Process Workflow

In which Dan muses on the efficacy of our processes for sharing information……

Author: Dan Rossiter

Editor: Henry Fenby-Taylor

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the process of formalising the information exchange required for the design, construction and operation of built assets.  The key element of BIM is good quality information and in order to unlock its full benefits, the quality of communication between different teams is paramount.

However this is easier said than done.  Organisations have, often in isolation, established and developed their own set of processes to perform the activities that are part of their professional duties. Hence there is little commonality between the way that different organisations produce and share information. The activities themselves have been well aligned by the contractual and project management based arrangements for assigning tasks and deliverables, but the critical connection that makes a project digital, the connection of digitial information as usable outputs and inputs is lost. These information exchange requirements are the step that enable so much of the foreseeable and unforeseeable benefits of BIM brought about by better information continuity.

The response to generating a better methodology for information exchange has been handled by prescribing standardised processes. These have generated steps that must be completed in order to handle information exchange to meet the  requirements. This method ensures a standardised approach which ensures predictability, but does not allow for development and adaptation and as such stifles innovation.  The solution to this problem is to focus on output based processes. Where the output is defined within the project, the internal activities of an organisation to generate these outputs can be dynamically achieved. This agility enables organisations to continually adapt their own processes while maintaining a high level of quality and consistency in their communications with the rest of the project team.

In order to ensure a consistent understanding of the activities within built environment project the adoption of an approach must integrate business process modelling with information management. The Information Delivery Manual (IDM) approach provides this. Following its guidance we can capture the business process in place that requires the development of an asset while also specifying the information exchange requirements at every stage. The IDM process breaks down activities based upon the actors who are part of the process, what information they require and what information they produce, it does so by identifying where a process fits and it’s relevant, who are the actors within the process, what information is consumed, what information is created, and how this information should be supported by software solutions.  

By adopting the IDM approach the built environment sector can define common processes to facilitate common information exchange and streamline activities.  This in turn would give the industry confidence in their approach to complete a process, as well as accepting information from a process while still allowing them as an organisation to develop the functional parts to suit their workflow.

Adopting IDMs would also help realise a change in perspective to integrating project information as a key driver when considering process development.  This would improve the reliability between process exchanges, guarantee the quality of information, and provide the platform for integration of the process into software solutions to produce further efficiencies.

When the industry adopts an international process to help improve the quality of information being produced we are taking another step towards level 3 BIM where full integration between processes and professional outputs is possible. The human element is the driving force behind all projects, and understanding the relationship that we have with information and one another can only help.

For more information on IDMs, http://iug.buildingsmart.org/idms/

ISO 29481-1:2010 relating to IDMS http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=45501

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