A common problem for organizations delivering BIM-enabled services is how to assess the abilities of their staff, improve their performance and recruit new competent ones. This Episode continues the discussion on BIM Capability/Maturity assessment and focuses on the BIM competency of individuals engaged in managing, facilitating and delivering model-based projects.
To avoid any confusion, I’ll start by defining a few terms. First, the term ‘individual’ in Individual BIM Competency (IBC) refers to an employee  of an organization irrespective of his/her discipline, position or role. That is, an Individual can be a senior manager, project leader or junior staff member of any organization involved in the design, construction or operation of facilities. Second, the term ‘competency’ is used here  to represent individuals’ combined knowledge, skill, experience and – in some cases – their attitudes and personal traits (friendliness, leadership, ability to work in groups, etc.). Third, the term ‘BIM’ refers to...ah well, you know.
Who is Competent and who is not?
We refer to someone as competent when he or she has demonstrated an adequate level of proficiency in performing a particular role, activity or task. In other words, individual competency cannot be generic and must be evaluated against the requirements of a specific position or role. A great Model Manager , for example, may be a below-average BIM Trainer  and the opposite may also be true. An excellent BIM Manager  may be a technical guru but the opposite may not be true.
So how do we foretell if person A (let’s call him Tomas) or 10 other candidates are suitable for BIM Role X? More interestingly, how do we prepare a person B (let’s call her Tracey) to fill a Senior BIM Position Y? What are Tracey’s competency challenges that need to be addressed if she is to successfully fulfil the requirements of her new role? The answer is two-fold: Individual BIM Competencies and Competency Mapping.
Introducing Individual BIM Competencies
Individual BIM Competencies are the knowledge, skill and personal traits required to generate model-based deliverables  which (a) can be measured against performance standards, and (b) which can be acquired or improved via education, training and/or development .
Fig. 1. Individual BIM Competency - the 9 Widgets Model
IBCs can be grouped under nine headings: Managerial, Functional, Technical, Supportive, Administration, Operation, Implementation, Research & Development, and Core competencies. Below is a short description of each + one sample competency :
- Managerial Competencies: the decision-making abilities which drive the selection/adoption of long-term strategies and initiatives. Managerial Competencies include Leadership, Strategic Planning, Organizational Management, etc…Example: “the ability to understand the Business Benefits and Business Risks of model-based workflows”.
- Administration Competencies: the day-to-day organizational activities as required to meet and maintain strategic objectives. Administration Competencies include Bidding and Procurement, Contract Admin, HR and Recruiting, etc…Example: “the ability to identify BIM knowledge and BIM skill requirements for large collaborative projects”.
- Functional Competencies: the non-technical, overall abilities needed to initiate, manage and deliver projects. Functional Competencies include Collaboration, Facilitation, Project Management, etc…Example: “the ability to facilitate a multi-disciplinary BIM meeting”.
- Operation Competencies: the daily, hands-on individual efforts required to deliver a project or part/aspect of a project. Operational Competencies include Design, Analyse, Simulate, Quantify, Estimate, etc…Example: “the ability to use models to generate Bill(s) of Quantities”.
- Technical Competencies: the individual abilities needed to generate project deliverables across disciplines and specialities. Technical Competencies include Modelling, Drafting, Model Management, etc… Example: “the ability to use BIM Software Tools to generate accurate, error-free models”.
- Implementation Competencies: the activities required to introduce BIM concepts and tools into an organization. Implementation Competencies include Component Development, BIM Library Management, Standardization, etc… Example: “the ability to develop protocols specific to generating and maintaining a Model Component Library”.
- Supportive Competencies: Supportive Competencies are the abilities needed to maintain information technology and communication systems. Supportive Competencies include File and Network Management, Hardware Selection & Deployment, Software Troubleshooting, etc… Example: “the ability to assist others to troubleshoot basic software and hardware issues”.
- Research and Development Competencies: the abilities needed to evaluate existing processes, investigate new solutions and facilitate their adoption - within the organization or by the larger industry. R&D Competencies include Change Facilitation, Knowledge Engineering, Teaching and Coaching, etc… Example: “the ability to monitor, select and recommend technological solution which may enhance the deliverables of an organization”.
- Core Competencies: an individual's speciality, overall experience (in terms of months/years), market exposure (in terms of geography), and project experience (in terms of project types, sizes and budgets). Core Competencies also include an individual’s personal traits like those measured through Myers-Briggs Type Indicator  or similar personality assessment systems.
In delivering a complex activity, an individual will need a mix of competencies. For example, for Tomas to coordinate project deliverables with other consultants, he’ll require technical, functional and managerial competencies. However, for a simpler task - e.g. exporting a 2D drawing from a 3D model – he’ll require only one relevant technical competency.
How many competencies are there?
Depending on the scale one uses to define competencies, Individual BIM Competencies (IBCs) can range in the 10s, 100s or even 1000s. For example, the “ability to use Revit, Tekla or Vico” is a technical competency that can be subdivided into “the ability to create new modelling components”, the “ability to export CAD files”, the “ability to generate material schedules”, etc. Another non-technical example, the “ability to collaborate with other consultants” can be subdivided endlessly into the “ability to generate a BIM Project Execution Plan”, the “ability to facilitate Model Management meetings”, the “ability to identify and mitigate collaboration risks”, etc. Each one of these sample competencies can be further subdivided into countless, more detailed ones.
Understanding Competency Levels
An individual’s competency is often assumed to be binary: competent/incompetent. This is a simplistic understanding of Competency as it removes the many shades residing between the two opposite poles. To demonstrate the above, I’ve selected a couple of examples which demonstrate a simple Competency Scale with 5 levels of individual capability/maturity:
Example 1 – cooking:
- Ralph doesn’t know how to cook but he would like to become a chef one day
- Ralph has learned how to cook at a respected culinary school
- Ralph prepared his first full meal at a restaurant and served it to paying clients; they loved it
- Ralph has been a chef for 1 year and is now known to serve Mediterranean food at consistently high quality
- Ralph has been leading 4 different restaurants for 23 years; he won 9 prestigious awards and is now the personal chef of the Prime Minister
Example 2 – modelling:
- Tomas is Draftsman who doesn’t know anything about BIM but would love to learn more about it
- Tomas has received training in how to use a BIM software tools but hasn’t yet had a chance to work on a live project
- Tomas has successfully completed his first collaborative BIM project
- Tomas has been using BIM software tools and workflows for 7 years now and has managed to lead several BIM teams at 3 different multidisciplinary organizations
- Tomas has published 2 books about BIM Management and now has his own Model Management consultancy specialising in large Health sector projects
These two simplified examples represent how an individual’s competency can range from utter incompetence (lack of knowledge/skill/experience) to Expertise (abundance of knowledge/skill/experience through exposure, repetition and refinement). In between these two extremes are many shades of knowledge and incremental levels of skill. However, to keep things manageable, this continuum from incompetence to expertise, can be ‘rounded’ into five distinct levels:
0. None - lack of competence in a specific topic
1. Basic – an understanding of concepts and fundamentals with some initial practical application
2. Intermediate - a solid conceptual understanding with some practical application
3. Advanced - significant conceptual knowledge with practical experience in performing a defined activity/task at a consistently-high standard
4. Expert - extensive knowledge, perfected skill and prolonged experience in performing a defined activity/task at the highest standard
These five levels measure the depth of ‘conceptual’ understanding and the extent of ‘practical’ experience  needed to perform a well-defined activity or task. In this respect, the five competency levels – which apply only to individuals - are comparable to the five Maturity Levels within the BIM Maturity Index (BIMMI)  which apply to organizations and teams.
Establishing BIM Competency
Establishing the individual competency of someone we know or have the chance to assess on-the-job is quite easy. It is however far more difficult to establish the competency of someone we don’t know or haven’t had a chance to assess his/her actual deliverables. Would you ask Tomas, a new recruit, if he knows “how to do BIM” or do you call his previous boss and ask her if Tomas was a “good CAD Manager”? Surely the quality of the answer lies within the quality of the question.
So what are the right questions to ask? How can we accurately establish someone’s BIM competency or lack of? The answer is in Competency Mapping - the main topic of the next episode. If you can’t wait till then, I invite you to visit BIMexcellence.net and experience it for yourself.
 The term also applies to sole practitioners and external BIM advisors, model managers, etc.
 The term competency can be used more generally to describe the capability/maturity of organizations and project teams (two or more organizations).
 A Model Manager is typically responsible for keeping a project model up-to-date, free of errors and conforming to organizational or project-specific standards.
 A BIM Trainer is a role dedicated to educating and supporting staff in using BIM Software Tools and the workflows associated with them.
 A BIM Manager is loosely defined role but is typically responsible for championing (or executing) the BIM diffusion process within an organization, supporting the development/delivery of BIM products and services, and facilitating the process of collaboration with other project participants.
 Model-based deliverables (also known as Model Uses or BIM Uses) are the deliverables expected from generating, collaborating-on and linking data-rich 3D models to external databases. Model-based deliverables include those specific to facility Design (e.g. Immersive Environments), Construction (e.g. Construction Logistics and Flow) and Operation (e.g. Asset Tracking) - refer to Figure 1 in Episode 15.
 Education focuses on improving awareness, knowledge, understanding (e.g. learning design theory and how to calculate thermal gain), training focuses on skill improvement (e.g. how to use Tekla or operate a laser scanner), and development focuses on improving attitude/traits (e.g. leadership, ability to work in teams, etc.).
 Competency is “the ability to” perform an activity or task irrespective of how well it is performed.
 The 5 Individual Competency Scales roughly match the 5 levels of the BIM Maturity Index (BIMMI): ad-hoc, defined, managed, integrated and optimised. For more information, please refer to Episode 13
 There are countless definitions for Knowledge, Skill, Experience and Attitude (personal traits). The model used in this post combines Conceptual Knowledge (referred to as Knowledge) with Procedural Knowledge (referred to as Skill)....Academic minds interested in this distinction may wish to read Types and Qualities of Knowledge by De Jong and Ferguson-Hessler (1996) - PDF 1MB.
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