The Story of TL;DR & the BIM Freight Train

TL;DR: Ain’t nobody got time for that, and the train’s coming through town.

I admit it. I had to look “TL;DR” up. As a Marketer in the 41+ age group, those four letters didn’t innately make sense to me. TL;DR stands for “Too long, didn’t read” and is commonly used by Millennials and iGen. You may have just chuckled how a generation so often accused of being lazy and entitled is flying the “TL;DR” flag – but maybe they’re not lazy and entitled. Maybe they’re operationally efficient and understand their role in the marketplace. More on that later.

Let’s start with agreeing on two incontrovertible facts:

  1. An older generation of Architects, Engineers, and Contractors (AEC) is hanging up the spikes, calling it a day, and faithfully watching Wheel of Fortune at 6PM after dinner instead of staying up late at night finishing building plans. If you read Mark Arnold’s recent blog about the NYC Revit User Group (RUG) it’s clear that the next generation of AECs design exclusively in BIM. It’s the default. As I write this blog post in a word processing program, you can guess which one I’m using. That’s how these generations see BIM. Millennials have now been in the AEC industry for so long that iGen (earliest born in ’95, now 23) are now influencing the design and selection process. While BIM may not have been fully adopted by the Baby Boomers, it was largely adopted by Gen X, even more so by Xennials and has full participation from the Millennials and iGen. TL;DR – AECs who did not adopt BIM have aged out and have been replaced by a generation born into BIM.
  2. AECs want to go to the Manufacturer’s website for BIM content. While there are several studies that prove this, perhaps the most well-known was the AIA-sponsored study from May of 2017 that found 85% of specifying Architects prefer to go to the Manufacturer’s website first. It’s a safe assumption that almost a year later it’s probably still close to that, maybe a few ticks higher. Why do AECs want to go to the Manufacturer’s website? AECs believe that the Manufacturer has the most accurate, up-to-date BIM content for their products – which stands to reason. TL;DR – Building Product Manufacturers must have BIM on their website.

Just as with many industries, it’s not just about the product any longer – but the experience. Having accurate BIM content somewhere on some random website as a manufacturer is no longer good enough. If the AEC is going searching for your BIM content – what type of BIM experience are they having? Pretend you’re unfamiliar with your own website and perform a test: start the clock at your homepage and see how long it takes you to find your BIM. Is it easy? Was it available on the top-nav? How is the search functionality? Are there dynamic filters, great visuals and accompanying content such as installation guides, spec-sheets, warranty information and sustainability information centralized, easy to browse and take down?

Then ask yourself how long you would expect the TL;DR generation to stay dedicated to searching to the ends of the Internet in efforts to find your specific content.

If the number you came up with was longer than 45 seconds to a minute, you’re kidding yourself. In a recent interview conducted for the forthcoming Building Product Manufacturing Benchmark Report, an AEC described the process of going to a manufacturer’s website that didn’t have their BIM easily accessible:

“Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Their bosses don’t want them spending exorbitant amounts of time hunting for specific BIM content, either. They definitely don’t want them spending non-billable hours cleaning up models or attempting to recreate a product they couldn’t find. They’ll just move on to the next manufacturer’s website and try to quickly find it there. That’s not being lazy, that’s being operationally efficient. These AECs may have a slight preference for a certain curtain wall, door hardware or roofing system – but they’re not going to spend a ton of time attempting to find it if they can use an acceptable substitute from another manufacturer.

AECs aged 40 and under (of which 89.5% are now Millennials or iGen) expect the Manufacturer to have BIM readily available for their use. Is that entitlement, or is it accurately discerning their influential place in the multi-trillion-dollar commercial construction market? Isn’t it fair for them to expect manufacturers whose products they can select to use to provide it to them?

Ten years ago, the BIM adoption train was the Little Engine That Could, slowly chugging up the mountain. Ten years ago, early-adopting BPMs created BIM for the AEC community because it was something they heard AECs starting to ask for; and knowing the influence this group has to their bottom-line, wanted to do anything they could to help the AECs. Click-clack.

Manufacturers that weren’t early adopters followed, realizing that BIM was not a passing fad. Click-clack, click-clack, the train picked up speed.

Time went on and adoption increased. Countries have mandated BIM usage. US States have mandated BIM be used in design. Even major US cities have begun mandating BIM be used. Generations have been schooled into BIM while others were born into BIM. Click-clack, click-clack, click-clack.

The Little Engine That Could is no longer a promise of what the future may hold or a prophesy Manufacturers can hedge their bets on; waiting to see how BIM pans out. The Little Engine That Could has transformed into a freight train charging downhill – and its next stop is your town.