BIM Implementation: Does Firm Size Matter?

In the last 12 years of working in architecture firms specifically with Revit and BIM, I have spent the entire time between two firms; one small office with less than ten people for the first five years, and then at a medium firm with over 150 people for the next seven years. Two majorly different workflows, processes, and coordination efforts internally and externally, and yet both moved from AutoCAD to Revit with success in the end. Because of this, I have gained insight into how much the firm size has to do with firm success regarding BIM implementation, and I think you’re going to be surprised.

The first firm was small and all AutoCAD. The owner was aware of Revit almost as soon as it was available to purchase, even before Autodesk had their hands on it. He saw the future and ran with it, encouraging his team to learn it as fast as possible and become as productive as possible. The first couple years he focused mainly on the opportunities the software provided with graphics, renderings, solar studies, and perspective views clients loved to see. Eventually he brought the rest of the program to use by transitioning the ACAD blocks to Revit Components, building the template and libraries over the next few years until everyone was comfortable with the software and workflow.

With minimal training, almost zero meetings, and maximum team work and peer-to-peer support, the office transitioned to Revit with minor challenges and hang-ups. The first few projects were not the most profitable, but with the owner of the firm fully aware and excited about what BIM could provide him in the future, it was all worth it in his mind, and eventually the reality for his business.

The second firm was medium sized and although they had a few users testing the brand new program Revit, the concept of BIM was not understood by most. Luckily, the CEO was very similar to the Owner of the first firm, in that he saw the future, understood the opportunities, and wanted to make the firm flourish with success by adopting BIM to the fullest.

With a decade of hard work and constant determination, the process was completed, but not as easily. First came the 2008 recession which killed everyone trying to better themselves by having to cut back on training, support, software and hardware purchases, management, basically everything needed to succeed with BIM implementation. Second was the fact that (with any type of medium to large sized firm), there were over a handful of principals with various goals, ideas, and beliefs. Although this does help promote a solid leadership and sound foundation, it does create a system of meetings, requirements, and steps to obtain certain goals and to achieve such a large firm wide transition. Third, was the fact that BIM required hardware that we didnt have, which meant costs were involved adding to the delay.

With that being said, the majority pushed on and made it happen with a creation of BIM standards, BIM component and detail catalogs, a BIM Execution Plan, and so much more. Teams were created, a support system built, and knowledge flowing from user to user until everyone knew the software and all projects became BIM project.

In the end, both firms grasped the concept, got through the transition, and are now moving ahead of the industry with BIM as a major part of their workflow and offering their clients the best coordination possible. So then why do I constantly hear both sides saying one of two things?

  1. “This firm is too small to implement BIM…we can’t afford it, and simply don’t have the luxuries larger firms have to afford training and support.”
  2. “This firm is too big to implement BIM…we are too complex and it would be way too much work to transition between software.”

I hear these comments and many more I could fill another two pages listing, but in the end it’s not about firm size. Both have pros and cons to make it happen, but after 12 years of being in the trenches with both sides, I realized it’s not the users attitude (although it helps when it’s more positive than negative), it’s not the processes or the workflows (again, these help, but they are not going to make or break the end goal). It’s not even the size of the firm, as both small and large are making this transition happen successfully as we speak. It’s something much more important than anything else to determine a firm’s success or failure. It’s the owner, the decision maker, and the top that determines the course, and that means you need to be right there with them.

Their belief in the product, concept, and future of the industry and where they want to be determines everything. If they don’t buy into it, it’s not going to happen without at least a decade of wasted energy and money. If they don’t understand the concept and realize the potential of BIM, you will not have the backing it takes, nor the opportunity to make a change company wide.

Luckily both firms I worked for had that CEO, that visionary, that paved the way for me to lay down the foundation of a 3D world with so much more to come. From 4D to Virtual Reality, from 3D printing to on-site live BIM coordination…none of it would be possible without the first step into 3D, virtual modeling, and BIM.

So as you go back to work today, or tomorrow, or you walk into that job interview, think about these concepts, understand what really determines your firms BIM implementation and usage in that firm. You can be the best BIM manager or director in the world and it wont matter if you dont work together with the owner(s). Do your best and see clearly so that you can choose your path accordingly, and enjoy life in the process!

Thank you for reading this article and please email me your thoughts and ideas. I am always encouraged by comments and appreciate feedback. I hope you gained some insight into this topic and can appreciate where I am coming from and that it will help you with your current work life. Cheers!

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