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BIM - The importance of procurement


BIM - The importance of procurement

[Published in Civil Engineering Surveyor (CES) on December 2015/ January 2016]

BIM - The importance of procurement on CES digital player


7 October 2015


The essentials of BIM centric project procurement

Congratulations, pats on the back all round, we have managed to nurture our infrastructure Capex project through the trials and tribulations of the stage gate process from inception to the point where we are preparing to tender the Main Contract. What a great relief, we have achieved authority and have funding. Lets go and bag ourselves a contractor.


We need to go back a few stage gates and question how we got through them. The stage gates match the digital plan of works, and we have developed the project using a 3D BIM model from the outset. We started with a HD LIDAR survey with photos to create the base model. We planted that on the earth with real coordinates using snake grid. We used GIS to inform decisions and integrated BIM and GIS. What's more we set up a very early requirements management system to ensure we kept focused on the deliverables of the project at each stage. The requirements became more detailed as the project progressed through the digital plan of works in a similar fashion to the BIM LOD and LOI. The V & V followed suit.

Why all this introspection? We had satisfied the local approval panel at every stage, without even one conditional pass or referred action. The reason becomes apparent when we are told that an External Expert Panel (EEP) has been convened to report on the health of the project. The EEP is commissioned by, and reports to the main Board. They can overturn anything or everything at the stroke of a pen. Years of work down the drain at the end of a six week review. Hopefully not, but possibly. This is serious stuff. We are briefed by someone who has been through one of these before. Some people try to be difficult and think that they can hide things, he tells us. If you don't cooperate they will not find the skeletons, will give up and give a clean bill of health. Not so he says, they actually do know what they are talking about, and know where to to find the evidence. Each one of them is on over a thousand a day. They know. Take that route at your peril! His recommended route was to cooperate fully providing everything they ask for plus a lot more. Volunteering any skeletons and how they were dealt with or buried.

The EEP has a process which involves reviewing the subject project in the following segments;

  • Strategy and Scope
  • Governance and Stakeholders
  • Funding
  • Resources
  • Procurement and Commercial
  • Legal and Consents
  • Engineering and Technical
  • Business Impact and Criticality
  • Project and Programme Management

Procurement is our concern here.

The EEP asks for evidence about how we have procured and how we intend to procure future elements of the supply chain, together with any draft and approved Procurement Strategy documents. What, this is normally the time for writing the Procurement Strategy, just before going out to Tender. You write the strategy at the same time as preparing the ITT. Well, that may be normal, but not us we think smugly. We had commissioned a BIM Strategist at the beginning of the project to assist in making it a BIM centric project. We had a BIM Strategy written to include all stages, and all aspects of the project. The BIM strategy included dealing with 1192 compliance, technology, codification, process, and behaviours as you would expect. It also set out requirements for early Communication and Procurement Strategies to be written. It is not sufficient just to write the strategies either, they have to be actively implemented.

It is important to understand that the Communications and Procurement Strategies are intrinsically linked, we explained to the EEP. From the very outset of engaging with the enemy, there has to be a demonstration of intent. For a start, it is not engaging with the enemy, or even the supply chain. To use an old fashioned phrase, it is more like 'courting'. You are looking for a supplier with whom you wish to engage for many years in a mutually beneficial, rewarding, and acceptable relationship. Your potential suppliers are no longer champing at the bit to get into bed with you at any cost. The majority have become much more selective. This is a better situation for both parties. Mutual respect from the outset provides for a better long term relationship. It is no longer a case of kids lined around the walls of the assembly hall at the school dance, hopefully waiting for almost any other kid to approach them, talk to them, or if they were really lucky dance with them. They are more picky these days, more selective. So are our potential suppliers, and why shouldn't they be. Appreciative  of good clients and wary of poor ones. Relationships are important, and it starts with how you procure your suppliers.

How do you convince your potential suppliers that you are a good client that really means to implement BIM on the project. By being a good employer, creating a good working environment for happy contented employees to work, to grow, and to embrace change. We shared the communication strategy with the EEP and provided evidence that we had done the same to our potential suppliers. Yes, even at the very early stage of the project, prior to the appointment of a designer. We discussed the philosophy behind the decision to share with the EEP. Sharing such an important internal document helps build trust, and helps demonstrate intent. Before you can launch into a BIM project with a supplier you have to have at least commenced the Cultural Change process within your own business.

 This is where the importance of the Communication Strategy becomes apparent.  It obviously contains the basics of raising awareness, informing, educating and engagement, so that everyone understands BIM and its  implications. It has a section on training and support. Importantly it also has a section on Cultural Change Management. It is not just about teaching people how to do their job properly and ensuring that they do so. It is more than that. It includes the underlying behaviours. Not just about competency but includes aptitude and behaviour. How you and the team interact with each other and the immediate internal stakeholders. This is a precursor to how we react to and engage with external stakeholders, irrespective of whether close or distant, important or peripheral. The Communication Strategy does not have to be completed beginning to end before starting on the implementation of the Procurement Strategy. They work hand in hand and should be implemented concurrently, but with a lag. You need to have defined achievement points in the Communication Strategy which allow you to proceed with particular areas of the Procurement Strategy. Without the links you could easily become out of sync and ahead of yourself and the team's competency, understanding, and ability. The idea is that you and your partner develop and grow together, and it is irrelevant which of you are the most advanced in your  BIM implementation. The EEP confirmed she had seen enough on that subject. We quietly thought of the brownie points earned.

The design package

The EU Procurement Rules appear to present some problems when considering a BIM centric project. One of the ideas is to have long term relationships so avoiding the inevitable loss of knowledge and understanding every time the project is thrown over the proverbial wall. The data structure reduces the loss of information, but knowledge still suffers. How do you let a design package in a very early part of the digital plan of work, without falling foul of the EU Rules? We explained how we had coped with this difficulty.

One of the prerequisites we wanted from our initial feasibility study was that whoever did the work, it was an informed, and thorough piece of work. It was, and still is our opinion, that no valid conclusion can be derived from an engineering or design solution in isolation. The feasibility study has to be holistic in both its approach and breadth. Accordingly we expected the conclusion to include build ability, construction and operational health and safety, environmental, stakeholder impact, cost, time, operation, and use considerations as well as the traditional design. We were lucky in our search to find that a limited number of potential suppliers had looked at their business model, and revised it to be more all encompassing, either directly or with selected partners. This, therefore, was part of the pre-selection criteria. It provided a very limited pool, but sufficient. Hopefully others will follow suit.

The tender period of two weeks is a dead concept. Even six weeks for an early stage of the digital plan of works is too short. The longer you give someone to familiarise and understand something, the less they will perceive to be unknown. Unknowns become risks, which in turn become additional cost in the tender price. Unnecessary and avoidable price inflation. We showed the EEP that we started with a ten week tender period but had provision to extend this to fifteen weeks without adversely impacting the programme. The whole procurement process has to be outcome driven not programme driven. Achieving arbitrary dates and deadlines to the detriment of quality and success is nonsensical and counterproductive, emergencies excepted.

The tender period was preceded by a supply chain briefing. During the tender period there were three programmed Q&A sessions, some joint and some with individual tenders.

To reinforce this position we explicitly state that BIM should not be priced separately and that no payment will be made for BIM or for any changes to BIM as we develop together.

We are however getting ahead of ourselves. What was in the ITT.  There was a very prominent and clear intent to operate the project collaboratively, jointly, fairly, openly, and transparently. We stated our role in achieving this goal. Whilst we were generally compliant with the requirements of BS1192 and PAS1192 we did move away in terms of codification and the requirements for the tenderer to create the BEP during the tender period so as to be part of the tender assessment.   We did not want to exclude suppliers who had the desired behaviours and attributes but did not have extensive BIM experience. We also consider that the BEP should be developed together, during the paid part of the relationship. We also left some parts of the EIR as 'to be agreed collaboratively post contract'. It used to be that an agreement to agree in a contract document was a waste of ink and paper but apparently the Supreme Court now supports the concept provided there is clear intent so to do. The EIR was derived from the Government's template but adapted to sit in a requirements management software package with the same concepts of progressively more detail, but always linked back to the fundamental requirements of the project. Being in a requirements package also provides a structure for the validation and verification, thereby adopting best practice, and importantly the same process for both BIM requirements and normal contract requirements and specifications. Whilst we acknowledge that currently BIM is novel and perhaps something of a fad, and therefore requires a degree of special treatment, this is not the long term position. BIM should become so much part of the day job to be almost unnoticed and automatic. To reinforce this position we explicitly state that BIM should not be priced separately and that no payment will be made for BIM or for any changes to BIM as we develop together. BIM shall be included in the rates similar to any other overhead items. We consider that BIM is free at point of sale. That way nobody can say let's save £x by omitting the BIM item. If you can't see the value earned,  it becomes more difficult to seek to justify the  futile attempt to separate and collate the costs allegedly attributed to the adoption of BIM. If done properly it should be all pervasive and the costs inseparable. Furthermore, why should there be a price/cost to the Client. The premise is that all parties save money when BIM is implemented properly.

Which brings us nicely to the form of Contract incorporated into the ITT. It is counterproductive to use an adversarial form of contract when you want to work collaboratively together and share the learning and savings together.

Let's tell you a little about the EEP. It is chaired by a lead investigator, who is also responsible for the final report, and ensuring that it has a consistent style and flow. Then there are the subject investigators  which tend to interview in pairs. We assume they compare notes afterwards. They are all supported by a project manager and a team organiser, which leaves the team able to focus on its primary objective of understanding enough about the scheme under review to be able to come to a conclusion as to whether or not it is fit to proceed, and to provide a coherent report evidencing and supporting that assertion. In this particular case, the two procurement subject investigators, were a man and a woman. Both very sharp with a very detailed knowledge of procurement, our type of project, and people. A rare combination.

We digress, our interviewers have heard enough about that particular area. Going back to the ITT we said that we had used the CIC BIM protocol to amend the normal Conditions of Contract so as to merge BIM into the heart of the contract. However, the protocol did not get incorporated unscathed. We made some amendments which we considered necessary for the benefit of both or either party, but clearly showed them as amendment. Trust and transparency again. From a BIM perspective the ITT included the CIC BIM Protocol, the EIR, the BS1192 and PAS1192 requirements together with BS11000, and of course the BIM Model as it stood at that time. The three elements of a BIM model, and no paper drawings, extracted as slices of the 3D element of the BIM model.

We provided as much information about the project, it's potential impacts, benefits, risks and opportunities, as we had, not just as much as we thought they needed. Again trust and transparency. We even provided our initial Business Case. Corporate Governance precluded us from providing our budget or pre-tender estimate. Over kill with the information, perhaps, but better to share than to leave something out. The amount of information is also, in part, the reason for the extended tender period. If you provide all of the information but no time to read and assimilate it, you are creating another risk not eliminating one. More cost. Obviously we provided the scoring matrix to be used in the tender assessment within the ITT. It was purposely left at a high level as we did not want to write the responses for them. There were some surprises though. The Price was less than 50% of the available marks, post tenderer interview 3%, and behaviour was 15%. Having a post tender interview which you cannot allow to be incorporated into the decision as to who is awarded the work seems a little strange. Behaviour is such an important part of the collaborative BIM environment that it seemed appropriate to demonstrate it. Dates for the two day behaviour assessment workshops were also included within the ITT with strict instructions that the attendees must ultimately be part of the winners project team. We explained to the EEP why we thought it was so important, and what impact we thought it would have on the tenderers and the tender prices. Another tick in the box, we hoped.

The main contract  package

We had been successful with the procurement of the design package and were very satisfied with our ultimate selection. We had learnt a lot about BIM and collaboration with the design team and told the EEP that we would incorporate that experience to tweak some aspects of the ITT, but otherwise adopt the same strategy for the letting of the main contract. Create the trust, and the price goes down. Keep the trust, operate it as a BIM centric project with transparency, fairness, and openness and the price stays down. Everybody benefits.


Unfortunately this is a work of fiction insofar as it has a storyline. However I hope that it can inspire you to help make it the fact of the future.




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