Digital Skills: the industry’s new bricks and mortar? 

by Melanie Robinson | July 28, 2020 |  3 min read

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When asked to think about “digital skills” within the context of the built environment, it is easy for us to default immediately to “BIM”. Circa 2011, BIM was promoted as the technology-shrouded embodiment of everything the Egans and Lathams promoted back in the day, but with the shiny aesthetic of digital to boot.

Yet, we seem to be in that funny period of our relationship with BIM, akin to the seven-year itch, where we both know it’s all been for a good reason but we have to challenge where we’re heading and whether we are heading there together.

More and more, I see the digital evangelists of the industry beginning to move away from the term “BIM” in favour of more general information management principles. Okay, yes, the fundamentals of what we have come to know as “BIM” are about effective information management and less about the technology-enabled creation of the information. However, I’m hesitant to promote a shift away from the term “BIM” when I am a firm believer that the maturation of its principles has transcended it as a mere acronym.

Okay, but what does this have to do with digital skills?

Well, we can’t keep reinventing the wheel when we haven’t taught everyone to drive yet.

Don’t get me wrong, that is not to say we shouldn’t be advancing our capabilities as a sector. Rather, it’s more the case that as the digital pioneers in our industry charge ahead towards digital twins and the Internet of Things, we need to be sure we don’t run the risk of slipping right back into old Eganian habits with a “best practice in small pockets” reality.

Ultimately, as the industry quite rightly pushes forward with its overarching digital agenda, we need to be able to support and encourage the many people within it to be able to join us on this journey. 

This, for me, brings the focus of the conversation firmly onto digital skills, knowledge, competencies and everything in between. Our industry and its ability to progress in a digital capacity, is only as effective as the capability of its organisations and individuals.

So, how do we measure digital capability?

Well, we already have the tools we need to understand where we are now as capability assessments have always been part of our BIM requirements through PAS 1192-2 and PAS 91. However, the introduction of ISO 19650 has challenged how we should use these assessments to challenge our own capabilities and competency profiles when compiling our tender responses.

Crucially, the industry seems to be breaking away from the misconception that any one organisation must be able to deliver every single BIM use or function under the sun. Instead, the standard encourages us to take stock and acknowledge our competency gaps, albeit based solely on the appointing party’s information requirements and bridge them with appropriate upskilling.

It is for this reason I see the mobilisation plan as being a powerful resource within the information management workflow, if embraced to its full potential.

This digital skills profiling of an organisation will become a critical element in future-planning for business owners. If a global pandemic has taught businesses anything, it is the need to safeguard by way of embracing digital and viewing it as crucial as bricks and mortar.

I shall be expanding on this further in our BIM Academy webinar on Tuesday 4 August; How build and measure Digital Skills within an organisation when we will be discussing how to uncover your levels of digital literacy and what new standards of digital delivery are required of your organisation to deliver outstanding BIM-led projects.

Register here for the Digital Skills webinar.