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A Sociotechnical Systems Analysis of Building Information Modelling (STSaBIM) Implementation in Construction Organisations

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posted on 25.06.2014, 10:40 by Enoch Sackey
The concept of BIM is nascent but evolving rapidly, thus, its deployment has become the latest shibboleth amongst both academics and practitioners in the construction sector in the recent couple of years. Due to construction clients buy-in of the BIM concept, the entire industry is encouraged to pursue a vision of changing work practices in line with the BIM ideas. Also, existing research recognises that the implementation of BIM affects all areas of the construction process from design of the building, through the organisation of projects, to the way in which the construction process is executed and how the finished product is maintained. The problem however is that, existing research in technology utilisation in general, and BIM literature in particular, has offered limited help to practitioners trying to implement BIM, for focusing predominantly, on technology-centric views. Not surprisingly therefore, the current BIM literature emphasises on topics such as capability maturity models and anticipated outcomes of BIM rollouts. Rarely does the extant literature offer practitioners a cohesive approach to BIM implementation. Such technology-centric views inevitably represent a serious barrier to utilising the inscribed capabilities of BIM. This research therefore is predicated on the need to strengthen BIM implementation theory through monitoring and analysing its implementation in practice. Thus, the focus of this thesis is to carry out a sociotechnical systems (STS) analysis of BIM implementation in construction organisations. The concept of STS accommodates the dualism of the inscribed functions of BIM technologies and the contextual issues in the organisations and allows for the analysis of their interactive combination in producing the anticipated effect from BIM appropriation. An interpretive research methodology is adopted to study practitioners through a change process, involving the implementation of BIM in their work contexts. The study is based on constructivist ontological interpretations of participants. The study adopts an abductive research approach which ensures a back-and-forth movement between research sites and the theoretical phenomenon, effectively comparing the empirical findings with the existing theories and to eventually generate a new theoretical understanding and knowledge regarding the phenomenon under investigation. A two-stage process is also formulated for the empirical data collection - comprising: 1) initial exploratory study to help establish the framework for analysing BIM implementation in the construction context; and 2) case studies approach to provide a context for formulating novel understanding and validation of theory regarding BIM implementation in construction organisations. The analysis and interpretation of the empirical work follows the qualitative content analysis technique to observe and reflect on the results. The findings have shown that BIM implementation demands a complete breakaway from the status quo. Contrary to the prevailing understanding of a top-down approach to BIM utilisation, the study revealed that different organisations with plethora of visions, expectations and skills combine with artefacts to form or transform BIM practices. The rollout and appropriation of BIM occurs when organisations shape sociotechnical systems of institutions, processes and technologies to support certain practices over others. The study also showed that BIM implementation endures in a causal chain of influences as different project organisations with their localised BIM ambitions and expectations combine to develop holistic BIM-enabled project visions. Thus, distributed responsibilities on holistic BIM protocols among the different levels of influences are instituted and enforced under binding contractual obligations. The study has illuminated the centrality of both the technical challenges and sociological factors in shaping BIM deployment in construction. It is also one of the few studies that have produced accounts of BIM deployment that is strongly mediated by the institutional contexts of construction organisations. However, it is acknowledged that the focus of the research on qualitative interpretive enquiry does not have the hard and fast view of generalising from specific cases to broader population/contexts. Thus, it is suggested that further quantitative studies, using much larger data sample of BIM-enabled construction organisations could provide an interesting point of comparison to the conclusions derived from the research findings.


Loughborough University



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering


© Enoch Sackey

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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