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BIM functions: everything you need to know

Specifying the correct BIM functions and responsibilities is critical for the success of any BIM project. This article explores what you need to know about these different functions and their scope.

The information management process

Every BIM project needs BIM functions to handle information management tasks effectively and efficiently. Information management is the execution and management of tasks related to: defining information requirements, producing information and checking & delivering that information. Although it sounds like a new concept, information management has been around since the early days of manual drafting, through to CAD and now BIM. It has only become more sophisticated and digitalised.

The process of information management applies to all that data contained within the information model. As we have discussed before, the BIM data contained within the information model can be classified into geometrical or alphanumerical information and also documentation. Both experience and research has shown how effective information management leads to several project benefits. These include better coordination, better quality, reduced abortive work and better decision-making. We have seen, for example, how document control tasks have become more and more relevant within BIM project environments.

BIM functions and BIM roles

The information management functions — sometimes referred to as BIM functions — are covered in ISO 19650-2. Previously, we would talk about ‘BIM roles’. However, the word ‘roles’ has now been replaced by ‘functions’ within the context of information management. Roles are now reserved to describe the responsibilities of the appointing party, the lead appointed party and the appointed parties. BIM functions, on the other hand, refer to the collective responsibility for the information management process. Every individual working on a BIM project will have some degree of information management functions.

The superseded PAS 1192-2 defined specific BIM roles, such as project information manager, task information manager, etc. However, the new ISO 19650 series moves away from these specific roles. The idea behind this is that existing project roles should undertake BIM functions. This is, of course, an ideal scenario and a goal at the same time.

Say goodbye to BIM Managers and Coordinators

ISO 19650 is shaping the future of BIM. Whilst the goal is to make BIM business as usual, the reality within the construction and engineering industry is that there is still much work to do. We should all be working to fully implement the concept of ISO 19650 where everybody in the project team has a decent level of information management knowledge to apply. But until we get there, it may be that some projects still need to appoint BIM Managers or BIM Coordinators, to help make the transition smoother. The tendency, however, should be to name these roles as BIM Specialists.

At a project level, the responsibility to specify information management functions lies with the appointing party. In fact, the first task in the information management process is for the appointing party to appoint individuals to undertake information management functions. The appointing party can delegate responsibilities to a lead appointed party, but the appointing party will remain accountable for those tasks.

BIM functions in the responsibility matrix

A key step is to develop a responsibility matrix. Each tenderer will provide a high-level matrix before formalising the appointment. After appointing the lead appointed party, it should develop the high-level responsibility matrix into a detailed one. The detailed responsibility matrix should include a comprehensive list of information management tasks with the corresponding BIM functions.

As we have already mentioned, BIM functions should be undertaken by existing roles within the company or project. Authors of information should be responsible for creating and managing their information appropriately. An MEP engineer, for example, should be responsible for creating her 3D models with the correct metadata and following the appropriate model naming convention as defined in the BIM Execution Plan and the MIDP. She should not rely on a Document Controller or a BIM Manager to do that for her.

The responsibility matrix can also define how a Document Controller will be accountable and responsible for the submission of information to the lead appointing party for authorisation. And at the same time, it should define how the Project Manager, Design Manager and/or BIM Specialist are also responsible for such BIM tasks. It can also specify to consult a BIM Technician or a Civil Engineer during the process and inform the main contractor. Annex A of ISO 19650-2 includes an information management assignment matrix, which is very helpful as a starting point.

In summary

Essentially, every BIM project should have a responsibilities matrix that defines all the information management tasks and BIM functions, specifying who in the project team is responsible for each activity. Once again, the BIM functions should rely on existing project roles (such as Project Manager, MEP Engineer, Document Controller, BIM Specialist, etc.) rather than specific BIM roles as previously defined in the superseded PAS1192 (Project Information Manager, etc.).

How are you finding the transition to ISO19650? Let us know in the comments below.

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