Tuesday 20 November 2012

Autodesk BIM Conference 2012 - Review

Big Ben at sunrise
Yesterday I attended the Autodesk BIM Conference in London. We were promoting NBS Create and National BIM Library as exhibitors but I did also manage to find the time to get into the conference hall to listen to some of the speakers.

First up was Autodesk Vice President Phil Bernstein who spoke about what he was seeing around the world with respect to BIM adoption. Phil started by repeating the message that BIM is not simply clever technology, but that technology was enabling a business process change.

With respect to the UK there were some very kind words on how three years ago nobody had an idea on how rapidly the UK could make progress. This was “remarkable” and was down to “inspired leadership”. “In three years the UK had achieved what had taken 10 years in the US and 12 years in Scandinavia”.
Autodesk VP
The Tweet Wall
Technology is allowing us to do what we had wanted to do in 1965. A recent McGraw Hill survey had the two main drivers for BIM as being “better multi-party communication” and “improved project process outcomes”.

Then Phil was then back to praising the UK, scribbled down quotes from him below:

  • The UK can now lead the world in BIM transition
  • This can be the leading BIM market in the world
  • The UK is on the cusp of assuming a leadership position [with respect to BIM]

I’d had the pleasure of listening to Phil at the Qatar conference a couple of months back. Interestingly the message was slightly different – today it was about strategy and leadership and goals. In Qatar it had been about technology and looking at how technology is creating change and how technology will continue to develop.

A very charismatic speaker and well worth listening to if ever you get the chance.

And from one great speaker to the next – Paul Morrell – two weeks off retirement. I've listened to Paul and blogged about his talks three or four times. So only the briefest of notes below:

Paul started by talking about his retirement and how he’d love to be a graduate again – this was at odds with what most people thought as they went through their career. He then showed his “don’t give a shit vs age” graph:
How people tend to develop through their careers
One slide that always works well is when comparing how operation/maintenance of a car compares with a building – petrol light, automatic windscreen wipers, ABS brakes, service lights, reverse obstruction alarms.

Another fantastic way of illustrating companies not dealing with change is the fact that no manufacturer of radio valves ever made the successful journey through to manufacturing transistors.
Phil and Paul around a coffee table. In front of 350 people
The question and answer session with Phil and Paul was interesting.

  • Phil – “In the USA BIM adoption has been a little bit ‘cowboys and indians’ – in the UK you have very clear objectives.”
  • Paul – “We spoke to seven or eight very big client bodies in the USA. They all had very clear in what they demanded. But all of these objectives were very, very different.”
  • Paul – “Central Government can only do so much. We want to push power down to local government. So the industry must drive this. The people working here are your councillors and your MPs.”
  • Paul – “We need to align the plans of work
  • Phil – “If you burn more design calories earlier then you’ll see the benefits later on"
When asked about “Autodesk world domination" Phil’s final humble reply was “we’re just a tool maker”. Hmmm – I wonder if somewhere in-between is the truth?

Finally, I believe this is Paul's last major speaking engagement before retirement - let's hope the momentum for digital change continues and a massive well done Paul.
Matthews, Bhandal and Cambell
Alastair Campbell then took to the stage. No powerpoints from Alastair Campbell because “Power corrupts, but Powerpoint corrupts absolutely”. So he stood. And talked.

Alastair stressed again and again his key message. This was around objectives, strategy and team work. 1. Work out what your objective is. 2. Then sort out your strategy and then 3. If you don’t have good teamwork it won’t work.

In this case, BIM is the strategy. The objective is to get better value for money and be more sustainable. Economy and the environment are two of the most pressing issues in the world today.

When dealing with change management – you must not spend your time preaching to the converted. You must deliver your message. Again and again and again. And when you are sick of this. You must deliver it more.

Alastair kept politics at arm’s length but when talking about voter apathy and people saying “there is no point in voting as nothing changes” he said that those people should look around them as change is always happening. To demonstrate this point he pointed to the Twitter wall. This was just in time to spot a couple of tweets spelling his name wrong in a row.

The importance of teamwork was stressed – the greatest difficulties New Labour had in Government were when they weren't working as a team. Once you have agreed your strategy you must stick to it and work as a team to deliver it. “You must set your own agenda – don’t let your enemies do it for you”. Even when things go wrong, this is an opportunity to get in front of people and deliver your message again. “Developing strategy is about having arguments – not avoiding them”.

All very interesting stuff – however I wonder whether talk of “enemies” was a bit strong – I’m not sure how many delegates in the room had enemies. And my other thought was on what Alastair’s thoughts were on what to do if you realised your strategy was wrong? Did he ever think mistakes were made?

Alastair finished with ten points – I only managed to scribble down 9 of these though:

  1. Agree your objectives, develop your strategy and only then look at the tactics
  2. It has to be a team game and you must be bold
  3. Be adaptable
  4. Stay calm in a crisis
  5. Every set back is another opportunity to explain your objectives and strategy
  6. You have to listen – but then you have to lead
  7. You set the agenda – not your enemies
  8. You have to get out in front of people and explain
  9. You have to encourage risk and enterprise in your organisation
London buses and Big Ben - the view from the hotel
The Q+As to Alastair were surprisingly quiet.  He gave the BBC a little bit of stick for their recent handling of the Newsnight affair – “they were reacting and changing strategy on a daily basis”. When asked about Twitter he said that he was a big fan but you must stay on message and tweet around “your agenda”.

What would Alastair do with those in an organisation who were the biggest change deniers. This was the closest he came to his Malcolm Tucker alter-ego as he said that he couldn't fire people when New Labour took over but after “one or two years most had moved on”. The civil servants who had trained John Major to do his best against his opposite number Tony Blair for prime minister’s questions then tried to tell Tony how to do the job when he was PM – that wasn't going to happen.

But most of my day was spent promoting our developments on the NBS stand. How NBS is now working with BIM tools for specification creation and coordination, COBie generation and standardised objects.

It was good to see many familiar faces - some good banter with the fellow BIMGeordies and also a good meeting at the end of the day with the Chinese delegation from Tsinghua University.
BIM in China


  1. Good blog Stephen.
    I particularly liked the Campbell quote about Powerpoint!!
    Paul Morrell is due to speak on Friday at the Constructing Excellence National Convention in London on 30 November. I shall be there. This may be the last opportunity to hear Paul speak.

  2. Thanks Nick. Kind comments appreciated.

    For those wanting to find out more about the CE conference please see:

    "We will then hear from Paul Morrell, the outgoing government chief construction advisor, who will present his reflections on the last three years since the role was created as well as updating us on the government’s policies, strategies and progress with implementation."

  3. Hi
    Can you give the contents of the conference for the reference of research papers,it would be a great help to me


    Imran yasin

  4. Imran,

    Can I suggest you contact the Autodesk Marketing? I'd suggest Pam Bhandal:

    I know that there was talk about the presentations being made available.