Communicating the business benefits of openBIM is difficult.
We’re up against armies of marketers from large corporations with multi-million pound budgets to lobby and appeal to the major industry players, as well as to spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt about alternatives that could hurt their bottom line.
Unfortunately believing and following the big monopolistic companies is often the default safe bet for IT and digital departments, after all “Nobody gets fired for buying IBM“.
This post is my attempt to summarise the business benefits of adopting openBIM as a construction business’s underlying digital strategy. The benefits are split into the following three areas.
- Flexibility, choosing from many options
- Agility, being able to change
- Stability, keeping consistency
Sticking to solutions from just one company gives you a small box to work within, there are generally limited options and you will end up changing your process to fit the tool rather than the other way around.
Adopting openBIM doesn’t mean you can’t continue using your existing favourite software but it does increase your available options, and it allows you to always choose the best tool for the job.
If software suppliers know that you do not have any flexibility or little to no options, it gives them tremendous power to dictate cost and quality to you.
By adopting openBIM formats you are showing them that you have a wide choice of suppliers and they will have to work hard to get your money, driving competition and innovation.
Once you decide to use a single company’s platform or tool you are effectively locked in.
And you can do all the due diligence in the world and be 100% certain they have the best tools for the job at the time of deciding, but what happens if in 12 months time things aren’t as good as they first appeared and competitors with better solutions start to enter the market? Bad luck, you’re stuck with the initial decision and their proprietary solutions you can’t easily escape from. The cost of change would be very significant.
(My favourite example of this is the cutting edge UK Navy aircraft carrier powered by Windows XP. That project clearly had no room for agility and to change as new developments occured.)
However, if you adopt openBIM as your underlying strategy the cost of change is vastly decreased. All your data will be highly compatible with IFC so you will be able to easily open your existing data in new systems with minimal migration costs.
openBIM also reduces dependancies. You can upgrade your software to take advantages of new features without having to wait for others to also upgrade theirs (if they ever do).
The costs will never be zero because even little changes always cost money for businesses, but the cost will be reduced and the ability to react to technological advances can a key competitive advantage.
In this age of rapid technological change it would be a fool who tried to predict or plan how we’re going to be working in just a couple of years time.
So how does a company create a medium or long term digital strategy needed for investment decisions?
The answer is to not standardise around something as temporary and ephemeral as a tool or a platform, but to standardise around data structures. And openBIM provides the best data structures to do this with.
To be clear, we want tools and platforms to rapidly evolve and to help improve our efficiency, but the underlying data should be far more stable.
If the fundemental underlying data structures keep changing, say by changing file formats every year, then that can cause huge legacy and compatibility difficulties. For example, if you build a tool around a proprietary piece of software it can become a sunk cost which works against change. If your tools are based on underlying standard data they’ll have a greater life span and Return On Investment.
openBIM provides stable and comprehensive data structures you can base your construction data on.
With openBIM you can chop and change and overhaul your tools and processes frequently but maintain a stable foundation of a standard data structure.
If this blog post is too long for an elevator pitch to the CEO, here’s my attempt to boil the business benefits of openBIM down to a single snappy sentence:
Adopting openBIM gives a business the flexibility to choose the best tool for the job, the agility to change tools, and the stability to make long term decisions.