Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I've got a secret and I can't explain...

So...I've seen a lot lately about conferences and BIM calls, and groups, and the same people getting up saying the same things.  And that's all fine and well, but it got me thinking about those who don't say anything, and are doing wonderful and amazing things...but you will never know.

There's a great movie / documentary called "Born Rich".  It was created by Jamie Johnson, who is an heir to the Johnson & Johsnon consumer good and pharmaceutical empire.  One of the best lines in the whole movie is by Johnson's father...and I'm paraphrasing, but he basically said "Those who have money don't talk about it. "

Now, how does that apply to BIM?  First and foremost, this is not a finger pointing exercise, so don't take it that way...but having said that, I have been to many a BIM conference or a BIM presentation in my time, and the presenter is presenting something that is "cutting edge" or the vendor is espousing "look how advanced 'this' is"...and you sit back and say "Huh?  ah, no."

In Februrary 2013, I tweeted this with @NigelPDavies from Evolve Consultancy.

I can tell you from experience:  I have three categories for some of the most advanced use of technology you'll never hear about:  government projects, EPCM projects, and "I don't want to brag" projects.

1) Government - while some of the projects the AEC community does are for "public
entities" like the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), or the Military Health Systems (MHS), or the Veteran's Administration (VA), many are not.  Many projects are done for either the Department of Energy on super secret sites, or for other organizations that can't be mentioned at this time.  In many of these cases, innovations are happening that you will never know about because the firm CAN'T talk about the project, let alone the innovations on the project.

2) EPCM - The very nature of Engineer, Procure, Construct Manage (EPCM) projects is "Black Box."  EPCM is very common in energy, mining, and large infrastructure projects. Lots of risk, lots of reward.  In many of these cases, the owner has little or no say in the means and methods the EPCM entity uses: all the owner wants and gets at the end of the contract is a turn-key deliverable (plant, building, whatever.)  To stay competitive, these EPCM entities have their own technology which is very sophisticated, and very proprietary.

These technologies are part of the individual differentitors the EPCM firms use to get the work...and you'll never know about them because those firms don't talk about them openly.

UPDATE 10/18/2014  - Full disclosure here:  I work for an EPCM firm.  I am absolutely OK with EPCM firms not sharing their means and methods.  It's our risk, it's our reward.  I think they should do more talking about their scope and deliverables.

3) I don't wanna brag -  There are a lot of AEC firms out there that will not share or talk about what they do.  They go to conferences, and presentations, write down notes, never say a word about their company...and then implement "Phase Next" of anything they see, because they've already been doing whatever they saw in the presentation.   I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I'm just suggesting there's a lot of firms out there that that do that.  (I have friends that call these folks "information sucking leeches.")

UPDATE 10/18/2014:  Context.  I have been giving and going to presentations at AEC technology and Industry Group conferences since 1988.  The "ISL" (Information Sucking Leeches) comment comes from people I used to work with, and one particular person in particular (unfortunately, passed away) who noticed the same exact attendees to conference over the span of years who never got involved with the conference or the sponsoring group...even with the group was begging for involvement, new speakers, and volunteers. 

It's very frustrating when you put your time and effort into a cause or group, where many people benefit but few volunteer their time.

What does it all mean?  I'm not sure it means anything.  I will just say that there are a lot of cool things happening all around us that you will never know about.

UPDATE 10/18/2014:  as I said above in the update:  I'm very OK with AEC firms, especially EPCM firms, not sharing their means and methods.  Learning about scope and deliverable is always a good thing as firms and professionals can learn how to push themselves by seeing "Look 'they' are doing project work just like us, using processes, procedures, and technology similar or just like ours.

My point to all of this rambling is while there are many out there who share what they do in an open forum, there are just as many who don't...and just because they don't share doesn't mean they aren't being innovative...it just means you don't know about it.

Song lyric:  "Secret" from Orchestral Manuevers in the Dark