Geo Week News

July 20, 2023

The Importance of Interoperability in BIM Workflows

BIM is an important and valuable tool, but interoperability is the key to maximizing efficiency.
BIM model of a building made of metal construction, metal structure. 3D architectural, construction, industrial and engineering background. 3D rendering. Drawing blueprint.

Rework, as an Autodesk/FMI joint study highlights, has become an expensive standard in the construction industry – accounting for $7.1 million, representing an estimated 2-20% of total project costs, and negatively impacting projects’ schedules industry-wide1. Numerous studies have attempted to understand the ‘rework’ phenomenon, with examples looking into both the impact and causes of rework, as well as how to mitigate it. 

Time and time again, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is cited as a piece of technology poised to shape the future of construction design that experts believe can simultaneously mitigate risk by identifying and resolving design errors early. The ConTech Report from JBKnowledge put it boldly: “There are very few legitimate reasons for companies not to use BIM.”

That 2021 report indicated about 69% of companies were using BIM for coordination and clash detection, about 53% for visualization, and 48.5% for project planning, among other use cases. Dodge Data and Analytics revealed that 61% report BIM processes reduced project error2. The same survey reported that 55% of respondents believed BIM processes reduced the time required for communications. Experts rounded up in February and June of this year also pointed to BIM/VDC modeling as an emerging technology they expected to continue to increase in usage.

It’s true that BIM holds great potential for positively impacting collaboration on construction projects, but success with BIM relies on proper onboarding, implementation, and cross-functional data-sharing, especially when project data standardization remains an industry-wide issue. To wit: 

  • 41% of contractors agreed that non-standardized data input leads to inconsistent, inaccurate, incomplete, and unusable data3.
  • Up to 70% of total rework experienced in construction and engineering products are a result of design-induced rework4.
  • An Emerson whitepaper revealed that up to 30% of initial data created during design and construction phases is lost by project closeout.

Poor integration of digital tools with business processes, McKinsey notes, is part of the industry’s digitization Achilles’ heel; however, the construction technology sector is “shifting to integrated software platforms that better serve customer needs.” This is good news because it means companies are not alone in their digital transformation; the industry is growing toward interoperability together.

How construction companies look toward building system-wide interoperability is critical to eliminating digital waste, smoothing out process inefficiencies, and working better collaboratively to deliver projects with fewer hiccups along the way.

Architecture project showing different design phases, from rough sketch, construction specifications to realistic 3D rendering. The writing is dummy text with no translation.

Software Integrations

Researcher at IBM’s Watson Research Lab provide an overview of software integrations from a business perspective, which includes lower cost of ownership and better ROI. 

Just as many tech companies—even ERP providers like SAP—rely on cloud computing providers to deliver their own digital solutions to customers, construction companies can adopt cloud-based platforms that offer easier maintenance and greater integration and flexibility than a one-off software program can. Put it this way: A fully customized solution, while on the surface being tailored to your business, can be expensive and complicated to get off the ground, and may require ongoing maintenance. Opting for a cloud-based software provider can help you ramp up a solution faster and be more feasible to maintain (especially in companies that lack robust IT resources). Taking advantage of preexisting integrations, too, can be a more economical way (in terms of financial and technical resources as well as time) to ensure a company’s technical resources—from back office to field ops—synchronize data and eliminate information silos. 

Software Integrations Powering BIM Workflows:

  • BIM and ERPs: BIM integrations with enterprise relationship planning (ERP) software ensure that important design resources are shared company-wide, and “design-induced” rework is avoided. Major BIM software company Autodesk® offers integrations between its products PlanGrid, BuildingConnect, Assemble, and BIM 360 and ERPs like Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Oracle’s Netsuite to create custom workflows with ERP triggers.
  • BIM and GIS: An integration between BIM and GIS, the software used by surveyors, can help save time, money, and empower connectivity and sharing during early land surveying through to the architectural design phase, breaking ground, and over the course or a project’s completion. Integrations for GIS platforms like ArcGIS GeoBIM, ArcGIS Pro,, and vGIS exist for Autodesk® BIM platforms and connect data visualization with maps and spatial applications. 
  • BIM and Project Management: It’s critical that BIM designers and project managers collaborate and share information in real time. Consider, for example, that 14% of all rework in construction globally is caused by bad data (Autodesk/FMI joint study). Improving data sharing processes to avoid redundancies, instances of human error, and outdated information is critical to avoid miscommunication and expensive rework from escalating. Examples include BIM integrations with Procore® project management platform, like Revizto™ for connecting BIM coordination to project management, SiteScape to connect LiDAR scanning to project management, Imerso to “connect as-built reality to BIM,” etc. 
  • BIM and Asset Management: Integration between BIM and asset management shares important project-level information between designers and equipment managers—this type of information can be crucial to breaking down information barriers between cross-functional teams, but also it can disseminate important quality assurance information from design to installation. As is the case with the Autodesk® Construction Cloud™ BIM 360 Integration with Milwaukee Tool’s ONE-KEY™ app, electrical installations performed with a digital torque wrench can be synced on tool, backed up to the cloud, and then installers can generate customizable reports in the One-Key web app that can be sent directly to BIM 360 to increase transparency. This is crucial information for critical fasteners that require specification-level, verifiable certification! What’s more, just as it’s important for the design team to report back to project management (as above), the same could be said about the importance of inventory-related location updates being critical to feed into project management workflows.  
  • BIM and Safety: Just as smart tool installations (as described above) are important to sync with design and project team software for proper quality assurance, studies have investigated the importance of integrating BIM for safety risk assessments. Example integrations include Autodesk’s BIM360 integration with Overtur that exports Punch List data from Overtur directly into BIM360. 

Open APIs

Open API, which stands for application programming interface, are publicly available applications accessible to software developers.

3D rendering of a house, architecture draft of a luxury house

As Tech Target notes, open APIs offer advantages for both the companies who make them available to developers and the developers building features and integrations on top of them. From a publisher’s perspective, they note, open APIs allow companies to ramp up a user base more quickly without having to take on the niche software development involved themselves; from the perspective of a “consuming developer,” open APIs allow developers to spin-up a custom solution without the “dependencies between development teams and certain application component.”

Open APIs in construction

In short, an open API in construction would give your technical software development team the tools they need to build custom integrations and system interoperability with fewer roadblocks. 

In the construction sector, example open APIs include:

Integration Platforms as a Service (IPaaS)

If you need a specific software integration that doesn’t exist, but you also don’t have the technical resources to build it yourself (nor the budget to hire a technical team or outsource a full custom build), IPaaS providers may fit the bill. 

IPaaS—which stands for Integration Platform as a Service—offer to build integrations for companies who don’t have the resources to do so themselves in-house.

Example of IPaaS’ include:

Pilot Programs and Technology Incubators

Many tech-forward companies (like Milwaukee Tool) offer contractors the ability to partake in leading-edge construction technology pilot programs—from serving as a software beta tester to getting hands-on through firsthand experience with new-to-world solutions.

Meanwhile, technology incubators like Oracle Industry Innovation Lab and the Construction Progress Coalition offer, respectively, access to try out cutting-edge technology through immersive firsthand experience, and participate in construction technology thinktanks—such as how to better share data between platforms. 

Bottom Line

BIM has the potential to mitigate errors and safety hazards early in design. That said, a proper BIM workflow is one that feeds into the company ERP, project management, asset management, and onsite safety teams’ workflows.

Cross-functional collaboration is mission-critical; with staggering labor shortages, data synchronization is more important now than ever. Integration and building toward interoperability industry-wide is critical to avoid miscommunication and design-induced rework.


1: Construction Industry Institute via Becht

2: via Autodesk

3: via an Autodesk/Dodge Data & Analytics joint study

4: via Autodesk

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