Developing a Manufacturer’s Content Strategy: How I Went From Being Clueless About BIM to Joining the BCS Committee!

This is a guest post by Marcus Fich

So, about a year ago I was drafting up a new BIM strategy for Grundfos, the worlds leading pump producer with around 19.000 employees with headquarters in Denmark. My involvement in BIM came about by chance really; here’s my story:
About four years ago a colleague dropped “The BIM Handbook” by my office with a Post-It saying ‘we should get on top of this’. By this point I should probably mention that I’m neither an Architect, Engineer or Software Developer by trade – in fact, my background is in economics and business globalization – so my knowledge of things from the Autodesks, Bentleys and Teklas of the world was practically non existing.

At that time I was transitioning from dealing with marketing towards specifying engineers into the field of digital business development. Admittedly, “The BIM Handbook” had ended up collecting a few specks of dust. We had not really gotten requests for BIM content, but when Designers and Contractors started mentioning BIM in my travels it was clear that my colleague had been right.

Now, the tricky part was to actually understand what BIM were – and how we, as a manufacturer, could deliver on what we heard from the market. And this was very different from previous talks about “traditional” product development.

As opposed to “traditional” product development, where stakeholders are very concrete on what they want your product to do – or their pains are easily quantifiable, BIM discussion turned very fluffy and incoherent. In retrospect, one of the first mistakes was that we did not see that some of the “design powerhouses” we explored BIM were just as lost as we were. The result of our first shot of BIM was essentially very shiny (and heavy) 3D CAD with no data – but to us it looked good – and we thought we were on top of things.

In the meantime I was focusing on other projects and Grundfos was regularly releasing new BIM assets.
Fast-forward to little more than a year and a half ago and I found myself on plane bound for Sydney. I had been invited to speak at a panel in relation to BIMMEPaus that my Australian colleagues had been involved – and those two days were going to change my view on BIM dramatically.

Here people were not just talking about mechanical assets as placeholders to avoid clash detection, but about data rich models – and as I in a break showed some of the Revit files produced at our headquarter to some of the attendees, the feedback was blunt and it was harsh – essentially it could be boiled down to ‘your content sucks and it’s practically useless’. I was flabbergasted, hurt and felt like the biggest moron – I was also frustrated that we had not been on top of things.

I returned home, hell-bent on turning things around. My news on the feedback was met with disdain; why had other customers not ‘complained’ – had I just been talking with an elitest bunch of engineers that were not representative of a global market? To some extent I probably had (they are still nice guys though), the inconsistency in customer demands that we met years earlier was still present – and still is to this day. As such my baseline became that just like in real-life we have different demands – and those demands change not just from country to country – but from company to company – and now it also makes sense that the information requested for schematic design differs from that of Facility Management.

This takes us back to the beginning of the blog-post; drafting up a new strategy. My concept was that we should be able to deliver different datasets according to different standards and guidelines – and not just have one set of data. To pull this off we would need a high degree of automation, but I had no clue on how to formulate that, so I brought in a consultant that could translate it into “BIM-speak” for me. The result was a global RFQ that I’m sure some of “our readers” have seen ;-)
Through networking this came to the attention of the BuildConSum team, that encouraged me to come and do a ‘Perspective’ session at their new conference. Honestly, I was very hesitant at first as the sourcing for a content supplier was still ongoing, but the persuasive argument was that this would be a unique chance to put the strategy to its test. Who would be better to give feedback than an audience consisting of Service Providers, Architects and Engineers?

Then they told me that it was not just a ‘perspective’ session, there would also be a ‘Rebuttal’ – meaning a person that I did not know would be questioning and maybe even counter-argue my strategy. Now that’s a scary proposition.

My “rebuttalist” was Adam Sheather who today also sits on the RTC Australasian Committee – and after having shared a few pointers through LinkedIn we took the stage in Washington D.C. The feedback was astonishing – from the stage I could see the tweets coming in on the tweet wall behind the audience – and when a tweet from Nancy McClure (@apertedesign) mentioned my name and ‘words of wisdom’ was followed with Adam Ward’s (@Revitspace) tweeting “Nice to see a manufacturer understand BIM content so well from a technical perspective” it was a big load coming off my shoulders (especially as I had feared being called a technical imbecile).

And this is exactly what is so fantastic about BuildConSum – you become part of extremely knowledgeable and passionate group of individuals. The realization of all of us being in the same boat together and the only way we can succeed in bringing better buildings and value-add to our customers is through dialogue and collaboration. We need to foster an understanding of what makes good content differ greatly through a building’s life-cycle.

As opposed to other conferences, this is not a place where you just show up and sit passively taking notes, you’ll be engaged in plenty of discussion, you’ll be challenged in the network breaks and your brain will get high on the sheer quality of interactions taking place throughout and after the event. So whether you’re a seasoned practitioner or just getting started, we are here to help you grow.

Think about it. A little over a year ago, I was scrambling to formulate a revitalization for our BIM strategy; I threw myself at the lions at the inaugural event and was not devoured. Even though I did not have the same BIM terminology and lingo as many of the attendees – I could bring a different perspective – and thus we found common ground. In fact, I was approached some months after the event and asked if I would be interested in joining the Committee; this time there was no hesitation on my end; what better group of experts could a manufacturer wish for?

I want to thank you for sticking with me for this lengthy post. Attending BuildConSum gave me an invaluable network to further tweak our BIM strategy and that is essentially free consultancy that also allows me to challenge my service providers – making me confident that this time, we are really going to be on top of things.

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