Collaborative BIM – wow! or what?!

After my ‘extranet’ predictions post earlier this week, I had a think about  Asite‘s Collaborative BIM product, and whether the industry is yet ready for such a thing.

Regular readers may recall (see my 10 October 2006 post) that Asite first announced its ‘forthcoming’ collaborative BIM product at a London conference on 4 October. Just over a fortnight later (post), Asite said it would be announcing the ‘forthcoming’ release of the product at the BuildingSMART Week Conference in the US on 1 November. Then, on 17 November, Asite said the product had taken “another step towards success” in Washington – describing how the product will do various things:

“Asite Collaborative BIM will provide the e-collaboration tool allowing project teams to communicate and interact using one central BIM….  will allow the supply chain to gain so much more from using a BIM… will integrate the existing BIM into one central repository allowing the whole supply chain to collaborate in ‘real time’.”

Lots of future-gazing stuff, and yet we still await the BIM product. Three months after the initial announcement, Asite’s website is still saying it is “coming soon…” (as is its Asite Workspace product, originally due to be available “from December 2006“).

And were audiences “wowed” by the BIM product? According to Asite, “Chief Technology Officer, Nathan Doughty, wowed the audience with a demonstration of Asite BIM” on 4 October, and “The Asite demonstration wowed the audience” in Washington on 1 November. If the product demonstration was so sensational, I would have expected someone to be writing about it, but – apart from Asite and me (sad git!) – nobody appears that interested.

Searching the web and the blogosphere for feedback on BuildingSMART, for example, I found an IAI news release (no mention of Asite) and an account on the National BIM Standard website. The BuildingSMART Week recap doesn’t mention being wowed (it also doesn’t mention Asite); and in relation to one 1 November session (not sure if Asite participated in this or not), the writer found it all ‘unfortunately overwhelming’:

“‘Seeing Is Believing’ was conducted with a dozen or more participants all working on the same model…. Design and analysis was preformed [sic] on the model by an international group of participants each looking at a different aspect of the project using different software applications on stage in real time. It was unfortunately overwhelming. The concept of virtually building and completely analyzing and modifying a product prior to the first physical action is mind-boggling. Now we just need a better way of doing that demonstration for the average Joe. I believe it was filmed and possibly through the magic of editors and inclusion of some explanations it may yield a marketable product.”

This somewhat sceptical or confused reaction from someone interested enough to attend a BuildingSMART event on improving interoperability seems to coincide with other views I’ve seen expressed in recent months (see my BIM – some background reading and BIM, BIMs or SBIM? posts, for example). And after reading another paper (on legal aspects of BIM) this morning, I suspect collaborative BIM may find itself in the same predicament as other AEC technologies (eg: ‘project extranets’) where the critical factors are not the technology per se, but having the appropriate people and processes in place to support it.

In the meantime, apparently “Asite is now looking forward to playing a leading role in the next IAI International conference taking place in the UK in April of 2007”. Six months after the Washington event, will the appetite for BIM have increased? Will the presentations be less “overwhelming”? Or will we still be struggling to convince those working at the sharp end in the industry? If so, then Asite and its fellow promoters of BIM tools could still find themselves struggling to promote ‘a marketable product’.

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  1. […] I’m sorry Asite, but as a former journalist and a PR professional, I cringe when I read news releases like this. The opening sentences are vacuous puff unconnected with the factual content, ie: the shares purchase. How has the ‘full commitment of its current customers’ been demonstrated – are we talking new contracts? If so, say so; if not, say nothing. And how will two forthcoming software releases make “Asite’s future growth very positive”? This can only be speculation, particularly in relation to the Collaborative BIM product (see post). […]

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