Paul OakleyINDUSTRY INSIGHT: Paul Oakley, Associate Director BIM at BRE

The ubiquity of BIM provides a potential headache for SMEs as the software and training costs to gain BIM competency are hard to bear. However the long-term gains make it worth it, even for small companies, argues, Paul Oakley.

BIM is a huge driver for positive change in the construction sector but whilst a rapidly growing number of larger organisations are seen to be welcoming it with open arms, SMEs are often perceived as slower to engage. Early SME adopters are enthusiastic about its benefits and often seeing the rewards very quickly, those that are lagging behind are missing out on the opportunities that it opens up, so being ready and willing to embrace it is vital.

To remain competitive and thrive, small businesses need to keep abreast of process changes and new technology, and be able to respond to client requirements quickly and efficiently. Without BIM, they are less able to do so, and with uptake amongst larger organisations escalating, SMEs that can’t dovetail with it – or at least work with it knowledgeably and productively – are likely to be side lined. Along with better positioning to win business, BIM also gives SMEs opportunities to provide new types of services to clients and therefore gain new income streams. Some of these service types are not worthwhile for larger organisations to offer, which means an all-important edge.

Easier uptake
Interestingly, SMEs are better placed to implement BIM than large companies and see a speedier return on investment. They are more nimble, and don’t tend to have the lengthy processes that can slow larger organisations down. This enables them to adapt to change more readily, get up and running faster and benefit quicker from the advantages that BIM brings. And with work being completed much faster and more efficiently, BIM software and skills training quickly pay for themselves. So although there’s an upfront cost, it’s greatly outweighed by the benefits.

Managing change
Change of any kind will always have its supporters and objectors so it’s important to put measures in place that will get everyone behind BIM. These could include raising better awareness of the positive impact it will have, identifying those that are against it and working with them to overcome resistance, and appointing enthusiasts as BIM champions. Involving champions in plans and making them the first to be trained can be particularly productive, as they’ll be well placed to help drive the process provide company-wide support.

Training and support
The most productive training approach for SMEs is just-in-time: upskilling in response to what’s needed and when it’s needed rather than generic, all in one go training. Letting individuals decide the training method that works best for them – online, classroom, books or a combination – is equally important.

There’s also a lot of external support, guidance and information out there for SMEs. Industry groups and online forums provide a support network for companies and individuals in the process of adopting BIM, and face to face local hubs, working groups and training courses provide great opportunities to talk to other new adopters, including about change management strategies. The key is to take full advantage of what’s on offer, make the most of all the plentiful help and knowledge, and be open to learning from others.

Don’t miss Paul Oakley at Digital Construction Week 2016 from October 26-27 at the Business Design Centre, Islington. Click here for information..