SMEs v BLTs – is BIM the edge or the meteorite?

I was speaking at an event in Peterborough, at the University Campus this week at the CIOB regional meeting. (Many thanks to Ian Brant, Mandy Rix and everyone for a great evening).

I was focusing on BIM and SMEs.

I did a little research on SMEs in the UK, discovering that according to the Dept of Business Innnovation and Skills:

At the start of 2012, UK figures
•SMEs employed 14.1 million people and had a combined turnover of £1,500 bn
•Small businesses alone accounted for 47 per cent of private sector employment and 34.4 per cent of turnover
•Of all businesses, 62.7 per cent (three million) were sole proprietorships, 28 per cent (1.3 million) were companies and 9.3 per cent (448,000) partnerships
•There were 907,000 businesses operating in the construction sector – nearly a fifth of all businesses
•With 806,000 private sector businesses, London had more firms than any other region in the UK. The South East had the second largest number of businesses with 768,000. Together these regions account for almost a third of all firms
•Micro: 0-9 employees, Small: 10-49 employees, Medium: 50-249 employees
•(updated October 2012)
•Figures obtained from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. Home working figures courtesy of Enterprise Nation.
In wanting to compare SMEs i needed to come up with a term for larger businesses . So my thinking went Small – Big, Medium – Large, Enterprise – Tanker. So I ended up with BLTs!
Tanker might seem strange but I’m sure we’ve all heard of the analogy about trying to turn a supertanker, or even stop it. It takes some time and energy!
So SME’s are innately agile, flexible, ready to innovate, short command lines, quick decisions.  Also from the stats it’s clear that SMEs are the engine of industry. No Main Contractor will build anything these days without the input , expertise and resources of SMEs in their supply chain.
SMEs might lack financial back up or resources sometimes but my belief is that they have that ingenuity, creativity, that cleverness, which is more readily accessible in an SME rather than a BLT.
BLTs on the other hand are large ponderous creatures. With great cultural inertia that is resistant to change and innovation. There are organisations that buck this (Google? Apple?) but they recruit for an innovative culture, its already in the DNA both of the business and the recruits. Generally BLTs with their long command lines, risk aversion, tiered and siloed structures, internal competition and slow decision making , make it harder to turn the ship, and embed change and innovation. Process and compliance is king, often stifling innovative thinking? Of course BLTs can have resources, leverage and financial advantages.
What does this mean for SMEs? OPPORTUNITY!….. to outperform, be agile, get with curve, and innovate and adopt. To whiz like a speedboat around the tankers. BIM for our industry, might just be like the meteorite that heralded the demise of the dinosaurs. It gives the opportunity to produce more with less resource, to perform like a larger business, to punch above your weight and compete. BIM is a leveller. It democratises the design and delivery process, making available data, information and control of the design and delivery process – to anyone with the capability and resources – whoever that might be!
Perhaps the lesson for BLTs is to think like SMEs here. Focused teams, short command lines, freedom to innovate. This isn’t survival of the fittest, strongest or the largest any more. It is those that are most responsive to change (Darwin) – the cleverest , creative and capable.
SMEs might just roar here. Watch out! (And keep up!)

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