At its 2018 Year in Infrastructure event in London last week, Bentley Systems announced the general availability of integration between ProjectWise 365 Services and Microsoft 365.
ProjectWise is Bentley’s ‘workhorse for work sharing’ used by 70% of Engineering News-Record’s Top 250 Design Firms in the design and engineering of all types of infrastructure assets. Now 20 years old (see this October 2018 short history of ProjectWise), the collaboration platform was originally a customer-hosted on-premise solution for document and drawing sharing, but in recent years it has been extended to the cloud, its workflow capabilities have also been extended, and – since 2013 – its connectivity to other solutions via Microsoft’s Azure cloud services has slowly grown. A year ago, Bentley was saying Projectwise had grown more in past two years than at any time, and announcing steps towards integration with Microsoft’s 365 suite of services.
In parallel, the range of ProjectWise capabilities was expanded. A March 2015 acquisition, EADOC was rebranded as ProjectWise Construction Management in 2017. Nicole Stephano (senior director of product marketing) says the product retains a strong user base which has helped Bentley better understand the project data needs of constructors. Two years later, in March 2017, Bentley acquired US-based SaaS vendor eBid Systems and added bid and tender process management, now branded as Bentley ProcureWare, to the suite of ProjectWise services.
Stephano estimated that 90% of ProjectWise implementations were still on-premise, reflecting the historical legacy of the product, but most new implementations were being delivered via Microsoft Azure Services. Update (24 October 2018): Bentley tells me that over 25% of its top 100 accounts have hosted implementations and the number of hosted users in these accounts has almost tripled in the last year.
ProjectWise Project Insights
The latest announcement builds on the October 2017 announcement, using learning from early adopters including Mott MacDonald and AECOM. One of the 2018 YII Award winners (announced last Thursday) was an AECOM submission focused on ProjectWise Project Insights, which exploits Microsoft Power BI, a toolset in the Microsoft 365 suite (see this ‘Advancement Insight’).
Norris Spencer, AECOM’s highways information manager, said: “ProjectWise Project Insights is delivering a new perspective to leadership and project management as the dashboards provide unique views of information management practices and building information model health across the CDE” [Connected Data Environment – a Bentley term]. AECOM information manager Elizabeth Berna added: “Our project managers also use the dashboards to identify trends in project performance providing the client with new ways of assessing project health.”
Neil Lee, IT Director – Applications at Mott MacDonald, said: “The integration of ProjectWise and Microsoft Office 365 will be a significant enabler for our ongoing digital strategy for project delivery. Our evaluation of the integration capability against the typical demands of our project teams demonstrated that Bentley and Microsoft are fulfilling the vision of enabling more seamless and automated digital workflows for project teams to access project information residing in either Office 365 or ProjectWise. Our project teams will be enabled to drive improved project outcomes with more streamlined collaboration that enables faster and more informed decisions.”
The Microsoft 365 integration is clearly seen as extending the reach of information stored in ProjectWise. “There’s a lot of information locked up on ProjectWise – we need to unlock it and make it more widely available across teams,” Noah Eckhouse, Bentley’s senior vice president of Project Delivery, told a building and construction press briefing. By using Microsoft 365 tools such as Azure Search, Microsoft Flow and Microsoft Teams – launched in November 2016, Stephano told me this is now one of Microsoft’s fastest growing applications – every level of an extended team can have assured and secure access to the correct and current project deliverables.
Connecting digital twins
Eckhouse said: “This integration with Microsoft 365 brings automated digital workflows to the extended project team and will help users replicate best practices across a team’s projects. And significantly, now ProjectWise users can add Bentley’s new Azure-based iTwin™ Services, taking advantage of automated digital workflows within ProjectWise to align and synchronize project digital twins for continuous and comprehensive status reviews.”
The launch of iTwin Services was another key YII2018 announcement (see news release). These services can be “transparently provisioned within Bentley’s Connected Data Environment (CDE) for ProjectWise … users,” enabling infrastructure asset owners to capture and synchronise data about physical conditions, including IoT inputs, while also comprehending the “digital DNA” captured in the project or asset’s engineering specifications. Bentley CEO Greg Bentley spoke about digital twins reflecting both an asset’s physical reality, and its “virtuality” (engineering data) using reality modelling, iModelHub (announced in 2017), CDE, and web-visibility technologies.
Further ‘Digital Twin’ announcements from Bentley included the acquisition of Stockholm-based city-scale reality modelling provider Agency9 (news), development with Siemens of PlantSight digital twin cloud services (news), and a strategic partnership with IT services giant Atos to provide digital twins to asset owner-operators (news). However, there appeared to be no connection with a recently announced Microsoft initiative. Microsoft announced its Azure Digital Twin IoT service on 24 September (read this news article), and Azure Digital Twins was to be publicly available for customers to begin building solutions from 15 October 2018 (Eckhouse said this wasn’t an initiative that Bentley was currently involved in).
[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 YII Awards. Publication of this post was delayed due to a laptop failure while I was at the conference.]