Forming a Brief

Hello BIMfans,
If any of you have friended followed connected to me on LinkedIn, you may have read my post on The Great British BIM off. In essence, the post used The Great British Bake off to demonstrate that clearer the brief, the easier it is to satisfy your employer. Without a clear brief, product and services (including cakes) can be open to interpretation.

This is exaclty how briefs often work (I love

To show what I mean, here are two briefs for the same ‘project’.

Version 1:

“Can you please bake my son a birthday cake?”

Kids still like Minecraft don’t they?

Version 2:

“Can you please bake a nut free (my son is allergic) chocolate cake with Spider-man icing for my son’s Superhero themed birthday party the day after tomorrow for him and his 11 friends?”

With great cake comes great responsibility

It is clear which of these two briefs more likely to give the best result. Version 2 is a better brief because it includes SMART Criteria:

  • (S)Specific = The cake needs to be Spider-man themed, chocolate, nut free, and be big enough for  12 people;
  • (M)Measurable = Need 1 cake, and it is clear when the task is done;
  • (A) Achievable = It is possible to bake such a cake;
  • (R) Realistic =  The cake can be done in the time given; and
  • (T) Time-bound = The cake is needed for the day after tomorrow.

When it comes to capturing information requirements, the document that captures the SMART objects in regards to data producing, managing, and sharing information on behalf of the employer is known as the Employer’s Information Requirements (EIR).

The employer’s information requirements are fairly simple by definition. They outline two sets of requirements: What information is needed and when, as well as any standards, methods, and procedures that need to be followed when producing this information.

A definition is one thing, but what about content? Well, there are guidelines for this. PAS 1192-2 is a core BIM Level 2 document that specifies how to undertake information management during the capital phase (when an asset is being designed and built). Within PAS 1192-2, it defines the content of the employer’s information requirements under section 5.3.  However, the subheadings only go so far, so it would really help if there was support relating to what information should go into each subheading. Luckily, there is.

Guidance on the content can be found in several places.

The first (used to be) the BIM Task Group‘s EIR Core Contents and Guidance DocumentHowever, now that the BIM Task Group has migrated to the Cambridge Centre of Digital Built Britain (and broken all of their website links!!) this document has been lost to the Aether. NOTE:  It can still be accessed if you use a service like Wayback Machine, but the document is pretty out-of-date so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Another useful reference is PAS 1192-3, a core BIM Level 2 document which specifies information management during the operational phase (when an asset is in use). Within this document, it defines the basis for employer’s information requirements, by stating several feeder documents from the organization and its asset team (neither of which I have for my house!).

Finally, there are also two core BIM Level 2 standards that have been written to support the briefing process BS 8536-1 (for buildings) and BS 8536-2 (for infrastructure).  These Standards not only outline the core plan of work stages, but also key activities, and documents a supply chain would be expected to deliver.  As my home is a building, I will be focusing on BS 8536-1.

However, in addition to the outlined feedback documents, employer’s information requirements are also supported by the stakeholder’s Plain Language Questions (PLQs). While the employer’s information requirements capture the verifiable requirements (is the thing built right), the Plain Language Questions are used for project validation (is the right thing built) against the project milestones. Information produced by the appointed party is developed against the employer’s information requirements and plain language questions to show ensure that the information delivered has been verified and validated; giving the employer and appointed party confidence that the project is proceeding as intended.

Therefore, before I being to write my employer’s information requirements, I’m going to need some Plain Language Questions

Note:  If you have any comments regarding how to form a brief, then please let me know either on Twitter, or by commenting below.

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