The seven questions of BIM


Iain Miskimmin of Bentley Systems examines the seven key questions that need to be addressed to ensure trust in the BIM process and the successful delivery of a digital asset

Getting the best digital asset delivery and, in so doing, getting a better outcome for the client should be on the agenda for every member of the supply chain. This has a very positive impact on both sides of the contractual fence. The client delivers the outcomes that their customers want and the supply chain becomes a trusted partner for future projects and throughout the lifecycle of the asset itself.

However, things can start off badly and go very wrong, creating a toxic relationship that can lead to a disaster in the delivery and operation of not only the digital asset, but also the physical.

To help ensure there is a ready supply of information flowing between all the parties, a set of questions have been created that can help both sides understand what to ask for and what they should expect.

Q0 | Scoping: Baseline preparation & understanding before contract bid

Before we even consider responding to a bid, there must be a certain amount of information provided by the capable client to help the delivery partner understand the implications of delivering the digital asset.

Documents supplied by the client need to include an Employer Information Requirements and an Asset Information Requirements package that clearly define the scope of the digital asset deliverable. This should be analysed using perhaps a three-column deduction “so what” method and then presented to the project manager by the information management team so they understand the implications, constraints and risks, and can follow any planning guidance while looking at the bid.

This should culminate in a basic pre-BIM Execution Plan based on past case studies; a planning timeline so that the PM can understand the time it may take to deliver the digital asset and some specific BIM contract clauses that can help with the drafting of any legal framework.

Q1 | Impact: What is the situation and how will information management affect project delivery?

If the digital asset is to form any significant role in the delivery and later lifecycle of the physical asset then an information manager will need to be appointed.

This person will own the creation of the completed BIM Execution Plan and the Master Information Delivery Plan. They will also be responsible for ensuring that the impacts and consequences of the digital asset are correctly understood by everyone who will be affected by the delivery.

To answer this question, the information manager needs to read and carry out a detailed analysis of the client’s Outcome Statements. What do they want to achieve by the creation of this new asset and how will they quantify, measure and monitor the outcomes they desire?

They will also need to look at the existing digital and human terrain.

Digital Terrain 

The existing asset information will come in many forms, whether that is spreadsheets, drawings, documents, 3D models or GIS, but you must study what is available from the client and deduce what the quality is and whether it will need to be re-surveyed or verified.

The digital terrain also should tell you how that existing information was created and how it will be handed over to you, while taking into consideration what standards were used in its creation and maintenance.

This study should bring to light the boundaries and interfaces you will have with third parties and who might hold information for neighbouring assets and services.

Finally, is there a set of Client Plain Language Questions that will need to be considered in the response?

Human Terrain 

Often the most overlooked part of any strategy, this should be regarded as key. People are your biggest asset but, handled badly, they are also your biggest liability!

You must understand both the individual situations of the delivery team, as well as the high level, people-centric outcomes you are trying to achieve. For your information management team, take into account what capabilities are required to deliver the outcomes. Are your team up to this level, or do they need training? Do you need to buy in skills from outside?

Look at the team’s organisation, understand who best works with who. Think of what events need to happen for those picked to be on the team. You will need to brief them and get them working together, not just inside your own organisation, but also across the supply chain. Once chosen, look at where the team is based and if they can either be moved or work remotely.

For the higher level, people-centric outcomes, take time to understand the political, legal, economic and social environment you are impacting with this asset.

There will be a set of constraints targets and visions for these, which the client will need to articulate, with your assistance. What can the Information Management team do to mitigate any risks and make it a positive experience for all?

Q2 | Contractual: What have we been contracted to deliver and why?

Throughout the documentation and the project meetings there will be implied information management tasks that may not be clear, so the job of the information manager is to ensure they are not missed. These tasks might be before, during and after the delivery of the physical asset; they may be in support of others and, most importantly (and commonly), might involve other members of the project team collecting or managing information on your behalf.

Start with the capital expenditure, study and identify the information in the OIR/AIR that needs to be captured and identify what work/task packages these will be a part of.

Move on to operational expenditure: if the operator or maintainer is in place, you should have identified the key players in Q1. Talk to them, find out what information they value the most and how they would like to consume it.

Also, make sure you get their information manager on board and keep them in the loop.


There will be a mass of tasks that need to be completed to deliver the digital asset. You need to identify each task, work out what will be required and who will need to be responsible for creating and authorising the information to support it.

A key tool to do this is the synch matrix. This helps plan out the activities that need to be done, by whom and when. Each task will have a delivery date, a cost to the project, standards that need to be adhered to, IT requirements, sign-off and authority criteria, supply chain dependencies, links to contract or legal requirements and finally questions around ownership of the deliverable.

The information gathered for this question will lead you to conduct a gap analysis on whether your Information Management team and the project delivery team (including the supply chain and client liaisons) can deliver what you have been contracted to.

Q3 | Strategy: What do we need to achieve and what direction must we give to the PM?

Throughout this process, it is vitally important that the project management team from client, contractor and supply chain is kept aware of the implications of delivering the digital asset and what impact that might have on their day-to-day working. This isn’t just a one-way street and their reaction to this must be taken into account when we create a strategy to define how the Information Management team will support them.

In Q2, we looked at tasks and now we need to drill down into the information required for each, whether that is graphical, non-graphical or documentation.

Each piece of information will need to be assessed so that it is clearly understood, when it needs to be delivered, where it needs to be managed and subsequently submitted to. How will it be authorised as it moves up from Work in Progress, through Shared and into a Published state? There may be specific libraries or standards that need to be followed or flagged up so that the information can be trusted. When it comes to 3D modelling, this is an ideal opportunity to look at the volume strategy and make sure each discipline and member of the supply chain understands spatially where they can work.

The gap analysis developed Q2 will have created a list of training requirements either in technology or methodology.

To deliver the strategy, it is suggested that the Information Management team uses a three-column deduction “so what” method will allow them to formulate an IM support statement. This will, in turn, allow them to deliver briefings to all the project participants. These briefings aim to mitigate the cultural risks to both the digital and physical delivery.

It was proven very effective by Crossrail, bringing on-board the project participants and explaining to them what the bigger picture was, how each person fitted in, what was the benefits to them and finally coaching them through the changes they would need to make to their day-to-day working.

The deliverables from Q3 are the first draft of the Task Information Delivery Plan and an update to the BIM Execution Plan.

Q4 | Solution: Where best can the effect be accomplished?

In the last two questions, we looked at what needed to be done and how. In this question, we need to look at where these actions need to take place so that we can develop a course of action (COA) for the Information Management team.

This COA needs to identify who will take responsibility for the authorship of each set of information, who will authorise it and who in the end will own the information.

This leads to the question of whose CDE will be used for the project? Preferably, this is owned by the client and hosted in the cloud. This helps alleviate issues of the entire supply chain connecting into a single source of truth, as well as heading off legal implications for the ownership and access of data. It will also cut down multiple CDEs, which can cause confusion and additional cost to the client. Finally, it will not leave insecure copies of data on vulnerable supply chain IT systems.

However, this may not be an option, so the Information Management team must work with the IT department to work out the best course of action, ensuring that the supply chain can sufficiently interact with the chosen system and the OPEX teams are capable of receiving the information from the system. This COA must be communicated to the project manager and the BIM Execution Plan updated.

Q5 | Resourcing: What resources do I need to accomplish each requirement?

Resourcing is always a problem as we are always asked to deliver more for less. Setting the expectation with the project manager about how much resources they will have to allocate to the creation of the digital asset is an important thing for the information manager to do.

To get a good feel for this resourcing, the IM needs to look at what is mandatory, what is essential and, finally, what is desirable. This must include back-up and emergency planning just in case there is an absence that cannot be covered by the proposed team.

The human resources that you mobilise for the project need to be identified by the roles they need to play. The 1192 suite of documents can assist here

Once a list of roles has been created, do the same with responsibilities/tasks that need to be covered in the creation of the digital twin. To be able to carry out these responsibilities, the person fulfilling that role will need to be given authority to do so, as well as possess a set of skills, qualifications and certifications. This will, of course, lead to a gap analysis of what education might be needed and also to the creation of some form of awareness package to help them on-board.

Inevitably, there will be a whole platform of technologies that will be required either by the project or by the client that will need to be verified and trained on.

Finally, there will be a set of standards, methods, processes and contractual education required, each of which could be the difference between a successful delivery or a costly failure.

This will lead to Q5 being answered with a resource requirements document, an update to the BIM Execution Plan, followed by a back brief to the PM to make sure they are aware of what resources are required. This should be the final piece in the jigsaw for delivering the MIDP.

Q6 | Delivery: When and where do the information deliverables need to occur in relation to each other?

We have so far defined what needs to be delivered and by whom. Now we need to ensure it’s understood when each of those information packages needs to be delivered and where they need to be delivered to.

To do this, the Information Management team needs to map out the key milestone for each package, making sure they are clearly defined and the interdependencies are complete. This timeline should also include when that information is collected, verified, authorised, shared and then published, making sure that its purpose is made clear, using the BS1192-2007 coding.

It is also important to state where this information will be placed and who needs to be notified of its state of readiness.

This will allow the information manager to complete the deliverables timeline is details and deliver a finalised BIM Protocol to the legal team.

Q7 | Quality: What control measures do I need to impose or have been imposed?

Back in 2008, the National Institute of Standards & Technology released a report showing that about 40% of an engineer’s time is wasted searching for validating information. If we can’t trust something then it is of considerably lower value than if we can.

The way we generate trust with BIM is by ensuring standards are put in place to impose quality and therefore allow everyone who uses that information to be able to trust it.

The quality of deliverables relies on the overall competencies of the entire team and in the previous question we defined what those levels are. We must now look at how to educate, both in terms of skills and technical training.

The other control methods are delivered through the contractual obligations of certain standards. How do they impact on the QA of the deliverable and how do we enforce both quality and security on our project?

These final considerations will help us to deliver a briefing to the various parties to commission the digital asset at the same time as the physical asset.

This will help us to finalise the BIM Execution Plan and lead to signing the contract with the client.

Once done, the IM team should embark on a round of on-boarding sessions with the entire supply chain.

Finally, they should produce a case study of the project so it can be used to support future bids and also form a library of template projects to streamline the process in the future.

Click here to view the infographic.


Iain Miskimmin

Digital Asset Adviser/Director BIM Advancement


Bentley Systems

Tel: +44 (0)207 861 0900

Twitter: @bentleysystems


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