Building Information Modeling (BIM) has become increasingly popular in the building design industry, with its ability to generate 3D models for project planning and management. As a result, businesses must decide whether to manage their BIM operations internally or through an external provider.
This article will discuss in-house versus outsourced BIM management and provide insights into which approach may be best for your building projects. Understanding the implications of each approach will help you make the best choice.
What is BIM management?
BIM technology can make a dramatic difference in design project success and delivery. It has become the go-to tool for architecture, engineering, and construction (the AEC industry), and goes beyond simply creating 3D models. With BIM models, project teams can utilize features like automated clash detection, automation, cloud-based collaboration and point cloud data, integrated project delivery (IPD), and peer-review processes. It is a crucial process that involves organizing and managing the design project lifecycle, workflow, and building visualizations.
In order for their firms to be competitive in the emerging BIM industry, BIM managers must develop and implement BIM execution plans, ensuring all team members are working towards the same goals. Their job is to empower productivity among project teams and make sure they can collaborate effectively by removing any technical barriers. This includes training and coaching them in various BIM software platforms and providing them with the necessary tools and resources for a project to succeed.
They also create monthly reports for senior managers to analyze how projects are performing, develop Autodesk Revit templates and BIM workflows to streamline production, troubleshoot issues that arise during the project, and automate certain components of the design process to speed up analysis, decision-making, and documentation. BIM managers take the lead on the technical side of the project so that design managers can focus on designing. Finally, BIM managers make sure that BIM models capture all elements of an intended design.
That can be a tall order when you’re looking to hire in-house BIM managers.
In-house BIM management
In-house BIM management involves managing the BIM process internally, from design to completion. Tasks are assigned to a construction project manager and a team of professionals, subcontractors, and stakeholders such as general contractors to ensure high-quality project outcomes.
Firms take a few routes toward hiring an in-house BIM manager. They’ll either promote an existing design team member to this position, hire a headhunter to recruit for this competitive position, or form committees to tackle BIM management responsibilities as a team.
In-house BIM management requires spearheading BIM implementation for the company, coming up with BIM execution plans, simplifying training, managing BIM projects, developing BIM content, coordinating the work of design consultants working in BIM, and inventing new workflows to speed up collaboration and production. As such, in-house BIM management requires a team of highly skilled professionals well-versed in the latest BIM technologies.
In-house BIM management has several advantages to consider. Here are some of the most notable ones:
In-house BIM management provides more security. Firms can keep a closed network where no one outside the company has access to their projects or standards, and directly control the development of their BIM standards and how they’re implemented in projects. This can be valuable when you have tight deadlines and don’t have time to wait for a consultant to make changes for you.
You’ll also be able to directly control employee training and onboarding. External consultants and BIM outsourcing companies will usually teach their best practices and standards — not yours. Plus, they’ll never be knowledgeable enough about a building designer’s often nuanced approach to designing buildings. BIM consultants have to learn their clients’ industry in order to properly consult on it. Utilizing in house resources reduces that learning curve and makes BIM implementation easier.
You can use in-house BIM managers to run clash detection on projects. When BIM managers work directly with the in-house design team to coordinate and resolve issues, they can reach a fully coordinated design much faster. During the design development stage of a design project, architects typically need to make sure all of the building systems can fit above the ceiling without clashing with each other. Working with engineers to coordinate BIM process issues is time consuming, and it could be cheaper and more efficient to handle internally versus outsourcing BIM modeling services.
If security concerns you, in-house BIM management might be the best way to go. That’s because outsourcing the management of a BIM project may require you to rely on an external party to handle your sensitive data and other confidential information.
When design teams host their projects locally on their server versus in the cloud, they can keep all of their data within a closed encipherment. In-house BIM management means your own trusted personnel manages your data, so you can keep it secure.
Despite the advantages of in-house BIM management, there are also some drawbacks. BIM management is a daily job that needs a lot of attention. When firms try to create this position (or positions) from within, people always get pulled into working on billable project work, abandoning their duties as a BIM manager. Recruiting for this role is also a challenge because, realistically, it usually takes a team to execute the job properly.
Here are some more specific reasons you may want to reconsider an in-house BIM solution:
Hiring an In-house BIM manager can be more costly. It means you need to cover their full-time salary, fund their professional development, and invest in your own BIM management tools. BIM managers need ongoing professional development just like everyone else in the organization. Sending them to conferences and paying for necessary BIM certifications can be a huge expense, especially for small businesses with limited resources.
Plus, BIM management is often a two-person job (at least). That’s because the person you hire might be great technically, but may not have the skills to fully implement BIM throughout your organization. You’ll have to lean on another team member who may be better suited. That cost estimation can add up quickly and be a major financial burden for smaller organizations.
Need for skilled professionals
Using BIM for all phases of a project, from schematic design to construction administration and final deliverables at varying levels of detail, requires various different skill sets from the team members working on the project. Even if you hire a single BIM manager to manage all of your projects, they might lack all the skills needed to do their job effectively.
For example, running clash detection during the design development or construction phase of a project is a skill that most BIM managers don’t have. You have to be knowledgeable in VDC software, such as Navisworks or Revizto. That person would also have to be somewhat familiar with various construction methodologies to effectively run a BIM coordination meeting after running clash detection.
Filling all of these different roles and skill sets can be tough, and talent is already scarce for in-house roles. Finding a BIM manager who is great technically, understands building design and construction, and has the leadership capability to lead BIM coordination and BIM implementation within an office is rare, making this an extremely difficult position to fill.
Also, most BIM managers typically only last 2-3 years at a company. They’re either overworked and under-supported (leading to burnout), or they don’t have enough work to fill their time and end up doing billable project work, abandoning their core responsibilities altogether.
When hiring an in-house BIM manager, you also need to have a senior person skilled enough to check and manage that person’s work. Otherwise, they’ll likely flounder in the role or spend too much time working on tasks that are nonessential.
Finding the right candidate for a BIM-related position can often take time and resources that your organization might not have. If that’s the case, outsourcing may be a more viable option for you.
Training and infrastructure requirements
This is one of the major criticisms regarding in-house BIM management. In-house BIM managers might need an array of extra tools and skills to do their job effectively. This includes access to paid plugins that can be as expensive as investing in the original BIM software itself. Or, maybe your in-house team has a good grasp of 3D BIM, but they need additional training and software to use 4D BIM or 5D BIM. BIM managers might also need a super-powered computer to work on that can handle very complex BIM models.
Lastly, just like everyone else, BIM managers need ongoing professional development. The BIM industry changes rapidly, and they’ll need to stay up on current trends and practices.
This is why a company might opt for professional BIM outsourcing services instead. The partner you choose will already have the required tools and knowledge, so you won’t need to worry about all those setup and training costs.
Outsourced BIM management
Now that you have a comprehensive overview of managing BIM in-house and its pros and cons, let’s look at outsourcing.
Essentially, outsourcing your BIM management to another company means you’re contracting experienced professionals familiar with industry standards and processes to do the job for you.
In this section, we’ll look at some pros and cons of outsourcing BIM management to help you make the right decision for your organization.
Here are the main pros of relying on an experienced outsourcing partner:
Access on-demand talent
Outsourced BIM management talent is often available during times when your team isn’t. For instance, if your in-house team is facing a tight deadline or cannot deliver a complex project, you can easily outsource the task to an experienced service provider and get it done quickly. They can also allow you to fulfill specialty needs within your organization as they arise, giving you more flexibility without having to hire additional help.
Keep up with trends and tools
You can rest easy knowing your outsourced BIM management team is up to date on the latest construction industry trends. Not only do they regularly attend conferences as part of their job, they also have knowledge from extensive experience serving clients like you, and have invested time into testing solutions to widespread issues you might encounter.
Optimize your in-house team
A reputable outsourcing partner will have experienced professionals with a strong industry background. This means they’ll know exactly how to use BIM tools and software and can advise your team on how best to implement it within your organization. No need to pull your key people from their projects to manage BIM; let them focus on what they do best.
Outsourcing BIM management can cut your costs as well, both on training and infrastructure costs and by helping you use your resources efficiently. In fact, you can outsource a BIM service provider team for about the same cost as hiring a single person to do the job in-house.
A good BIM management outsourcing partner can also scale up or down depending on the size and complexity of your project, getting you the best value for your money. You might also get free access to some tools and resources as added perks.
Reduce workload and increase scalability
Worried about taking on too much workload? Outsourcing BIM management can help you to keep your team lean and agile. An outsourcing partner can handle the day-to-day tasks of BIM management, freeing your in-house team to focus on what they do best.
Scalability is another huge advantage of outsourcing. Since BIM management is often a labor-intensive process, having an outside partner that can handle the workload in lean times (as well as peak periods) can be very handy.
As with the in-house option, outsourcing has some downsides. Here are the main cons of outsourcing BIM management:
Communication is a big part of architectural, structural projects; you already need to be able to coordinate effectively with stakeholders like building owners and MEP engineers. Outsourcing can add another layer, since aligning expectations and deadlines is critical when working with multiple service providers. Coordinating tasks and timelines for complex projects can be challenging with subcontractors, leading to unwanted delays.
When outsourcing BIM management, keep in mind that you may need to store data externally, and with that comes the inherent risk of your outsourced partners sharing your information with others. Your service provider may lack security measures, leading to confidentiality risks. Without proper encryption, your data is at risk for security breaches and misuse. Because of this, you’ll need to ensure your outsourced consultants have the necessary protocols in place, and take additional steps to secure your data when outsourcing.
Lack of control
Outsourcing means having someone else develop and input your standards, and not all BIM experts have the same level of expertise. To make sure you always have a hand in the process, it helps to have bi-monthly check-ins to see that everything’s on track.
In general, outsourcing your BIM management means putting yourself at the mercy of your service provider. If they’re unreliable, this can be a major headache. Ensure they’re up-to-date on the latest standards and technologies, or you could end up with a project full of costly mistakes. Hire a reliable provider to avoid these issues down the road.
Which to choose?
Now you’re faced with a choice: in-house or outsourced BIM management? To help decide, start by considering your goals. Are you looking to expand your office and get more work? Do you want to increase your in-house BIM content development capabilities? If so, in-house BIM management might offer a solution.
But also ask yourself, how much time do you have to handle those tasks? If you’re a large organization with enough resources, you might consider a hybrid approach and have an in-house person handle the security issues posed by outsourcing.
Weighing these factors can help you make the best decision for your BIM project. If you have any questions about BIM, our experts at RevitGods can answer a wide spectrum of questions about BIM implementation, Revit, standards, and any related concerns.