Technology like BIM Track unblocks communication. But this doesn’t dissolve traditional roles and responsibilities. Your teams need communication rules they can rely on during their daily coordination tasks.
If you’re a PM about to set up your first BIM Track project, we’re going to show you two types of communication workflows. They’re tried and tested in the real world (not just software Nirvana-land) by our parent company of BIM specialists BIM One, who uses them on their projects.
For a quick summary of the two workflows, check out our short video explainer:
Workflow A - The Bottleneck
Now hold on; why is an article talking about improving my collaboration telling me to create a bottleneck?! Before we talk about why that’s a good thing, let’s take a quick look at how this method works.
First, you’ll want to map out all your teams, usually segmented by discipline. Each team has a representative Coordination Lead, who functions as their primary point of communication. This role exists already in traditional coordination workflows; simply put, it’s the person in the room with multidisciplinary coordination meetings, regardless of their actual title. The Coordination Lead is not the person doing the actual coordination; they have an understanding of the bigger picture.
How it works
The Coordination Lead assesses any issues assigned to their team and is the only one who can assign issues to another team. Tasks are assigned to the Coordination Lead who sorts issues based on criticality and then assigns each to the most appropriate team member. Once issues are resolved, they will be closed out by the Coordination Lead, and verified by the original team’s Coordination Lead that first assigned the issue.
Here’s an animated example:
Figure 1.0 An issue that is detected between teams using “The Bottleneck” communication rules.
So in the example above, a mechanical team member discovered that the fire protection pipes are not at the right height so they are clashing with the flanges of the beams. It needs to be moved slightly up in order for it to work with the openings within the beams. The team member would raise the issue and assign it the mechanical team Coordination Lead. The Coordination Lead validates the issue, then assigns to the Structural Team’s Coordination Lead.
The Structural Team’s coordination lead assessing and assigns to an individual on their team depending on knowledge and capacity. Once the team member has resolved the issue, they reassign to the coordination lead, who verifies the fix, marks it as resolved, and reassigns to the Mechanical team’s Coordination Lead. If the issue is considered truly resolved, they will mark it as closed. Team access and access rights are used throughout the process to ensure only the right parties are notified. This is one way of working, however, once teams get more comfortable, the individual who resolves the task can mark it as resolved without reassigning it afterward, as all parties involved are notified and can verify the fix upon notification.
So why does the bottleneck work?
For starters, it closely resembles the traditional coordination process in the best possible way. Coordination leads attend all regular coordination meetings. They are privy to the big picture and can prioritize accordingly. They also know their teams well. Their workloads. Their talents. By assigning issues to the coordination leads, we ensure a productive bottleneck; because whatever comes out of that, is solid & actionable. This is one element from a traditional coordination workflow we will happily appropriate.
Finally, it’s also suitable it is for teams with varying levels of BIM expertise - which brings us nicely to our second protocol: The Orchestra.
Protocol B - The Orchestra
The second method likens the project teams to an orchestra. Just like an orchestra, every musician (team member) has a high level of expertise with their instruments (skills and software). They certainly don’t need someone telling them how to play, but you can’t make beautiful music without a conductor! Our trusty Coordination Lead's services are still required, but this time their role is a bit different.
Who does this work for?
This framework is most appropriate for teams with significant experience with BIM technologies and running coordination. Multidisciplinary teams using this scenario have likely worked together before too, so there is a level of trust already in place. In this protocol, team members have a greater level of autonomy entrusted to them, as we have a greater level of confidence in their capabilities and knowledge.
How it works
Team members in this scenario can assign tasks to anyone on the project. Say, for example, an architect from the architectural team needs an exposed column’s paint type changed. They would assign it directly to a team member of the Structural team. The Structural team members would fix it, mark the issue as resolved, and send back to the architectural team member to verify it and close out the issue.
What are the coordination leads doing during this process? Their job is to survey communication; they are aware of what is going on and intervene as necessary, but they generally let the teams communicate openly.
Here’s our animated explanation:
Figure 2.0 An issue that is detected between teams using “The Orchestra” communication rules.
The Coordination Lead’s role is to actively monitor the flow of communication, rather than act as the bottleneck because we are trusting the information in the issues to be correct. Any course corrections, as required, will be made by the Coordination Lead after an issue is created and assigned to someone for resolution.
As expected, communication between teams is more free-flowing and spontaneous than our previous framework, however, the Coordination Lead will still keep an eye on communication and intervene as necessary.
The choice is yours
Putting in place a reliable communication workflow for BIM Track is important. If you are beginning your project set-up, it’s definitely worth including it in your BIM Execution Plan. Without it, the barrage of communication on your projects can easily become chaotic, especially on large projects.
With both methods, the Coordination Lead keeps the team focused on the big picture; like not nitpicking details during very early design.
Pick either of these methods, make sure your teams stick to it, and you’ll be good to go. Alternatively, feel free to use them as inspiration for your own communication workflow.
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- Alexine Gordon-Stewart