“Why do we have to train them to use Revit?” a project manager asked me recently. Why do firms consider it their responsibility to train their staff in programs they should already know? It’s a question I hear fairly often. After all, it is reasoned, you wouldn’t hire a carpenter if you had to teach them to hold a hammer.
But BIM isn’t a hammer and programs like Revit are not tools with just a single purpose.
Not too long ago, the industry went through a paradigm shift. The rise of the computer brought with it the ability to switch from traditional drafting to CAD drafting; the efficiency and accuracy it afforded was too great not to take advantage of. But as with any major change, there were significant challenges. Existing staff had the wisdom that comes with industry expertise, but lacked technological prowess; younger hires knew their way around a computer, but didn’t have the advantages afforded by experience.
To keep things balanced, firms worked hard to embrace the changes and update the skills of their current staff. Since then, training has evolved from a response to a problem to a habitual practice to an all-but requirement. Training is now a commonplace practice – something seen by many as a problem. These individuals believe that potential employees should learn their craft, and the tools to facilitate that craft, of their own accord. Candidates for employment should have the needed skills and not expect “on the job training.”
But that’s if you look at training as a one-off activity. I would argue that what we really should be teaching is the idea of BIM as a process. Revit and other software are the tools to facilitate that process and which can be learned independently of the process.
It’s the process that can be uniquely crafted to differentiate the performance of the project, and the process is guided by people. In other words, people facilitate process.
Until robots take over and Autodesk automates architecture, the practice of architecture requires a person to be involved in the creation of buildings. Therefore, people are at the heart of the process. Taking the time to design that process, convey that process and maintain that process is key to project success.
So while BIM and its related tools and methodologies can be learned, what’s most important is how people use them for a specific project, firm or client.
If we want to be smarter about BIM we need to put effort into the people and processes that facilitate it and not just rely on training alone.
Michael Ramsay is the Digital Design Leader at HDR