Taking Charge of Your VDC Destiny

Editor’s Note: Whether your firm uses the acronym BIM, VDC, or even Virtual Building to describe how models impact preconstruction and field operations, this article reminds us that proper deployment requires executive sponsorship, a core group of champions, attainable goals, and sharing the success.


It seems that the days of "exploring the benefits of BIM" will soon be behind us. Companies that are serious about adopting new technology and processes are using Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) to replace traditional practices today. Traditional practices include parallel cost estimating and scheduling work, working based on non-coordinated design information, and "4D schedule simulations" put together for the sole purpose of "wowing" the client.


Companies that roll out technology and processes that prepare them for the next 20 years are thinking about value for the owner through an integrated planning approach, which allows for better communication with the client, improved feedback to the designers and subs, and higher overall predictability and manageability of their projects.


An important question for companies who are not ready to compete with VDC early adopters is: "How do I start and what are the steps?"


One benefit of not being an "early adopter" is that there is an opportunity to learn from the struggles and successes of the BIM Pioneers.  A path to VDC usage can now be defined by looking at the things that did and did not work for the trailblazers.


BIM trailblazers 

Caption: BIM Trailblazers like Webcor, Hartela, Hathaway Dinwiddie, Hoar Construction and many others have discovered and honed Virtual Design and Construction best practices.  Now the construction industry can learn from their experiences.


When planning your VDC rollout, it is important (as with adoption of any other disruptive technology) to recognize and assign the following roles within the organization:

  • Executive sponsor (e.g. CEO, VP of Field Operations, ...)
  • A VDC Director (a strong leader who is able to unite preconstruction, estimating, scheduling, and field operations)
  • VDC Experts (team members willing to initiate and drive company-wide process change)
  • Pilot Project Team (a group of committed and supportive employees who work on their project with the VDC Experts to test the designed new process)
  • Other Project Team Members (employees working on other projects where VDC is not yet used; use of VDC on the Pilot Project should trigger interest and excitement about "the new way")
  • Ideally, there is a "push" from the executive level, resulting in sponsorship and funding, combined with a "pull" from users - first pilot project team members and later other project team members - who recognize the benefits and see how the existing process can be improved by adopting new tools and planning methodologies.


Recommended team structure:


Organization Chart for Virtual Design and Construction Teams 

Caption: The VDC Director manages all BIM initiatives in the company and works with Modeling Experts, Cost Experts, and Scheduling Experts to accomplish the desired level of integration. Experts are involved on a part-time basis. The VDC Director is assisted by VDC Experts/ Trainers and reports to the Executive Sponsor who promotes wide-scale deployment of integrated construction planning throughout the organization.


With the described roles recognized and assigned, we recommend the following six steps:


Step 1: Initiate

VDC Experts learn about successful use of VDC in other (usually competing) companies and propose exploring and usage. Developing a plan for approval by an Executive Sponsor (a VDC Investment Plan) is recommended at this point. (Let us know if you would like to see an example.) The plan preferably contains a budget, broken down into required labor hours and technology cost (which contains a hardware and a software aspect) to prevent hold-ups later on in the process.


Step 2: Select Technology

VDC Experts define required functionality and contact technology vendors to explore options. Required software and hardware purchases are mapped out and compared to the budget  defined in Step 1. Technology vendor(s) are selected and perform benchmark tests that are aligned with targeted goals.  If you would like to include Vico in your selection process, we have a 4-week Structured Evaluation Program for your team.


Step 3: Purchase Technology

Sign-off on selected technology and purchase by Executive Sponsor. The purchase is preferably based on the documented selection process by the VDC Experts to provide insight in expected benefits.  And because purchasing software should include more strategy than simply signing a check, we offer the Vico Customer Success Plan to keep everyone focused on your firm’s goals.


Step 4: Plan First Project

The BIM Implementation plan prepared by the VDC Experts should include goals and expected results for the first project; based on these goals the appropriate project (or project scope) can be selected.

Planning also includes assigning team members and hands-on training to master the selected software.


Step 5: Deploy

Use VDC on the first project with participation of the VDC Experts. During this step, workshops are organized for further training and assistance on the project, as required.  If it turns out that the overall project size is too much to handle, select one to three scopes to work on. It is recommended to define intermediate milestones that can be validated on a monthly basis to keep the team on track and to be able to adjust goals if needed.


Step 6: Disseminate and Expand

Share the results realized by the team within the company through internal newsletters, e-mails from executives, a publication board, and "lunch & learn" sessions.


Key Learnings

It is undeniable that combining training and workshops with direct use on a real-world project is the best way to adopt VDC. Preferably, the VDC process is used to replace the traditional process, and not run in parallel or stopped as soon as “normal work” becomes more important.


Following up on training with a real project also makes it possible to share experiences and results throughout the organization that are based on work that other employees can relate to. This makes it easier to understand what deployment on the next project might involve and can result in.


VDC involves integration of information produced by various roles in the company. It does not replace one tool with another but it replaces the existing process with a new process. Approaching the adoption of VDC with a company-wide, executive-supported, and planned process is therefore instrumental for succeeding with BIM beyond the "low hanging fruit" of clash detection and bid day 4D simulation movies.


Vico can help with planning for successful adoption by leveraging the experience of 8 years of VDC and truly integrated design, cost, and schedule planning tools. The knowledge that we have obtained over the past years has been converted into a Customer Success Plan, which provides companies with the right resources, materials and support to help your organization go through the outlined steps successfully.


Caption: Some people think that buying a copy of Photoshop will make them a better digital photographer. Does owning a copy of Microsoft Word make you a better writer? Yet many construction executives believe that if they buy the requisite BIM software, they will become trusted VDC experts. But changing your firm's DNA involves serious process change which cannot be taught with simple software training. Just like all positive changes, it requires hard work, dedication, and high energy.


Here are more resources to help you learn more:

Blog: When Estimators Block BIM

Blog: Resistance to Change in 5D BIM Implementations

Blog: 10 Things Every BIM Manager Should Know

Blog: 10 Reasons PMs Should Champion BIM

Blog: Superintendents Just Get Vico

Blog: What Role Do YOU Play in the BIM Strategy?

Blog: Can You Say Change 24 Times?

Blog: BIM Staffing Options

Webinar: The Vico Customer Success Plan featuring Hoar Construction

Program: Vico Office Structured Evaluation Program

Program: Vico Customer Success Plan

Tags: bim department, vdc trailblazer, vdc organizational chart, bim staffing, Virtual Design and Construction, VDC, virtual building