6 Tips for Successfully Applying the Agile/Scrum Methodology for BIM Spatial Coordination

Congratulations if you are among the growing number of general contractors, trade contractors, architects, engineers, and project managers who have embraced BIM to guide your construction planning and execution efforts – congratulations because you know that BIM spatial coordination of your projects translates into substantial time and cost savings.

But now you will be happy to discover there is a project-management methodology that can be used in BIM 3D construction coordination even more beneficially to you and your clients.

The methodology is known as “Agile.” It’s also sometimes called “Scrum.” And it originated with the software industry, which drew inspiration for it from the “Lean” movement started by automobile manufacturer Toyota some years ago.

Agile/Scrum BIM Yields Excellent Results

The Lean movement has been gradually working its way into the construction industry (we at ENGworks are proponents of it). The idea behind Lean is that jobs run smoother, faster, and more cost-effectively when the layers of communication separating those who request work be performed and those who do the actual performing are sufficiently thinned.

Thinning those communication layers produces a more nimble decision-making culture. This nimbleness – or agility, if you will – means projects are more likely to complete on time and on budget. It also means clients are more likely to be delighted with the finished product.

Agile/Scrum is, then, basically a new way of project management that allows faster time to market and quicker feedback from users. The end result is the ability to pivot when needed or confirm direction with real market proof.

We can attest that Agile/Scrum is worthy of the praises it garners (especially from project owners). It has allowed us to solve conflicts much more speedily, find superior solutions by working in total sync, and save everybody many hours of work.

We have seen Agile’s/Scrum’s remarkable contributions to project success – so much so that it’s now part of our standard practice for every BIM 3D construction coordination job we handle.

Consider, for example, our recent BIM spatial coordination work on the Los Angeles City Fire Department’s state-of-the-art station in the San Fernando Valley district of Van Nuys.

Our client for this project was the general contractor. The company had not previously used BIM 3D construction as its project-management tool. However, the GC had heard about it and was willing to give BIM and Agile/Scrum a try, even though the company was skeptical that it would see the good results promised.

To the GC’s happy surprise, BIM coupled with Agile/Scrum proved successful. Now sold on it, the GC plans to use Agile/Scrum BIM on as many future projects as possible.

Try These 6 BIM Agile/Scrum Integration Tips

Whether you are a general contractor, a trade contractor, or an A/E firm, we highly recommend you implement Agile/Scrum for your BIM trade coordination. You can learn the ins and outs of Agile/Scrum online – many courses are available to teach you – but to get you started, we would like to share these six tips for successful implementation.

  1. Involve all your stakeholders.

Everyone in your company needs to be onboard with Agile/Scrum methodology. The commitment to it must start at the top with the CEO and extend down to the rank-and-file.

The way to begin instilling that commitment is by making sure your stakeholders understand that Agile/Scrum is designed to let you address the source of most problems encountered on a project: miscommunication or lack of communication.

Explain to your stakeholders that their acceptance of Agile/Scrum is justified because more than 30 percent of the time invested in any given project is rework. Tell them that, by using Agile/Scrum, they will be better able to detect and remove waste related to the productive process, develop processes more  efficiently and productively, achieve greater levels of competitiveness, develop working teams that are motivated and trained, and support a culture of continuous improvement.

  1. Recognize that Agile/Scrum is a path, not the destination.

Agile/Scrum is a continuous improvement methodology, so you can never really reach the end of it. There will always be things you can do to make the project run smoother and faster.

However, this requires a change of mindset. With Agile/Scrum, individuals and their interactions become more important than processes and tools; BIM software that gives real-time information takes priority over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration carries more weight than contract negotiations; and responding to change    is the ultimate virtue rather than allegiance to a rigid plan.


  1. Allow for a learning curve.

It takes time to develop the ability to fully utilize Agile/Scrum methodology for BIM spatial coordination, so don’t expect to throw everything on the table at once. Give yourself several months at a minimum to master it.

  1. Use BIM technology that allows you to show work progress in real time.

Real-time monitoring of progress is important because it empowers all your stakeholders to jointly, as a team, reflect on how to become more effective and then adjust behaviors accordingly. If you have good technology undergirding your Agile/Scrum methodology, everyone on your team will possess the ability to access from any location the 3D models and drawings you’ve rendered up to that very moment.

This will hold true regardless of whether your preferred autodesk platform is Revit, A360, C4R, or Navisworks.

  1. Designate someone to spearhead implementation and use of Agile/Scrum.

This methodology won’t implement itself. Consequently, someone needs to be in charge of the process.

However, you should avoid naming a person to function as a maximum boss who issues dictates. The designated individual should function instead as a coordinator or facilitator or perhaps even as a champion of Agile/Scrum.

Also, this person should not be permanently assigned the role of Agile/Scrum coordinator. It should be assigned on a regular rotating basis. For example, Joe might serve as Scrum master for the first quarter, with Mary stepping into that role for the second quarter, and so on.

  1. Remember that clear communication is key.

Good communication is essential to fulfilling the Agile/Scrum goal of collaboration. The best vehicle for this kind of communication is a 15-minute daily meeting. The daily meeting is a tool that gives cohesiveness to the team effort.

A daily meeting may sound overwhelming – “too many meetings.” However, if you make the effort to hold it to 15 minutes or less, it will ultimately save you a huge amount of time.

The daily meeting also keeps your client tight in the loop, such that, if anything is amiss at the worksite, seven days won’t pass before the client learns that corrective action must be taken.

We saw the truth of that during construction of the Van Nuys fire station. It so happened that a certain type of fitting was specified in the fire station plan. The subcontractor whose crew would be working with those fittings voiced objections and warned of problems if used.

At the daily BIM meeting we held, everyone including the client was able to comment on the situation and this led to a very prompt decision to use another, more suitable fitting.

The blueprint almost surely would not have been modified so easily and quickly but for this high level of communication and interaction made possible by the daily BIM meeting. And we would not have had the daily meeting but for the fact that Agile/Scrum methodology called for it.

The fast resolution of the fittings problem prevented what could have been a chain reaction of larger problems. Instead, the work proceeded smoothly and on time. Averted was the waste of later having to remove the originally specified fittings.

Bottom line: Agile/Scrum methodology is about changing a project’s “time to market” by means of faster review cycles, promotion of greater flexibility in releasing features, an embrace of continuous improvement goals, the fostering of deeper involvement among stakeholders, and the maximization of ROI.

The Agile/Scrum methodology for BIM spatial coordination harnesses change for your clients’ competitive advantage, which means it also works to your own competitive advantage.

For more information about the Lean movement and Agile/Scrum for BIM 3D construction coordination, please contact us at info@engworks.com or call toll-free (888) 556-6246.


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