the change in culture; by undertaking effective “on demand” training combined with “hands-on” expertise assists and reassures staff that they have somewhere to answer questions and play a supportive role.

Training is an investment in your team, and your organization.

As your staff develop their skills and an understanding of your goals and objectives, you will start to see confidence develop.

Internally look for Drivers & Champions, people within your organization that are enthusiastic and supportive of changes that make improvement. These individuals will demonstrate a willingness to participate in the adoption and seek out efficacy and innovation.

If your new process or workflow involves new software, look for competent educators and learning resources that cover the concepts, tools and workflows. These can be either delivered through tertiary education, vocational training, and professional development or by training sessions held by “in house” champions.


Develop processes that are flexible, manageable and can evolve alongside your organization and the developing industry. Implement the process gradually and have key adopters take the lead and encourage the change in culture.


Technology is the tools of our trade, having the right tools allows us to achieve our goals. Having inadequate tools not only limit production but also play a major factor in staff morale. Technology plays an important role in any organization. Consider future expansion while measuring against the immediate needs. Balance the need verses associated costs, review accessibility and affordability of upgrading necessary hardware and upgrades to software and network systems.

  • Phase 4: Implementing and Monitoring

Once a certain level of comfort is reached, the capabilities and process should be assessed and reviewed through developing metrics for benchmarking project outcomes and assessing the capabilities of individuals, organizations and teams.

The team should not only have a process to follow but also have available to them the resources to be efficient in their tasks. Having unreliable resources, or worse still, resources your team are unable to find, gives them permission to create their own content, essentially disregarding any quality control and duplicating work already completed.

Invest in the time to fully evaluate your existing processes, what works, what doesn’t work and where gaps appear in the processes. Through a thorough review of existing process you will be able to clearly define the flow of operations and the impact BIM has to all aspects of business. Review your own processes with fresh eyes to see where you can make improvements; look at it from the standpoint of production and what resources you would need to efficiently complete the task at hand.


Measurement & Optimization

    • Make the process easy to follow, keep it clear and easily understood, don’t make a process too constraining or onerous or you’ll find that no one will follow it.
    • Make your process flexible to accommodate a variety of situations or your staff’s needs.
    • Provide information on the process in a variety of formats, such as online, printed booklet form, pdf etc. Make it readily accessible to everyone in formats they can relate to, too encourages adoption.
    • Having management promote and endorse the process is the key to a successful adoption.


Adoption of a new process takes time, continual promotion through encouraging awareness and engagement of the processes until it becomes part of the culture. Monitor your team, provide constant reminders that that will encourage the development of a culture that follows the processes.

Finally, be patient and flexible. You’ll need both to successfully implement change.


Scott Chatterton

International BIM Integration Lead

Digital Design Leader for BIM Planning and Quality

HDR Inc.Member of Board of Directors for the Canadian BIM Council (CanBIM).


Photographs courtesy of



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