By Mandi Ebensperger, project manager
The events of 2020 prompted many across the construction industry to reevaluate how they operated. This created a massive tailwind for the adoption of advanced technology in the industry.
In fact, we hit a record high, eclipsing even some of the most aggressive forecasts. Some analysts predicted what would’ve taken three years to achieve, was reached in just nine months in 2020. Now, according to the annual Global BIM Industry Report, it’s anticipated the BIM market will nearly double over the next five years, growing from $4.5B to $8.8B.
Naturally, building the in-house expertise required to implement these technologies is a hefty lift for most teams. As a result, it has prompted more across the AECO community to seek VDC and BIM partners to outsource these now critical capabilities to –– a task that generally falls on the project manager’s (PMs) shoulders.
How do you select the right partner? What should you consider before signing on the dotted line? As a PM, I believe we see the world a little differently because we have so many responsibilities we are juggling at any given moment. We have to be strategic and thoughtful because even the smallest decisions can have a major impact.
With that in mind, here are some BIM/VDC partner considerations I can offer from a PM’s perspective.
What to look for in BIM and VDC partners
Having worked in various capacities through the entire construction process from clash detection to site planning and design to pre-construction and construction, I’ve come to realize the qualities that can mean the difference between an A+ partner and one that’s mediocre. These include:
- Collaborative. How does their team work together? Are they committed to one another? These dynamics can signal how they might work with clients. For instance, at ZELUS, no matter what type of project it is, or the duration of the project whether it’s two weeks or 12 months, every project team comes together and strives for quality. There’s a “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality. If someone isn’t as familiar with an aspect of the project, they work together to educate and support one another.
- Communicative. Timely communication and transparency are imperative in construction. A partner, specifically the project team, should involve you every step of the way. A lack of follow through on questions you may have or upcoming deliverables or even simply sending out meeting notes is a red flag. It can also be an indication of a lack of experience.
- Deadline driven. Everything we do in this business is schedule and milestone driven. At ZELUS, we’re always cognizant of deliverables and milestones because it doesn’t just impact us, it impacts the client. Delays in deliverables like shop drawings needed for an install can completely throw off the schedule.
- Operate as one team. We work as one team and this extends to the client too. Our clients don’t just sub work out to us. We’re an extension of their team. Especially in this industry, where details, accuracy and communication are critical to project success, finding a partner that will be a true extension of your team will have a big impact on the outcomes. Often clients coming to us are new to the BIM process. They may not know the questions to ask or where to begin. When this is the case, a partner should help guide you and provide education along the way. They should ask about the requirements and contractual obligations, as well as how the model will be used because this will impact the LOD. They should show you examples and review any construction documents you may have to help you determine the best approach.
- Invested in innovation. How current are they on the latest technology? Are they committed to ongoing education and development? At ZELUS, there’s never a question about whether to invest in a tool or software we might need to meet a deliverable. We immediately dive in and set up the training to get up to speed quickly. A partner’s commitment to ongoing learning and investment in not just the technology but their team’s growth can be an indicator of their adaptability and willingness to be nimble on projects.
Some ways to evaluate potential partners on these qualities might include:
- Prior examples and case studies –– they should be able to provide these.
- How responsive they are during your initial conversations.
- Their attention to detail in their communication.
- How they help you experience what working with the project team will be like. For instance, we’ll host virtual and in-person meet-and-greets or lunch and learns.
- Their company core values and how they are upheld.
- Ask to talk to previous or current clients.
The bottom line is a good VDC or BIM partner should become an extension of your team. They should help you expand your capabilities and make you look like a hero. And ideally, they should become long-term partners that you routinely go back to whether it’s simply for counsel or for future projects.