There are only two reasons to do BIM

The B in BIM stands for Business

Recently, I talked about your first task when learning BIM. Once you can match and exceed what you did before, what comes next? Whatever you want, really. But it should be done within the following frame work:

Whether you are just learning ARCHICAD or have been doing BIM for years, you need to understand why you are working the way you are.

Back in 2012 I was talking with Steve Benford, the Managing Director of Graphisoft North America, about a presentation I was putting together for the Architecture Boston Expo. The topic was on Client Communications with BIM. It’s a topic I’m very passionate about and have now spent many, many years championing. The conversation with Steve was a turning point. Prior to that meeting, I’d been focusing on all the cool stuff that ARCHICAD can do, but never really understood why it mattered. Or not the deeper reason of why. During the conversation with Steve, he kept bringing it back to business value and profit. At first it was kind of annoying. I didn’t want to argue with him, he’s the head of GSNA. But I didn’t want to talk about money and business; I wanted to talk about art and beauty and making the client fall in love with design. Steve kept at it and I knew I had to tweak the presentation to fit his vision. After all, I was speaking at ABX at GRAPHISOFT’s request. I wanted to make GSNA happy, and while I didn’t quite understand Steve’s insistence, I trusted him. So I worked hard to focus the presentation on dollars and business.

The M in BIM stands for Money

Steve was absolutely right and it wasn’t long before I realized it. BIM is all about money. All the promise of BIM is worthless if you are losing money. Who cares if you save time during CA, if you are chronically over budget during schematic design and construction documentation. BIM is a business decision. That’s why the first step is to match then exceed what you did before. The first hurdle of BIM adoption is to produce a profitable business model. Once you have achieved parity with previous methods, then you can do something new. And all things new fall into one of two categories:

  1. Provide the same services in less time.
  2. Provide more services in the same amount of time.

And as we know time = money, so really both these statements can be described as:

  1. Provide the same services for less money.
  2. Provide more services for the same amount of money.

There’s a third way to write those options where we keep the cost to the client the same regardless of how the work is done. In this case we are now looking at profit and profit margin, not fee. If the client pays the same for a given amount of work, regardless of the time it takes you, then speed = profit and more work = more money. Thus we have:

  1. Provide the same services, with higher profit margins.
  2. Provide more services, with more profits.

When we harness the power of BIM and play with the variables of time, cost, quality, and scope, we create different business models.

time-cost-quality

Provide the same services in less time.

As I began writing this article, a friend was spending the day on a boat with his daughter. He had two big deadlines looming, but he skipped work to spend the day on a field trip. There are a lot of reasons why he could do this, but one explanation is this:

An architect goes off on his own. The architect selects ARCHICAD as his tool of choice. ARCHICAD allows the architect to work faster and easily collaborate with other ARCHICAD users. The architect builds a small practice that allows him to make the money he needs to support his family while also giving him the lifestyle to enjoy his family.

In this scenario my friend is focusing on providing the same services in less time. He splits the extra time he has between family and taking on more projects.Same Work Less Time

Provide more services in the same amount of time.

The other option is more services in the same amount of time. This could be anything from sun studies to clash detection to COBie data. Really the potential list of additional services is enormous and increasing daily. Basically anything and everything that people give as the reason for doing BIM—and all the stuff that they promise we will be doing in the future. All of this is the additional stuff. All of it is more services. Same Time More Work

This choice between the same faster or more in the same time can be applied to everything we talk about when we discuss the benefits of BIM. Are you intrigued by industry standards and data exchange with collaborators? That’s more stuff. Are you in love with the idea of working from home and having more time with your kids? That’s the same in less time. Renderings: more. A smaller firm: the same in less time. Longer vacations? Less errors? Everything is either one or the other. Placing each reason in the correct column will help you understand its value and outcome. If you are doing something that should be a time savings and it’s not saving you time, then you need to fix that. If you are doing something with the intent to add more value or services to your firm and it’s doing neither, then you have a problem.

Speed and Services: Choose Two

Both increased speed and services are business models that are facilitated by BIM. Which resonates with you more? I wish I could tell you to pick one and focus only on it. Sadly I can’t. Because of pressures within the AEC industry, the answer is you have to do both. But you can prioritize one and build a business off of one to start (remember you can’t do everything that BIM promises on Day 1 or Day 10,000).

There’s still time. For now. Long term though this isn’t an either/or proposition. It’s both because you’re competing against firms that are chasing either or both of those goals, and because we work in an ever evolving technological landscape where hardware and software are getting more powerful (and easier to use). Thus the threshold of faster or more continues to lower. Even if you are building a business model around additional services provided by BIM, you also have to find efficiencies and reduce time. And even if you are just focused on reducing the time it takes to produce your work, the level of expected value is ever increasing. So while now it is pretty much expected by clients to see 3D models and renderings (and really not something that can be considered additional services), in the future more stuff will be moved from the bonus to the assumed column.

More Work Less Time

On both a micro and macro scale, things move from additional services to included services. They progress from more in the same amount of time to the same in a less amount of time.

This is the grinding pressure of progress.

This pressure is good. It means we are adding value. When you ask yourself am I doing the same things faster or more in the same amount of time, you can only compare your current methods to the recent past. When you first switch to BIM, you can compare your output to pre-BIM results. If you didn’t offer renderings pre-BIM, then you shouldn’t be promising renderings on your first BIM projects. Or at least think of those as additional services, because when you are first learning ARCHICAD, renderings aren’t free. But over time, you need to see them as part of your standard offerings. You need to start doing more and then do it in less time.

Speed and Services: Don’t Let Quality Suffer.

While we focus on the balance of accomplishing more in less time, we need to keep an eye on quality. As you increase speed and services, you need to also maintain the quality of your previous output. Your clients will not be happy if you give them faster garbage, or more garbage. Lots of fast garbage will not lead to more money or more business. And if you do that, then you’re forgetting what the acronym BIM means: Business IFC Money.

Do I even need to mention how garbage data makes IFC useless???

For the Money

Doing the same in less time or more in the same amount of time is something we need to think about when we are working in ARCHICAD. And it’s something that can be applied to very concrete ARCHICAD-specific decisions. For instance, when you are faced with keeping your business model on track and not wasting time, energy, or money, it’s often important to think about how much you should model. Here’s some advice:

  1. How much should I model in ArchiCAD? (Part 1)
  2. How much should I model in ArchiCAD? (Part 2)

Are you following Graphisoft North America on Twitter? Click Here to keep track of all the latest ARCHICAD News in North America (and beyond). Why are you using ARCHICAD? Have you ever thought about it in terms of more services versus less time?

5 Comments

  1. Richard

    One business/money topic that is intertwined with all this is HOW you bill for your time. If you simply bill by the hour (as many architects do), there is absolutely NO financial advantage to increasing your output for the same period of time. In fact, there is a distinct DISADVANTAGE in that you now have to market for and get more projects to make up for the probable loss of income from getting projects out the door faster.

    Now, if you are doing projects in the same amount of time, but doing them better, then you may have gained a reduction in liability and perhaps more desirability, but this is not an immediate gain in income. Until architects adopt what has been called “value pricing,” increased production speed is not hugely compelling from a financial standpoint.

    Reply
    • Jared Banks

      I’d counter with if you are doing work faster then you should be charging more for your time. Many years ago I had this conversation with a professor. He said (something to the effect of): If you can do X amount of work for Y/hr in Z amount of time, then if you can do it in Z/2 amount of time you should be charging 2Y/hr. Of course when I then asked him to pay me more an hour for the basswood models I was building for him at the time, he said no.

      The point you make is spot on though. BIM does not give us all the answers. IF we do work faster, then we need to decide what that means: do we charge more, do we make less, do we go from hourly to lump sum. Or do we just spend more time adding more detail and checking our work. IF we can do a set in 10 fewer hours because of ARCHICAD, can we reinvest those 10 hours into the project, making it better? Depending on the day, I like all those answers. I want time to go slower on the stuff that matters.

      Reply
      • Marin Racic

        What we should do is take on more work, deliver in the usual time frame (so that the client doesn’t REALLY know how fast we can be) and earn more. What usually happens (in my office, at least) is that we spend the extra time into project development so that the project is better in any possible way. Maybe we should consider the alternatives…

        Reply
        • Jared Banks

          Yes to all that! What you end up doing is a fine solution. Perhaps the best solution. The result is better buildings that you’re more proud of. That’s the actual reason to do BIM; the true goal is to have more pride in our work. We reinvest the time we save to make things we love more. That is pretty great.

          Reply
      • Marin Racic

        BTW, great article, Jared! 🙂

        Reply

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