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The project manager’s business case for BIM

The following is an extract from the Penn State Building Information Modelling (BIM) Planning Guide for Facility Owners relating to the preparation of a business case for the implementation of BIM.

For most organisations, a business case is necessary to gain support for and to justify an investment in building information modelling (BIM). An effective business case is a multi-purpose document that generates the support, participation and leadership commitment required to transform an idea into reality. The business case does not focus on the details of the implementation of BIM, nor detail contract language, but rather is focused specifically on the business drivers to consider when investing in BIM.

The creation of the business case draws from many different parts of the organisation’s BIM planning efforts including strategic planning, execution planning, and procurement planning. The business case should present justification for funding the BIM efforts that accomplish the organisation’s mission and goals. It is important for the business case to show how BIM is used to overcome problems within the organisation and illustrates how the outcomes are accomplished. The business case examines the impacts, risks, cost, and benefits of a major shift in the organisation.

The development of a business case, just like the other plans, is a collaborative effort. The BIM planning team, including representatives from the operating units affected, creates the business case. A business case for BIM includes the following items (at a minimum):

  • Cover page
  • Executive summary of business case
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction and background
  • Business drivers and problem statement
  • Desired business goal(s) and objectives
  • Proposed uses
  • Cost/benefit analysis (estimated benefits and metrics; cost estimates; risk assessment; assumptions)
  • Implementation timeline
  • Final recommendations
  • Appendices

The proper amount of time needs to be devoted to developing the business case. A general rule of thumb states that development of the business  case should take approximate 5-10% of the anticipated implementation/transition time. In this case, some of that time may be used for other BIM planning efforts. The length of the business case should be kept to the minimum necessary for a clear and concise understanding of factors weighing into the decision whether or not to implement BIM.

Preparing a business case

The executive summary of the business case provides a concise overview of the proposed BIM implementation and answers the question of why it should be supported. The executive summary allows readers to quickly become acquainted with the contents of the business case. It is intended to aid the decision makers within the organisation.

An executive summary of the business case for BIM Integration includes:

  • The background of the BIM planning process
  • The vision and objectives of BIM implementation with organisation
  • The proposed uses of BIM with the organisation
  • A cost/analysis summary of the BIM implementation
  • An outline of recommendations

The executive summary is written using short and concise sentences and paragraphs. It is no more than two pages in length. It is written in the same order as the business case and provides conclusions for the reader.

The introduction gives the background of BIM within the organisation. Additionally, it includes a background on the organisation itself. It discusses the mission and vision of the organisation and its implementation of BIM. If the organisation has used BIM in the past, even at a pilot level, it is summarised here.

The business drivers are the forces and pressures that have significant influence on how the business performs and operate. The business drivers can be internal or external to the organisation. Internal drivers could include efficiencies, collaboration, resources, and risks; and also finances, technological capacity, organisational culture, and employee morale. External drivers include competition, industry outlook, economy, politics, and technological changes, to name a few.

The business drivers are then reflected within a problem statement. In his book, The Six Sigma Revolution: How General Electric and Others Turned Process into Profits, George Eckes writes that a problem statement states the issue that the organisation wants to improve or overcome. These issues often tie directly to the business drivers.

Eckes states that most problem statements relate to the finances of the organisation in some form or fashion. According to Eckes, a good problem statement should include a time period, be specific and measurable, describe the impact on the organisation, explicitly state the gap between current state and the future state, and contain only neutral terms. Creating a problem statement allows the organisation to better understand the specific issue that the organisation is trying to overcome through the use of BIM.

The business case should document the organisational goals and the BIM objectives. In The Modern Organisation, Amitai Etzioni defines an organisational goal as “a desired state of affairs which the organisation attempts to realise. Organisational goals should share the state to which the organisation is moving toward and are a general statement of anticipated outcomes. Goals provide guidelines, legitimacy, motivation, and standards for the organisation.”

Goals should be supported by well-stated objectives. Objectives are specific tasks or steps that when accomplished move the organisation toward their goals. In this case, the tasks should be accomplished through the use of BIM processes. In general, goals are usually more global in scope than objectives. Both goals and objectives are necessary to support a business case for BIM.

The proposed uses of BIM are documented in the business case. A BIM use is a method or strategy of applying BIM during a facility’s lifecycle to achieve one or more specific objectives. The goals closely relate to the objectives and the tasks of the organisation. Often, organisations already perform a task to accomplish the objective of the BIM Use, but without the benefit of BIM.

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Paul Sancandi is a senior design manager with InfraSol Group. He has a technical background as a structural engineer, owned an architectural and engineering practice and has worked in Australia, Asia and the Middle East on a wide range of small to mega projects over the past 32 years.
has written 25 articles for us.

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Comments from the community

  • Les Millist says:

    Great work Paul, briefing staff on how to put together a good business case is often absent from a company’s procedures.