Balancing the Business Case

for BIM in Project Environments



By John McGrath and Jansi George

Dublin, Ireland


According to research by McKinsey & Co (2016), construction projects are typically delivered late and over budget. Large construction projects have a 20% schedule and 80% cost over-run. McKinsey also highlight that since the 1990s construction productivity has declined in some markets, often resulting in relatively low financial returns for construction firms. They have identified that one of the main reasons for such problems is paper based processes, which don’t allow teams to collaborate in real time (Imagining construction’s digital future, 2016).

In the digital age, paper-based processes are a detriment to sharing information with stakeholders. We have all experienced first-had the confusion of version control and that sinking feeling during a project review when it becomes apparent, we implemented a redundant revision.  Some construction companies have moved onto digital formats of drawings, documents and reports but the information is held in different forms, versions and locations that are not structured and centrally co-ordinated. This leads to conflicts of information and risks of inconsistency and incoherence in data (AECOM, 2012).

In contrast, BIM as a digital database creates, manages and operates information in a centralised area, making it available for sharing. It facilitates the participants to cooperate more efficiently and to integrate their processes, leading to less chance of losing information (Autodesk, 2002).

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is seen as one of the processes and tools which can help to digitise and manage information and improve collaboration between stakeholders in construction projects throughout the project lifecycle

Autodesk (2106) explains how collaboration and project information is managed using the BIM process:

“BIM is not one technology but instead introduces a data-driven, rather than drawing-driven, approach to enable practitioners to execute work more efficiently and effectively; integrate contributions from others; make changes; explore alternatives and deliver more suitable solutions that address needs from all stakeholders”.

Thus BIM can enhance the process of generating, sharing, integrating and managing project information among project phases. It can act as an information bridge between different disciplines in a project.

BIM definition

The definition of BIM is often misinterpreted and misunderstood by people (Aubin 2012, p44). It is often understood as a 3D model but it offers much more to project teams. The “information” component has more importance. It is more the harnessing of data for information sharing, regardless of whether it is presented in a graphical model or not.

BIM is a widely accepted tool to overcome many hurdles currently facing the Architecture, Engineering and construction industries (Morlhon, Pellerin & Bourgault, 2014) but it is prudent to note there are different interpretations of BIM:

BIM is a rich information model, consisting of potentially multiple data sources, elements of which can be shared across all stakeholders and be maintained across the life of a building from inception to recycling. (NBS, 2012)

Eastman, Teicholz, Sacks & Liston (2008, p.1) explains that:  “BIM accommodates many of the functions needed to model the lifecycle of a building, providing the basis for new construction capabilities and changes in the roles and relationships among a project team. BIM facilitates a more integrated design and construction process that results in better quality buildings at lower cost and reduced project duration.”

“BIM is a paradigm shift in the architectural, engineering and construction industries which transforms processes to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness” (Wong, Wong and Nadeem, 2011).

The aim of BIM is to improve the overall project process following the slogan “Better! Faster! Cheaper!” (Saxon, 2013).

While the development of the 3D BIM model is an important component, BIM should also be understood as a process change, not just a new tool or technology. The model has the capacity to act as a Single Source of Truth for all project participants. BIM also enhances collaboration resulting in improved information management and an overall leaner process (Computer Integrated Construction Research Program (CICRP), 2013).

From the various definition of BIM, we propose a three-pillar approach to defining BIM: (1) “digital model”, (2) “new collaborative business process” and (3) “information management and control tool”.


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How to cite this paper: McGrath, J. (2018). Balancing the Business Case for BIM in Project Environments; PM World Journal, Vol. VII, Issue XII (December).  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/pmwj77-Dec2018-McGrath-George-balancing-business-case-for-bim.pdf

About the Authors

John McGrath

Dublin Institute of Technology
Dublin, Ireland



John McGrath has over twenty years’ experience teaching, coaching and consulting on project management issues. His track record includes over 250 global companies, government agencies, state enterprises, Engineers Ireland, the United Nations, the London and Rio Paralympics, and the World Bank.  John has a particular interest in developing PPM competency within organisations and gaining true visibility of the project/program pipeline, a process that he commonly refers to as “searching for a Single Version of the Truth”.  20+ years of experience has taught John that excellence in project execution rarely happens without first achieving excellence in project planning.  He develops master schedules for large programs of work and acts as an expert witness for forensic schedule analysis and delay claims. He has deployed Microsoft Project and Project Vision for projects in excess of €100 million.  John is now a full-time project management consultant and lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Technology. John McGrath can be contacted at [email protected]


Jansi George

Dublin, Ireland



Jansi George is a Civil Engineer and an aspiring Project Manager. She has nearly 12 years’ experience as a Civil Engineer in public sector organisations. She is experienced in Engineering Design of Light Rail projects and at present working in a role of management and delivery of National Road projects. Her education background includes MBA and Msc in Construction Informatics from Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland. Also, she holds B.E in Civil Engineering from Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, India. Her interests include BIM, Project Management and Strategic Management. Jansi can be contacted at:  [email protected]