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AU expertise: Getting BIM buy in at the construction site

Technology is increasing efficiency and making more possible in construction, but there’s a catch: people have to use that technology for it to work. And in the construction industry, where people have spent decades perfecting processes using pen, paper, and spreadsheet, getting buy in to try something new can be a challenge.

That’s a challenge that Wendy Tam and Victoria Chua have faced head-on as assistant project managers at Plant Construction Company in San Francisco. Both work extensively with Autodesk BIM 360 Field construction field management software to track punch lists, issues, and trade damage. Just as importantly, they’re responsible for getting building superintendents, architects, and other stakeholders to also use the software. They discussed what works and what doesn’t as part of their AU 2015 class, How Can We Get Them to Do It? Shifting Behaviors in the Way We Think About Quality. As Tam says, “They’ve been doing this a certain way for 20 years, it’s like trying convince your Dad that there’s a better way to barbecue meat.”

For Tam and Chua, the solution was to first make the benefits of the software clear, and then to make it as easy as possible for people to adopt. “The great thing about BIM 360 Field is we can capture these checklists and procedures to maintain quality,” says Chua. “We can…catch problems before they become even bigger problems.”

According to Tam, however, simply asking people to use the software got little or no adoption. Requiring people to switch over completely for all tasks didn’t work either—stakeholders “felt like they were drowning.” To remedy the situation, Tam and Chua took things in incremental steps. First, they required that everyone do 3 key tasks in the software. Next, they asked questions about what processes the stakeholders would want to move to the software. “We needed to ask, what’s important for you to try?” says Tam. “We got very positive feedback on that. It was like a ripple effect, from 1 drop to everyone using it.”

They also made it easy by offering free training several weeks before projects began, so stakeholders could start tracking information through the system from the beginning. Finally, they offered free iPads under their Autodesk license for use in the field, since not every stakeholder had an iPad. “We tried to think of every single problem they might have and provide a solution for that,” says Tam.

Tam and Chua are part of a larger movement to bring BIM into the modern day construction process. They’re also part of a growing presence of women working with BIM to move the AEC industry forward. “The industry is constantly changing,” says Tam. “If you want to build the latest and greatest, you need the latest technology to do that.”

Head over to AU online to see what Tam and Chua have to say in their class. You’ll also hear them weigh in on the challenge of preserving the experience of senior superintendents through checklists in the software and how to be a BIM champion in your own organization.


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