There are a few Bentley ProjectWise users in the UK architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) market (about seven years ago, in my freelance days, I wrote a case study for the UK’s IT Best Practice Programme about how architect Damond Lock Grabowski was using the system). Will the latest news from Bentley see that number increase?
Yesterday, Bentley Systems unveiled ProjectWise StartPoint, an entry-level collaboration tool, based on Microsoft Office SharePoint technologies, for MicroStation and AutoCAD users. “ProjectWise StartPoint opens the power of ProjectWise, the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry’s leading system of collaboration servers, to a broad population of new users and teams,” said the press release I received.
The key messages seem to be about using SharePoint as an easier, more “cost-effective” (ie: cheaper) starting point for collaboration users in the hope that they may then migrate to the high-end ProjectWise solution. The quote from CEO Greg Bentley (“Large organizations have been successful with our ProjectWise system of servers”) almost implies that ProjectWise has not really found favour with small or medium-sized enterprises.
The tie-up with Microsoft SharePoint is interesting too. In September 2005, I talked about this (Why not SharePoint?), arguing that SharePoint on its own might not be capable of managing the numerous CAD files commonly exchanged within multi-user construction project teams, and that its licensing structure might cause difficulties in the same environment.
By teaming up with Bentley, Microsoft has tried to address the first issue (while the list of features will not tempt anyone using any of the leading ‘project extranet’ solutions – version control, search features, folder-level security, calendars, etc – it may appeal to new, small-scale users with little or no knowledge of what is already available). But StartPoint will require users to purchase ProjectWise Named User Licenses – something that some of the more sophisticated ASP collaboration products avoid by, for example, opting for per-project subscriptions regardless of the number of users, to encourage wider use.