Bentley targeting SMEs with ProjectWise Essentials

Bentley’s SaaS-based ProjectWise Essentials, “a cloud-based, instant-on integration environment,” potentially links more firms to Bentley’s ecosystem.

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Last week’s Bentley Systems Year In Infrastructure conference in London saw several major announcements by Greg Bentley and his team, including a tighter integration with Trimble products for construction delivery. While there is clearly a developing relationship with Trimble, it doesn’t yet extend to the two companies’ collaboration products.

Just before Bentley’s conference, Trimble announced the launch of Trimble Connect, based on its GTeam acquisition, providing a cloud-based collaboration platform for teams involved in the design, construction and operation of buildings. Meanwhile, Bentley’s CONNECT Edition strategy included the September 2014 launch of ProjectWise Essentials, “a cloud-based, instant-on design integration environment” using Microsoft’s Azure platform, to help connect more firms into Bentley’s project ecosystem (see Bentley news release).

Bentley CONNECT Edition

Bentley CONNECT EditionThis ecosystem aims to streamline information mobility and is based on three main areas of Bentley software: the Microstation and related design authoring tools, ProjectWise CONNECT Edition, and Bentley Navigator. Bentley’s focus on a “platform approach” was a constant refrain during the conference; I heard senior vice president Bhupinder Singh describe the company’s commitment to enabling engineering content management across the ecosystem so that, regardless of their discipline, all workers (office, site or field, including via cloud services) can have instant connection to and visibility of the information they need. He talked of a common project environment underpinned by:

  • a common data environment (a term much [ab- or over-]used in the UK currently, as there is an emerging requirement for a CDE to support Level 2 BIM)
  • a common modelling environment
  • a common deliverables environment
  • a common “App-lications” environment (Navigator was particularly highlighted here as a tool that works in a consistent way whether accessed on desktop, mobile device or via the cloud)
  • a common performance environment (giving visibility to asset operation information)

Of course, there was a considerable focus on the installed software that is the core of Bentley’s revenues, on connecting separate instances of ProjectWise, and on extending the reach of this “organisation-centric”, corporately-held data to clients, supply chain workers and partners across multiple devices (by the way, Bentley’s mobile tools are on all three key operating systems: Apple iOS, Android and Windows). However, I noted last year a much-needed expansion of Bentley’s cloud-based capability to support globalisation, growth in flexible and mobile working, and the emergence of building information modelling (BIM), and it is being somewhat grudgingly expanded (as one might expect from a business founded some 30 years ago when it was all about selling upfront licenses for installed software).

ProjectWise Essentials

I talked to Bentley’s Nicole Stephano (product manager, information mobility) about ProjectWise Essentials, which offers immediate access to a cloud-based instance of ProjectWise, making it more accessible to smaller firms and their supply chains, particularly those without IT expertise or who can’t self-host. Instead the service is hosted in multiple Microsoft Azure datacentres (located in numerous geographical locations “all over the world” to – hopefully – avoid some political/safe harbor sensitivities). This SaaS capability isn’t totally new. Nicole reminded me: “We had a ProjectWise online service – providing an online instance of Projectwise but which still needed quite a bit of configuration services – and it could be provided through customers’ own hosting at, say, Amazon or Microsoft.”

The relationship with Azure has become more mature following last year’s announcement of the CONNECT services. ProjectWise Essentials Instant-on became commercially available in September 2014, and is targeting “smaller businesses, mid-sized businesses that typically do not have an IT administrator to self-host; they may not have a system administrator to manage the product itself or the user permissions required.” The Essentials package might also appeal for non-corporate requirements, Nicole said: “it’s a great opportunity to set up projects for joint ventures,” and it allows businesses to try ProjectWise ‘in the cloud’ before committing to perhaps hosting it themselves and maybe extending their reach into other Bentley services.

Each instance of ProjectWise Essentials allows up to 40 named users for a modest monthly flat fee. Nicole was unable to go into the specifics of pricing (broadly, across a team she hinted we were maybe “talking about £2 a day per engineer”, including those down a lead firm’s project supply chain) though a ‘Bentley CONNECTIONS Passport’ annual license is required for each additional named user. The license also gives access to various Bentley mobile applications such as Bentley’s ProjectWise Worksite (previously known as “Field Supervisor” – renamed to reflect its wider use) and i-Model sharing capabilities.

The ProjectWise Essentials platform is, Nicole explained, focused on design integration and collaboration for engineering professionals, and includes integration with Bentley Microstation, and with Autodesk and Adobe tools, though some of these will be mainly through some of the new capabilities of Navigator toolset to be launched in early 2015.

[Disclosure: I attended the Bentley Year in Infrastructure conference as a guest of Bentley Systems, who paid my hotel expenses. I was also a juror in the BE Inspired Awards.]


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