With the introduction of BIM to the construction industry, it has gone from being just a tool for design of models, to a file sharing tool to a tool for efficient collaboration among team members who are separated geographically to achieve a common project objective. Bringing these team members together with the use of technology to foster an effective flow in project information in a project environment that empowers collaboration is necessary for a successful project.
In the centre of all these coordination and management is the Project Manager, who is the traditional head of a project as well as the BIM coordinator in the Project Management Office which is often centrally located or within the premises of the parent organization in charge of the project.
The Project Manager uses the benefits of Building Information Modelling (BIM) which is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a proposed model to coordinate and harmonize the activities of the virtual team as well as any on-site team in order to achieve strict project objectives.
Virtual teams which are project team members or sub-contractors to a project, who work across space, time and organizational boundaries with interaction links are strengthened by webs of communication like BIM to successfully achieve project objectives.
BIM has design oriented capabilities, industry-leading modelling abilities and parametric objects to streamline project management in terms of the control of project scope, management of human resources and effective communication.
The benefits of BIM can be useful to virtual teams who are managing projects from different locations that are geographically separated. The benefits of BIM, when it comes to managing project teams from different locations that are geographically separated can be accessed from 6 critical perspectives which are crucial to ensuring a successful project.
1). Effective management of construction projects
The project manager is often under pressure to deliver a successful project. He has to ensure that the project is a success when assessed by using the three project constraints of time, cost and scope as a yardstick.
As a file sharing tool, BIM can be used for managing several modules of construction like vendor management, human resource management, project schedule management, construction financials, field productivity, quality management and so on to ensure that the workflow is organized and there is a level of control for the project manager to leverage on achieving key project objectives.
BIM can be used to track the actual project progress as against predicted and planned objectives by supporting and creating project information quantities. This information can be shared among virtual teams in real time to keep them informed about project status and work flow. It keeps them informed about the time their services will be needed. It can also be used to track the quality of tasks that have been executed. It also lets them know about increasing the speed of the execution of their tasks.
2). Simultaneous dissipation of project information.
With BIM there is usually no need for face to face meetings in most cases, with the file-sharing tools as well as instant messaging apps such as Go To Meeting that allows screen sharing any BIM software can be integrated into the app to bring project team members from different parts of the world that are separated geographically. These on-air meetings can be used as a source of passing instant project information, brainstorming and also clarifying misconceptions as well as misinformation. With this method, there is an improved visualization of project deliverables which leads to improved productivity due to easy retrieval and visualization of information. There is also an increased coordination of construction documents as BIM software tends to gather different documents of the same materials of a project and create them into schedules. For instance Door schedules, Window schedules, schedules for Air handling Unit and so on. It is useful for embedding and linking of vital information like vendors for specific materials, location of details and quantities that are needed for estimation and tendering. Hence documents that could have taken like a week for production can be created for just a matter of minutes due to BIM.
3). Prevention of scope creep
The concept of BIM is a virtual construction of the project before it is physically constructed in order to minimize uncertainty, ensure that all elements of the project are covered. The scope of work for different work programs can be defined, planned and controlled.
An effective tool for project scope management, BIM can prevent scope creep during the execution of a project especially in large projects where there are thousands of activities to be done.
BIM does this by a decomposition method called the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) of the planned work which is part of the project scope statement. The WBS contains all the activities of the project and breaks them down to very manageable sizes known as work packages. At this level, it is difficult for tasks or work packages to be omitted because it is at a more visible level and can be controlled by the Project manager even remotely, with the use of BIM.
4). Effective management of client
It is widely known that 90% of the time of a project manager is spent on communication. BIM is an indispensable tool for technical as well as effective communication in projects involving structural materials. Rather than the use of 2D drawings, BIM is a perfect tool for communicating to the client about important updates of the project whether they are change requests, project status and so on. At every point of the project, the client wants to know if its needs are being met and this can only be achieved with the perfect integration of BIM solutions to the communication management of the project.
BIM enhances communication patterns by providing improved project model visualization, flexible communication modes as well as allowing project stakeholders to interact with the project model via the touch screen. Subsequently, this minimizes the risk of errors in managing clients’ expectations that is usually caused by miscommunication.
5). Promotes sustainable collaboration
The use of BIM extends beyond the project planning phase down to the execution and monitoring phase all the way down to the project closeout phase. It is employed throughout the life cycle of the project and is even being used post-project by the building maintenance department for subsequent building maintenance and management.
By streamlining your construction workflow with the use of BIM, project teams from different locations can always know when they come in at each stage of the project life cycle. With each workflow process clearly defined by the BIM solution, project teams who have interfacing work processes will work sustainably well by doing everything they possibly can to ensure that the next team after them have all the necessary support and logistics to perform their project tasks perfectly well.
BIM offers an unmatchable work-sharing environment that is controlled with the creation of the perfect work flow of a project, one where the beginning and end of each tasks of each team is clearly defined completed activities are reviewed in groups, coordination of project deliverables, quality management, issue management are properly enhanced.
6). Supports the existence of virtual teams
BIM solves the issue of distance(which is often the most common challenge of virtual teams) and effective communication among virtual teams. As a tool for project integration, the project manager from a central location can bring everyone together by calling for a virtual meeting which is sometimes held over platforms that permit live meetings such as video conferencing, video calls and so on. BIM is used in these live meeting for people who are geographically separated to review current project status, analyse mistakes, proffer solutions and document lessons learned all while figuring of the best procedure to execute the remaining parts of the project with minimal or no errors.
The effectiveness of the use of BIM in the management of projects from different locations as well as in virtual teams can be sustained if project team members who are operating from project teams known as ”silos” from all around the world maintain the highest level of work ethic such as professionalism, leadership, integrity, advanced interpersonal relationship skills, positivity, knowledge and competence in relevant subject matters, broadmindedness, an apt for technology and the spirit of collaboration.
Project members who are participants in the project are always challenged to deliver a project that is successful regardless of challenges like geographical separation, technological limitations, budget constraints, limited human resources, schedules that are accelerated as well as conflicting or inadequate information.
It is advised that BIM should be used together with other technologies that are available in the construction industry. Such technologies such as Drones for construction sites which are very handy for assessing construction at great and inaccessible heights, enhanced projector screens for enhanced group visualization, virtual reality for simulations of real life scenarios and so on.
Depending on the project type and its environment, BIM should be used in collaboration with these technologies for a proper integration of the project model, the client, the virtual teams as well as the teams on site to ensure that the project is developed successfully within the planned budget, deadline and quality.