After I give one of my talks on building information modeling the question I’m most often asked is:
What’s the best BIM business model?
What is the best way to make a profit utilizing building information modeling on projects in their organization?
In other words, how can we leverage the technology to reap the greatest financial reward?
It goes without saying that they have invested a great deal of money in soft- and hardware – and time in getting comfortable with each – and now want to know what the return is on their investment.
Is it the Free business model?
The Long Tail business model?
Or something altogether different?
It’s actually a lot simpler than any of these.
It’s called “coupling.”
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
First, let’s take a quick look at two books that use the sea metaphor to help explain how businesses can best address our industry’s ongoing sea changes.
Then we’ll turn this metaphor on to design and construction professional’s situation to see how they can best benefit from the emerging technologies in their organizations.
A book every design and construction professional ought to read is
C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today, a book that shows how businesses can survive and thrive in the digital media revolution.
Don’t be turned-off by the book’s emphasis on media – especially digital and social media.
It’s the metaphor that’s applicable here.
The book’s storyline goes something like this:
Not so long ago, the business landscape was easier to chart.
That landscape has been upended, and in its place a “C-Scape” has emerged—a world where
- Consumers, not producers and marketers, make the choices; where
- Content, not distribution, is king; where
- Curation becomes a primary currency of value; and where
- Convergence continues to revolutionize every part of every business.
Taking a more in-depth look at each of these 4 Cs:
Consumers choose what, how, and when they consume information. This has given consumers more power than ever in the relationship with content creators and information sources. Those who don’t respect this new relationship will perish.
Content becomes king. With the Internet able to directly bring the buyer to the seller, the need to have a better product, not just one that is distributed better, will become paramount. Those who had distribution advantages will struggle so long as they are averse to focusing on competing with direct distribution.
Curation cures information overload. Businesses will need to monitor and curate conversations about their brands in order to prevent major blunders.
Convergence revolutionizes every form of communication. New forms of storytelling will emerge as all forms of communication converge on a single platform for the first time. Companies need to learn these new ways of telling stories about their products and brands.
You’ve probably experienced some of these forces yourself, on your teams and in your organizations.
There are some obvious overlaps with the construction industry.
But that’s not where we’re going with this.
While these concepts are astute, they represent the digital media’s C-landscape.
Not our own (unless you consider the idea that every organization is now in the media business.)
Design and Construction’s Seven Seas
Design and construction has its own seascape or C-Scape.
But its seven C’s don’t stand for consumers, content, curation and convergence.
Our seven C’s stand for:
C-words, make note, all beginning with “co” – for “together.”
While Construction is another one (Coupling is as well) these 7 C’s represent our seascape or blue ocean.
Because in our profession and industry collaboration and the other six concepts are virtually uncharted waters.
Blue Ocean Strategy
Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant,
You might recall is a book where the blue ocean metaphor represents a vision of the kind of expanding, competitor-free markets that innovative companies can navigate.
Unlike “red oceans,” which are well-explored and crowded with competitors, “blue oceans” stand for “untapped market space” and growth.
A few of the book’s basic concepts – implying where we are today and where we are headed – can be summarized as follows:
- Compete in existing market space >>> Create uncontested market space
- Beat the competition >>> Make the competition irrelevant
- Exploit existing demand >>> Create and capture new demand
- Make the value/cost trade-off >>> Break the value/cost trade-off
- Align the whole system of a company’s activities with its choice of differentiation or low cost >>> Align the whole system
BIM isn’t our blue ocean.
Because BIM has become – or is fast becoming – ubiquitous.
And collaboration is still largely uncharted territory.
For BIM to live up to its promise, we must make it our goal to use emerging technology to address analysis such as building performance and energy use.
As Phil Bernstein FAIA predicts, “as these platforms get more robust and analytical algorithms get more sophisticated the whole analysis problem moves from things we understand right now – things like airflow and the modulus of elasticity – to building codes and air quality.”
To accomplish this we’ll have to share what we know with one another.
There’s no other way for our industry – and for us – to move forward.
In order for us to achieve our goals and in order for BIM to realize its promise, we will have to first accept, then relearn, how to communicate and share information.
The best way for design and construction professionals to accomplish this is by working together.
By leveraging each other’s experience and expertise.
By keeping an open line of communication and exercising it constantly.
By looking to one another for insights and solutions.
If we are to survive and overcome the forces that are remaking the design and construction landscape, we will do whatever is in our power to learn to work compatibly and effectively.
Coupling Design and Construction
Design professionals, especially, like to go it alone.
They find the idea of sharing design input, and more so, responsibility threatening.
“Let me take it back to the office and study it” is their onsite mantra.
Concerning our desire to peel away and sequester ourselves, I love this quote from the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde.
Four small words that were barely noticed when she said them at the Jackson Hole Symposium:
“Decoupling is a myth.”
Making the case for the key issue for the world economy:
Everything is coupled to everything else.
As futurist and iconoclast Stowe Boyd notes, “the steps taken to date have not decomplexified the economic tarball. No real steps have been taken to make the world economic system less connected, and that is the only path to a safer world.”
Like the rest of the world and economy, we are all in this together.
There’s no extracting any one entity from the collective.
For design and construction professionals, it’s all “co” from here on out.