Based on my experience, I have seen that when an explicit or tacit decision to choose between a top-down or a bottom-up approach to BIM/VDC implementation is made, companies and projects are biased through the top-down approach.Strategic plans and other documents are formulated at the top and tried to be implemented by a cascade of instructions through the organizational tiered ranks. Among the many reasons for this is the fear of fall into lack of strategic focus leaving parts of the organization untouched.Producing standardization, work processes, procedures, BIM implementation plans and similar documents become then the focus of organizations. When these documents arrive to the “troops on the ground” they create lack of empowerment and unclear understanding meaning that only part of the instructions are received and even less is implemented. Furthermore, even the focus on satisfying client needs (i.e. adding value) is sometimes lost in favour of the bureaucracy of documents to deal with. This approach is too slow and inflexible to cope with the increasing rate of change and complexity surrounding any BIM/VDC implementation. While there is clearly a need for an overall strategic direction and consistent message to be provided in the implementation of BIM/VDC which will require a top-down element, going beyond a top-bottom threshold neglects the excellence in technical knowledge and professionalism of the implementation staff, and prevents giving them the ownership of the changes and a better understanding of why they are required.
Based on my recent experience implementing VDC during the construction phase of a megaproject working directly with the VDC/BIM implementation staff, my recommendation is that if dealing with the top-bottom/bottom-up dilemma I would definitely choose the bottom-up approach. In order to create a successful, lasting change it will be better to give individuals the rationale and tools, to create their own change programme which can then be coordinated with the wider business. I believe that it is better to have one single project where BIM/VDC can be considered to be under a successful implementation adding value to a satisfied client rather than spend years trying to produce top-down documents that so far have led to a non-yet massively adopted use of BIM/VDC by the industry. I believe that letting the organization to be ‘touched” successfully at only one project is better than trying to “touch” all or most of the projects carried out for the company simultaneously through the traditional top-bottom approach. Doing this runs counter the great legacy of thinking about organizations dating from the Industrial Revolution. With organizations viewed traditionally as hierarchical institutions that operate according to a top-down command structure. Gathering the experiences from successful BIM/VDC implementations from different projects through coordination and feedback meaning that learning is shared, inconsistencies, weaknesses and successes are fed back and errors are not repeated unnecessarily are the tasks that I recommend for those at the top of the top-bottom approach so that the wider business may benefit through the creation of a connecting tissue that would lead to corporate guidelines and support to BIM/VDC implementations instead of rigid approaches linked to the traditional documents produced under the top-bottom approach.