BIM in Translation : Exploring Client Organisations as Drivers for Change in Construction

Abstract: New technology is constantly being developed, presenting new opportunities and enabling innovative solutions to both known and unknown problems. Most industries place a large amount of trust in the opportunities offered by digitalisation. Information technology is being developed to enable new work practices and thereby drive change. However, the use of technology often drifts away from the developer’s intentions when it is introduced into an organisational setting. The management of such technology implementations is thus complex, both in terms of the technology itself and the organisational context in which it is implemented.In the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, the technology ‘Building Information Modelling’ (BIM) is currently being introduced. This industry is often described as fragmented, having low productivity and being reluctant to innovate. BIM is presented as new paradigm for this industry, as it is able to drive change towards inter-organisational collaboration, increase overall quality, and simultaneously lower costs. The industry has, however, been tentative towards BIM and widespread implementation has not yet taken place. To influence the industry towards adopting this new technology, public client organisations have been argued to play a vital role as innovation champions, demanding BIM-use through procurement. Still, there is a lack of studies exploring such implementation initiatives from the client perspective.In this thesis, the case of BIM implementation at the largest infrastructure client in Sweden is presented. This case shows how the client has undertaken an implementation process to both benefit its own organisation and increase productivity and innovation within the whole infrastructure branch of the AEC industry. With the purpose of problematising and contributing with reflective perspectives on the role of client organisations as drivers for industry change by implementation of information technology, the BIM implementation at this organisation is viewed as an empirical example of how information technology is introduced to influence an inter-organisational network of actors and establish change. The case is analysed from the perspective of an analytical framework, taking inspiration from actor-network theory and sociology of translation. Thus, the implementation is viewed as a process of translation, where key actors are identified and enrolled into using BIM. Viewing BIM implementation as a translation reveals a complex network of actors linked to the implementation in question. The implementation is developed as a sequential translation, where project managers are intended to act as delegates, demanding and promoting BIM in their projects.This thesis problematises the role of client organisations in initiating change through the implementation of technology. Enrolling actors into using BIM has, in the studied case, primarily been done by the development of new demand documents. This strategy has, however, been problematic as the demands have not been accepted as intended. Instead, the results of this thesis argue for the importance of client organisations as negotiators, and that they are not only needed to establish demand for new technology.