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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 3.2.2 - Primary Data

Questionnaires were used to gather primary data. The type of primary data necessary for this research was both of quantitative and qualitative matter.
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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 3.2.1 - Secondary Data

We have already seen in previous chapters the potential benefits that BIM can bring to projects, and as a consequence, to Project Manager’s workflow. This section explains the gathering of data that proves that this potential benefits are actually materialising when BIM is being applied to real world projects.

Because of the resources and time frame available for this dissertation, it was impossible to get those results from primary data. For this reason the author chose to get the needed data from secondary sources which are easily available on the internet.

The topic of BIM has already been studied by many scholars (Aouad et. Al., 2006; Manaula, 2008; Succar, 2009; Lee, 2008); by professional groups (BSI, 2010; McGraw-Hill, 2008, 2009, 2010a and 2010b); and of course, by software vendors (Autodesk, 2007; Bentley, 2003). Of all of the above mentioned references and many others, the studies by McGraw-Hill provide a greater amount of data about the status of BIM in North America (McGraw-Hill, 2008) and in Europe (McGraw-Hill, 2010a). The latter study has its focus on UK, France and Germany. Unfortunately, no data about the status of BIM in Spain has been found, so any specific reference to this country on this research will rely for on the primary data gathered from the questionnaires that will be further explained on the following section.

Additionally to these two studies, several case studies mentioned in other papers where compiled and the data of these case studies was organized to get an overall picture of what are the real benefits that BIM is actually providing to practitioners. This data was later on compared with the a priori stated benefits of BIM (Figure 2.2 and Table 2.1) to analyze how accurate these potential benefits are and in which areas BIM is not yet being used or perceived as a useful tool. The benefits extracted from the case studies were translated into the Project Management KPI compiled in Table 3.1, to be able to quantify which KPIs benefited the most from the implementation of BIM.

All data obtained from the above mentioned secondary sources is organized and explained in Chapter 4 of this research. Links and relationships between the information gather from secondary and primary sources will be also drawn. The gathering of primary data is explained in the following section.


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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 3.2 - Data Collection

The necessary data was gathered in the following way. A combination of qualitative and quantitative data was gathered.n Primary data was gathered from questionnaires and secondary data was collected from available sources. The data was analysed to test the starting research hypothesis as part of the deductive approach, then the observations from primary data were used to formulate a theory on “How BIM can help PMs” and to propose further research topics relevant to this dissertation. The results of both the collection of primary and secondary data are explained on the Results and Findings chapter of this dissertation.

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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 3.1.2- Inductive Approach

The second part of the research question “How can BIM help Project Managers succeed in delivering complex construction projects" required a complete different approach. In this case an inductive approach was more adequate, because we were trying to come with a theory from a series of observations and from own experience. For this part, it was important to find out what were the expectations of AEC practitioners and their readiness to commit to a new technology and new processes. The opinion of construction professionals on how BIM can help AEC professionals to better deliver complex projects was also necessary.

Questionnaires (Annex I and II) were designed to gather data regarding the perception of construction professionals of BIM. These questionnaires, later explained in more detail, were the base to come up with the list of ways in which BIM can help the delivery of complex construction projects. For this part of the research both the primary data gathered from this questionnaires and the secondary data gathered from several sources were the corner stone that would allow the author to come up with a theory of how BIM can help Project Managers. At the same time, all this primary and secondary data was used to fulfil the 4 research objectives, which are here listed again.

1. To identify in which aspects is BIM implementation showing more benefits for the delivery of construction projects
2. To compare the benefits of BIM with the role of the Project Manager
3. To define which role should the Project Manager assume within the BIM framework.
4. To analyze the existing challenges for BIM implementation and estimate future developments that might mitigate these challenges.

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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 3.1.1 – Part I: Deductive approach

The research methodology begins with a deductive approach. Our initial goal was to test the hypothesis that BIM is an adequate Project Management Tool.Our first step on the process of deduction, as explained in Lancaster (2005), was to formulate the above mentioned hypothesis. There was the initial assumption that BIM is a tool for Project Management. The answer to the question “Is BIM a Project Management Tool?” was assumed to be affirmative. Nevertheless, the assumption was tested for confirmation. To do so, on Step 2 (Figure 3.1) some Key Performance Indicators [KPI] for project management were defined and on Step 3 the information was compared to these KPI to assess the relevance of BIM for PM practitioners.

The information was gathered from secondary sources. These sources are detailed later on during Chapter 4 of this dissertation (Table 4.1). Secondary data from completed construction projects that implemented BIM was gathered to analyze in which ways the projects benefited from the use of BIM. The role and influence of BIM in these construction projects was compared with the role and influence expected from a Project Manager using the KPI that were defined (Table 3.1) based on the analysis of the role of the Project Manager from the PMBOK (PMI, 2004). Although each of the PMBOK Knowledge Areas includes a lot of different aspects, they were simplified using the main topic the author considered they dealt with. This might seem as an excessive simplification, but the creation of these KPIs was essential for the deductive part of the dissertation, and the translation from a complex set of variables to easy to understand KPIs was also needed.


The Coordination KPI was created from the Integration Management PMBOK Knowledge Area. The change in name from Integration to coordination is worth explaining. The change in nomenclature from Integration to Coordination (Table 3.1) was done after reading most of the Case Studies and finding that coordination was mentioned much more than the word integration. Analyzing the content of the Integration Management chapter of the PMBOK, coordination was seen to embrace most of its meaning like “Identifying that a change needs to occur or has occurred” or “Reviewing and approving requested changes“ (PMBOK, 2004 : p.96).

It is common practice on deductive research approaches to use an extra step to the process shown on Figure 3.1 (Lancaster, 2005). This extra step is usually called falsification or discarding theory, and it is based on the premise that the researcher should aim to refute his own theory rather than to prove it (Ibid.). In this case, and despite the unorthodoxy of the chosen approach, this last step will focus on the aspects that prove the theory and not so much on those that refute it. This approach was chosen because the deductive part of our research is just a starting point for the more relevant aspect of this dissertation, the formulation of a list of aspects in which BIM can help PMs to deliver complex construction projects.



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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 3.1 – Research Philosophy and Approach

For the reasons mentioned on the previous paragraph, the overall research philosophy adopted was that of Critical Realism
The combination of the information gathered through the literature review plus the acknowledgement of the social forces affecting the study in hand make this philosophy the most adequate. (Volm, 2010).

The choice of this research philosophy is based on the fact that this research needs not to be based just on ontological or epistemological orientations, but on a combination of both as it is the case with realism (Given, 2008). We will need some empirical evidence to test that BIM is a relevant tool for the delivery of complex constructions projects, but at the same time, we want to formulate a theory of “how can BIM help” this delivery based on real world observations. This combination of orientations requires consequently a mixed research approach. The research starts with a deductive approach to test the theory and continues with an inductive approach to come up with a theory of How BIM can help PMs successfully deliver projects.


Figure 3.1 Steps followed on the deductive approach
Theory of the process of deduction (after Lancaster, 2005)





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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 3 Methodology

The author wants to proof with qualitative data that projects managed using BIM achieve better outcomes than comparable ones not using them. Factors influencing the success of projects are usually more qualitative than quantitative (Fortune and White, 2006) and that social forces have a great effect on the implementation of new technologies (Williams and Edge, 1996) and on the success of projects with complex inter-organisational structures (Maurer, 2010 and Kadefors, 2004).

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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 2.4 Chapter Summary

The literature review shows a clear tendency towards major project complexity (Chan et al., 2004; Williams, 2002; Alshawi and Ingirige, 2003). It also shows a linkage between complex projects and the existence of inter-organizational associations to accomplish these projects (Maurer, 2010).A second linkage has been drawn between inter-organizational associations and the need for “better integration, cooperation, and coordination of construction project teams” (Cicmil & Marshall 2005, cited in Maunula, 2008).

The unprecedented level of communication, collaboration and efficiency that BIM allows (Lee, 2008) seems to draw the last linkage on this chain: we have more complex projects that require inter-organizational associations; these associations require better coordination and cooperation; BIM promises to allow this increased coordination and collaboration. Ignoring BIM from the Project Management point of view seems to the author as a big mistake.

Lastly, we have seen how the industry requires a shift from a document based approach to communicating information to what many have chosen to name as Project Integrated Databases. The scholarly literature and statements from BIM supporting bodies suggest that BIM could help on this shift from documents to PIDs, for its nature is the “creation and maintenance of an integrated collaborative database of multi-dimensional information”, as we have seen in the definition of BIM on Chapter 1.

We have also seen a list of 10 potential benefits that PMs can get by implementing BIM in the projects (Table 2.1). BIM can thus be the catalyst that will enable Project Managers to reengineer the processes to better integrate the different stakeholders involved in modern construction projects.

There are and there will be challenges to the acceptance and implementation of BIM. Some of them are inherent to the new associations between stakeholders needed. The correct implementation of BIM requires “understanding and developing inter-organizational work practices” (Harty, 2005, cited in Maunula, 2008). This requirement for the implementation of BIM could be the catalyst for an overall shift towards better, more collaborative processes that could improve drastically the results and the productivity of the companies working on the AEC Industry.

The intention of this dissertation is thus to analyze the benefits of BIM as a Project Management tool and to explore in which ways and to what extent BIM will help the implementation of better processes to successfully deliver complex construction projects and which are the main challenges ahead. The methodology to achieve these goals will be explained on the following chapter.



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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 2.3.2– BIM: more than just another IOIS

The AEC Industry is based on the collaboration of several parties during the project life-cycle, and the success of projects depends on exchanging information between stakeholders on a timely manner. IOIS aim to increase the sharing of information between partners. Some years back, researchers promised that IOIS would be used “to enhance construction project documentation and control and to revolutionize the way in which a construction project team conducts business” (Nitithamyong and Skibniewski, 2004: p. 492).

Despite the benefits brought by the extensive use of IOIS, these systems are still lacking on the aspect of integration. The author has the experience of working with some of this IOIS (shared FTP portals in USA and document management systems in Germany and Spain) and they all seem to be mostly used just as online repositories of documents that all stakeholders can access. Without disregarding what the existing IOIS have accomplished – reduction of email based communication, safe storage of documents, improved communication, etc - it seems that another shift in the way things are done is needed.

BIM could be the key approach to adopt to ensure this integration and shift from the document paradigm to the Integrated Database paradigm happens. On this line of thought, the International Alliance for Interoperability [IAI] has been developing since 1995 a standard for sharing building and construction industry data. This standard has been named Industry Foundation Classes [IFC] and it follows on the work done with STEP for Product Models. Although IAI’s mission is to “support open BIM through the life cycle” (IAI, 2010a), their holistic approach to BIM encompasses many other aspects of the project delivery process. Their Information Delivery Manual [IDM] (IAI, 2010b) considers, in addition to the IFC] standards, a methodology to support the implementation of BIM, addressing the business processes and information exchange requirements.


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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 2.3.1– From documents to Project Integrated Databases

As we have seen, there is a need for better integration of project teams (Manaula 2008), one way to achieve this integration is by the proper use of Inter-Organizational Information Systems [IOIS] (Ibid.).


Figure 2.3 Use of e-business solutions in the EU industries
(adapted from e-business Watch, 2006)


“The construction and facilities industry has historically used a document-based way of working, through drawings and reports, and has communicated through ‘unstructured’ text such as letters and emails” (BSI, 2010, p. 2).

A document based way of working means that through the project life cycle there is an “unstructured stream of text or graphic entities” (BSI, 2010, p. 2). This unstructured stream is a challenge for better integrated practices. The information exchanged at the document level is generally “fuzzy, unformatted or difficult to interpret” (Ajam et. al. 2010: p. 763).

A key aspect is to understand what means “proper use” of the IOIS mentioned in the beginning of this section. Ajam et al. (2010) argue that the proper use is that of going from document sharing practices to share information at the object or element level. The proper use of these IOIS is thus the one that allows the much needed integration of project teams and the switch from the mentioned unstructured stream of entities to an integrated and interrelated use of information, what has been named by several authors as the Project Integrated Database [PID] paradigm.


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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 2.3 – BIM and Information Management

The process on how information is exchanged is thus seen as a key aspect for successful implementation of BIM. This exchange of information is mostly done through ICT. A study shows that the construction industry has had a much lower integration of ICT and e-business processes than other industries in the European Union [EU] (e-Business Watch, 2006) ICT and e-business are generally used much less than in the other industries, as it can be seen on figure 2.3. In countries like Spain, according to the study by Bayo-Moriones and Lera-López (2007), the Building Industry is “behind the rest of sectors in the adoption rate of several ICT” (Ibid. P. 363).

The low rate of adoption of ICT compared to other industries is a challenge for the implementation of better ICT processes like BIM. Nevertheless, a bigger problem for this implementation might be the way the construction industry has traditionally worked. We will see on the following subsection how the change needed embraces the overall approach towards ICT and not just a shift from CAD to BIM.


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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 2.2.2 The BIM Potential

When people work together on a project, communicating specific characteristics of the project amongst the different parties involved requires documentation of these characteristics (Lee, 2008). Traditionally, this documentation was done on a paper or document basis (BSI, 2010). BIM takes the traditional paper-based tools of construction projects, puts them on a virtual environment and allows a level of efficiency, communication and collaboration that exceeds those of traditional construction processes (Lee, 2008).

Moreover “the coordination of complex project systems is perhaps the most popular application of BIM at this time. It is an ideal process to develop collaboration techniques and a commitment protocol among the team members.” (Grilo and Jardim-Goncalves, 2010 : p. 524).

BIM can be of great use on all stages of the project life-cycle. It has many dimensions: it can be used by the owner to understand project needs; by the design team to analyze, design and develop the project; by the contractor to manage the construction of the project and by the facility manager [FM] during operation and decommissioning phases (Grilo and Jardim-Goncalves, 2010).


Aouad et al. (2006) defined this multidimensional capacity of BIM as nD modelling, for it allows adding an almost infinite number of dimensions to the Building Model. This “n” dimensions can be seen in Figure 2.2 that shows what BSI (2010) understands as a complete BIM.

Project Management has a wide scope of services or dimensions; most of them, like managing Quality, Time, Risks, Procurement and Integrations (PMI, 2004) are dimensions that can be integrated into a BIM, as seen in Figure 2.2.. Although most BIM projects do not yet use BIM for all dimensions (BSI, 2010), it is on this nD understanding of BIM that the author is interested, for it is the approach that makes BIM a relevant tool for Project Managers.

As we have seen, very few PM scholars have studied BIM from the PM point of view. Other than on scientific Journals, an article from Allison (2010) is maybe the one that addresses the BIM potential as a PM Tool more directly. Allison describes “10 reasons why project manager should champion 5D BIM” (Table 2.1). 5D BIM is traditionally understood as BIM that includes, besides the 3D model, Scheduling information (the 4th D) and information for estimating the project from the model (the 5th D). Although the article is from an employee of a BIM software vendor, and the potential of BIM for PM might be slightly exaggerated, the list of advantages for PM practitioners is worth considering. These advantages are compiled in Table 2.1, and should be seen as potential ways in which BIM can benefit Project Managers.


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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 2.2.1 The BIM Background

“Traditional representation methods used by architects and engineers for hundreds of years, such as scale drawings, renderings, and three dimensional scale models, contain only a small part of the information needed to interpret and assess the quality of the design” (Khemlani et al., 1998).

The first Computer Aided Design [CAD] application was invented in 1963 by Ivan Sutherland (Broquetas, 2010a). Widespread adoption of this new technology in the AEC industry did not happen in a few years, it took decades, and when it happened the Adoption of CAD software in AEC firms was progressive, and it is nowadays widely spread in virtually all architectural firms (Broquetas, 2010b). Some resisted the adoption of the CAD systems, and others have argued that CAD poses some challenges to creative design (Lawson, 2002). Nevertheless, in 2009, the result of a study and poll amongst AEC industry leaders, showed CAD as the greatest advance in construction history (Architect’s Journal, 2009).

Despite the relevance taken by CAD in the AEC industry, Khemnlani et al. (1998) argued that CAD simply imported the traditional representation methods used for hundreds of years by architects and engineers into the computer environment, and with that, the informational deficiencies that these methods imply were incorporated into the new way of designing and documenting projects. They foresaw the need for a more intelligent way of documenting projects that “will embody some of the knowledge added to the interpretation of drawings by the human observers” (Khemnlani et al., 1998 : p. 50).


While the AEC industry was slowly adopting CAD, the product development and manufacturing industry [PDM] adopted it much faster and the use in this industry rapidly evolved into a modelling process (Lee, 2008). This modelling approach raised the need for the PDM industry to develop practices of better integration of multidisciplinary teams. Due to this need, “since 1984 the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has been working on the development of a comprehensive standard for the electronic exchange of product data between computer-based product life-cycle systems” (Pratt, 2001 : p. 102). This standard is named STandard for the Exchange of Product model data [STEP] and is included in the ISO 10303: Automation systems and integration, Product data representation and exchange (Ibid.) and its goal is to “develop common representations of complex products for communicating information between CAD and other design applications” (Eastman and Siabiris, 1995 : p. 284)

In the AEC Industry, the idea of integrated product models for buildings, or Building Product Models [BPM] has been around for many years with one of its pioneers being Charles Eastman (Eastman and Siabiris, 1995; Eastman, 1999) who has used the term since the late 70s of the 20th century. The integrated approach was for the first time named Building Information Modelling [BIM] by Autodesk employee Phil Bernstein (Wikipedia, 2010) although many argue that the term is essentially the same as BPM (Yessios, 2004), so Eastman should be given the “father of BIM” title.
The concept of BIM is thus not so new, but thanks to the computational speed and memory available today (Yessios, 2004) and the strong push from software vendors (Holzer, 2007) the interest in BIM has raised very importantly in recent years both in scholarly circles (Figure 1.3) as well as in the general public (Figure 1.4).

BIM is, as it will be seen in the following section, a set of tools and processes with the potential to change the AEC Industry in the same way the modelling approach changed the manufacturing sector. Both technological requirements and commercial interests are also aligned to allow widespread implementation of BIM. With this alignment of factors, the author of this dissertation sees no better time to analyze its potential benefits for the AEC Industry.


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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 2.2 – The role of BIM in improving the delivery of construction projects

Relevant literature about BIM will be critically reviewed in this section to assess its potential use as cooperation, integration and coordination set of tools and methods for complex projects with inter-organizational associations.

Despite the numerous potential barriers reported to the inter-organizational use of BIM (Fox and Hietanen, 2007), the relevance of BIM for the AEC industry can be better understood having an overview at the background of this technology. We will analyze the literature on the background of BIM and later we will review the potential benefits of this technology.


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MT - Using BIM as a PM Tool: 2.1 – Project Complexity and Inter-Organizational Collaboration

Master Thesis. Sub-Chapter 2.1 Project Complexity and Inter-Organizational Collaboration
Català - Castellano - Deutsch
A project is “a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result” (PMI, 2004: p. 5). Defining what a Complex Project is may not be that easy, but some attempts have been made. Simon (1982, cited in Williams 2002) defines a complex system as “one made up of a large number of parts that interact in a non-simple way”. Morris and Hough (1987, cited in Williams, 2002) analyzing complex projects state that they “demand an exceptional level of management, and that the application of conventional systems developed for ordinary projects have been found to be inappropriate for complex projects”.

Construction Projects tend to be more and more complex (Chan et al., 2004 and Williams, 2002). This is due to an increase in the use of CE (Williams 1999) and the increase of number of stakeholders and PM tools and methods used (Bosch-Rekveldt et al. 2010).

Baccarini (1996) mentioned organizational complexity as a key defining element of complex projects. On the other hand, Williams (1999) defined project complexity as characterised by two dimensions, with two sub-dimensions each (Figure 2.1).

Complex Projects require inter-organizational associations (Maurer, 2010). To ensure success in inter-organizational project ventures, trust between the different project partners is acknowledged as a key success factor (Maurer, 2010 and Kadefors, 2004). Because of the nature of work in these inter-organizational ventures there is “highly recognized need for better integration, cooperation, and coordination of construction project teams” (Cicmil & Marshall 2005, cited in Maunula, 2008).


Figure 2.1 Dimensions of Project Complexity (after Williams, 1999: p.271)

Inter-organizational information systems [IOIS] are one possible way to cope with the integration, cooperation, and coordination challenges faced in construction (Maunula, 2008). IOIS are sometimes referred to as Web-based Project Management Systems [WPMS] (Forcada et al., 2007; Nitithamyong and Skibniewski, 2004), Web-Collaborative Extranets [WCEs] or Document Management Systems [DMS] (Ajam et al. 2010). This research will use the term IOIS for it seems more generic and able to encompass all these different nomenclatures while highlighting the multi party collaborative nature of their use.

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