The primary role of an observatory is to gather data (Miralles, 2015), but this has evolved from strict observation and description, and now covers the field of information systems and extends as far as decision support systems and governance support. Overall, the functions of observatories are focused on knowledge: its acquisition, retention, modelling and forecasting. They are almost always oriented towards collaborative activities based on this knowledge and data.
A second major orientation for an observatory is skills and disciplines, in which case the observatory generally has a joint function (we consider the French metallurgy observatory UIMM a prime example of this). Skills are a good way of describing a sector, including technological developments, as changes in skills are a good indicator of technological changes and the way in which disciplines are evolving. We might say that entry by the skills for a sector is unavoidable, even if it is not the only possibility.
Observatory composition scenarios can be developed based on the major functions we wish to prioritise. For example, in the areas comprising the major functions of the observatory, we must decide where we allocate strengths and how we prioritise certain functions.
The sudden breakthrough that BIM represents is taking place via a profound modification of design tools, but it is also introducing collective engineering and collaborative work engineering. Beyond the software tools at the centre of the change, it is the organisational practices and processes that are affected. How can these changes be observed? The fact of wanting to observe a changing phenomenon undergoing extremely rapid, and frankly unpredictable, development involves examining specific and extremely heterogeneous data. These data simultaneously concern software, organisational processes, professional practices, developments in knowledge and skills, and the rebuilding of disciplines. The ambition of the observatory is not only to assist companies with self-assessment in relation to this technological breakthrough (hence the work on indicators), but also to help the sector evaluate the development of the sector.
The structure could be very light, with a strong management capable of gathering experts on an ad-hoc basis, encouraging them to work jointly and combining aims, but also able to resist the pressures of the sector. This means that there would be coordination functions in addition to management functions, combined with a capacity to provide meaning: relevance and an astute vision must inform orientations.
The organisational structure for the observatory (inspired by that of UIMM) that seems most suited to the objectives of MINnD is summarised in the conceptual diagram below. The observatory would receive its tasks from a representative national council drawn from the sector that would constitute a national body.
The observatory steering committee would provide guidelines and validate the creation of projects. For an observatory to function, this steering committee would have to be political, meeting around five times a year. It would have a limited number of members, no more than 20; at UIMM there are 10 union representatives and 10 company representatives. Each project would concern a specific, carefully chosen theme and be led by a technical committee.
It is therefore possible to start drawing up a roadmap for phase 2 with a view to working towards an observatory and setting up certain elements of the observatory on an experimental basis during phases 2 and 3 of the MINnD.
Three working groups are envisaged:
- One on the indicators to generate proposals for indicators, starting by evaluating those offered on the market and proposing a specific evaluation grid for the various indicators available. This group would generally be oriented towards self-assessment for companies.
- A second working group oriented more towards the sector, and with a focus on monitoring. Beyond monitoring, this group could take up the idea of mapping based on families of disciplines.
- A third working group to explore the new profiles and new skills that BIM requires. This is a specific request from educators that was expressed during the EDUBIM 2015 meetings (Bagieu, 2015). It is a response that the sector should be able to formulate, above all for itself. What are the consequences of BIM for the sector in terms of skills: what precise needs will there be for new skills? How do these skills form new profiles? How do we train these new profiles? Through both initial training and continuing training; we are talking here about work that can only be done in cooperation with the educators and trainers involved in continuing training.
A scientific committee for the observatory, comprising several experts from outside the sector, would help the MINnD project refine its observatory proposal for the sector and ensure coordination of the three working groups as shown in the diagram below.