The New “Must Have”—The BIM Manager

The BIM Manager is not just a nice to have but rather a fundamental member of a model-based design process.  The BIM Manager’s multi-faceted skills have a direct effect on the quality of projects and the reduction of overall project execution time.  This streamlined workflow provides architects more time for design, more value for clients, and more profit.

From CAD to BIM

Medium and large sized firms that have or are about to implement Building Information Modeling (BIM) are quickly realizing that there is one position that must be in place in order to achieve success—the BIM Manager.    Since the advent of CAD systems, a position that has made the difference in the effective utilization and dramatic productivity gains has been the CAD Manager.   The better a firm is organized, the more success can be achieved.  It has always been amazing to see how much the CAD Manager is a key to lubricating the machinery of a firm.    Unless a firm has clearly defined standards and process, they are bound to get into trouble.

But for some firms, there seems to be a belief that BIM tools do not require as much dedicated management and that teams can rely on the software to self-manage the movement to and automation of the process.  For projects of any size, this is not sound logic and will likely lead to trouble!

So What’s Different?

Is there a difference between a CAD Manager and a BIM Manager?  Yes!  The easiest way to understand the difference is to understand the benefits that can be achieved with BIM.    Benefits include accuracy, consistency, integration, coordination and synchronization. While a CAD Manager would have focused on layering standards and plotting issues, the BIM manager must determine how models from consulting engineers are coordinated with the architectural model, who owns which geometry, who references geometry, how the parts are integrated, and at what interval they will be synchronized and checked for conflicts. To achieve these benefits, existing skills, new skills and a new way of thinking are all required.  Besides having the entire skill set of a good CAD Manager that ensured an organized 2D project workflow, it is critical to clearly understand the inherent interdependencies of integrated BIM projects. This is only possible with a brand new approach—“non-linear thinking”.

Non-linear Thinking

Because of the way the project delivery process works, a CAD Manager thinks in linear fashion when supporting or managing CAD projects within a firm.  The CAD environment is a “one step at a time” workflow.  If you need to change the design of the façade of a building, you can start by editing the floor plan CAD files, then eventually the elevations and finally the sections and details.  The users might automate tasks and improve coordination by referencing all important, related data back and forth but almost none of the information is in direct relation as compared to BIM technologies.  Aside from objects being in 3D or the automation of elevation or section generation, the building data is all interconnected in BIM projects.  When information changes during the design process, relationships between objects and other data extractions such as bill of quantities change. 

To manage all of this, BIM Managers have to be able to understand all aspects of what is related and what and how much can be affected by a single change in the BIM model.  Changes can be exponential compared to CAD and if BIM Managers are unaware of everything that is happening, they will be unable to properly support the design team.  This also requires BIM Managers to know a great deal more about the tools than he or she has ever needed to with CAD. Before the design team takes its first steps in the project, a stable and clear BIM project environment is needed, which meets a firm’s standards and contains all the needed content and setup that supports the design workflow.

Multi-disciplinary Thinking

Large companies have already realized that the BIM methodology offers the intelligent solution for the integration of the many disciplines involved in the building design process. Structural and HVAC designers as well as energy analysis experts and quantity surveyors can all enjoy the benefits of BIM modeling since they can use the 3D model as a basis for their design. The BIM Manager has to have a clear strategy for how these parties will work together in the BIM environment.

Opportunity Knocks

It’s a great opportunity for CAD Managers to become BIM Managers.  It is also an opportunity for architects and engineers who are fascinated with driving the entire delivery process to enter a new and slightly different profession than a pure focus on design. BIM tools can always be made more efficient with someone driving efficiency and understanding where to push and customize the technology to meet the unique needs of a team or project.  In the CAD environment, the CAD Manager was not a part of the design or technical team but a supporter and provider of the tools that the teams used.  In the BIM environment, BIM Managers become an integral part of the project team and participate in the project delivery process with both internal staff and external project team members.


The qualifications of a successful BIM Manager extend far beyond technical know how and ability. The BIM Manager is more integrated to the whole design process and therefore needs a broad skill set which includes: 

  • Understanding project workflows (schematic design, design development, construction documentation phases) and project management.

  • Understanding different needs of the delivery team (architects, engineers, estimators and contractors).  The BIM Manager works much earlier with the entire project team in setting up the project structure and data exchange formats.

  • Technical knowledge of the BIM application used, related systems and network infrastructure, and awareness of new technologies.
  • Communication and training skills (verbal and written).

  • Strong teaching and coaching skills to bring new team members up to speed.

  • Ability to communicate the benefits of BIM firm-wide, including the “personal win” at each level in the organization.

  • Objective decision-making in times of crisis.

  • Flexibility and mobility. Large multinational firms with multiple offices worldwide often require BIM Managers to help the implementation of new company standards throughout the whole company.  In addition to a desire to see the world, being sensitive to cultural nuances will be a great asset. 

When in Doubt…

…Seek help from a consultant who has “been there, done that.”   The role of BIM Manager is not really new, what is different is the explosion in the need for BIM Managers.   In 2008, a huge number of firms globally will be taking their first step with model-based design.   If your firm does not have an experienced BIM expert to insert into the project team, hire a consultant to get the team going and is available when questions and issues arise.  Over the past few years, I have seen many “wanna go to BIM” firms try a project and fail.   It cost them time, money and most importantly, a setback in their competitive position in their local or global markets.   Inoculating a company with BIM “know how” is going to take a number of projects.   It is essential that someone on the initial project team is a BIM expert to nurture the project architects along to effectively implement the process change.  Some of these project architects will become BIM champions and they are the best people to put on new projects with first timers.  This team inoculation process will go on through a number of projects in a firm until the BIM process becomes a standard way of doing business for the firm. 

What is it worth?

BIM experts unanimously say that they will never go back to the old way of doing things, and see completely new career opportunities for themselves. If you are interested in becoming a BIM Manager or a BIM Management Consultant and are not sure how, write to me at:

About the Author

Dominic Gallello is the President & CEO of Graphisoft. He has a long track record of helping to shape some of the major trends in the design software industry. Prior to Graphisoft, Mr. Gallello spent approximately 20 years in various executive positions at Autodesk and Intergraph. Having lived in Asia and Europe, Mr. Gallello brings a unique perspective to customer requirements and possibilities.

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