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Digital Transformation and the Rise of Information Managers

Ralph Montague
Architect, BIM consultant and director at ArcDox, Ireland’s leading BIM consultancy practice.
・3 min read

The “digital transformation” of our built environment, means that eventually, all buildings and infrastructure assets, will have a digital representation of the physical. Think about that for a minute. Think about your neighborhood, your town, your city, your region or county, and your country. How many physical buildings and infrastructure assets does that represent? Now think about the complexity of each building, or infrastructure asset – the entities, elements, systems, components and materials (products), that make up the building or infrastructure asset. That is a lot of information, and somebody has to take responsibility to manage that information, because if it is not well managed, it will very quickly become out-of-date, irrelevant, or obsolete, and the “value” that the information will bring to the planning, design, construction, or ongoing operations and maintenance of the building or infrastructure asset, will very quickly be diminished.

In the “digital age”, the value of “information”, and the corresponding value of “information management”, becomes critical, if we want easy and quick access to correct and accurate data for analytics and insight, to drive improvements in how we make and maintain our built environment. This drive for better information is creating a corresponding demand for “information managers” – those who are willing to take responsibility to manage and coordinate the process of planning, producing, managing and exchanging information. BIM (building information modelling), is the way we digitally represent physical buildings and infrastructure. ISO19650 is the series of international standards that provide the framework for planning, producing, organizing and managing this digital information.

BIM includes 3-dimensional graphical representations of the elements or components of buildings or infrastructure, but it also includes the digital properties and attributes of these components (non-graphical data), and all the relevant record documentation required to demonstrate compliance with various regulations (building regulations, safety regulations, environmental regulations etc). The “information model” is this full collection of data (graphical, non-graphical, and documentation), held in a Common Data Environment (CDE), a shared digital repository or resource of information that supports planning, design, construction and ongoing operations and maintenance of building and infrastructure assets, for their whole lifecycle.

BIM Management, or BIM Coordination are part of this “information management” process. Is there a difference between an “Information Manager”, a “BIM Manager” and a “BIM Coordinator”? It is an interesting question. We note that none of these terms, or roles, are defined in the ISO19650 standard. These are “titles” or terms have emerged from industry over the years, but they are form part of the process of managing and coordinating the building information management process, or “information management”. Producing and maintaining the digital representation of a building or infrastructure asset, is a “collaborative” effort and process, with inputs from many different people, parties and stakeholders. And this process needs to be carefully planned, managed, and coordinated, or otherwise information “chaos” will be the result. The aim is to get “good information” – the right information, at the right time, available to the right people, that brings “value” to physical tasks and decisions, as opposed to “poor information” – the wrong information, at the wrong time, unavailable to people who need it, bringing no “value” to physical tasks and decisions, or potentially a lot of wasteful effort or duplication of work.

Clearly, there is a growing need, and demand, for people who are willing and able to “manage”, and take responsibility for the “collaborative effort”, and help make sure the overall result or outcome is achieved. Whether you want to call these people “Information Managers”, “BIM Managers”, or “BIM Coordinators”, is probably open to ongoing debate. Or, it could be a combination of all these people. But, the simple fact is, that there is a huge and growing demand, for these type of people, if we are going to have a digital representation of our built environments, both for existing assets, and those planned for the future. And so, with the digital transformation of the construction, property and infrastructure asset sector, there is going to be a growing demand for BIM information managers, at all levels, whether working for individual companies, contributing to digital projects, or overseeing the complete delivery of either design, construction, or operations, or directly representing the owners of buildings or infrastructure assets. There may eventually be people who manage information across entire property portfolios, or for complete towns, cities, regions or counties, in the vision of smart cities & smart economies. This vision of the digital transformation on the built environment, is being driven by the World Economic Forum, and the European Commission, to bring about wholesale improvements in the way the built environment is created, maintained, operated, and even re-used and recycled. By choosing to shape your business, or your career, around “digital construction” and “information management”, you are securing your future, and contributing to something incredibly important.

Discussion (2)

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bigdoods profile image
John Egan

I would like to challenge the whole premise of this article as there is a very narrow view of "the future" presented here, driven by top down information project management frameworks such as #ISO19650 and "visions" such as World Economic Framework.

Have you considered a future where the human is not involved with information management and the information transport protocols (prescribed by ISO19650) are a commodity? How important would the knowledge of the user of the system be then?
(For context, do you know how the transport protocols that your browser is using works right now?)

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ralph_arcdox profile image
Ralph Montague Author

On each side of a browser, there is a human. The browser is facilitating the exchange of useful information between those who have the information, and those who need the information. Certainly, technology will help in the "information management" process, but humans still need to tell the machines what to do (in the immediate future anyway).