Bentley Systems’ collaboration portfolio continues to grow, with NoteVault integrated into the SYNCHRO Field mobile app, new ProjectWise Insights, much “iTwin-enabling”, an entirely new SYNCHRO Cost application coming soon, and GroupBC being positioned as a capital project management platform for owners.
Bentley Systems‘ Year In Infrastructure provides an annual opportunity to hear about updates to the company’s existing products and about new acquisitions and new products. While this year’s whole event was online, 2020 was little different in its content, with talk of new integrations between well-established and more recently acquired products, of rationalisation of the growing product portfolio, and of impending new product offerings. The group has also extended its “Bentley has your back” campaign, helping teams better manage during the COVID-19 pandemic (see May 2020 post: Coping with COVID-19 using Bentley ProjectWise 365).
Construction management – from 4D to 5D
Once mainly renowned for its architecture and engineering design authoring applications, the Bentley focus is now even increasingly oriented towards supporting construction activities.
This trend became evident following Bentley’s June 2018 acquisition of the UK’s SYNCHRO Systems (post) when Bentley started to integrate SYNCHRO with its ProjectWise ‘CDE’ and formed a construction group to try and take a larger slice of the construction technology space (October 2018: Synchro buy a key step in building Bentley’s construction capabilities). More recently, in June 2020, Bentley also acquired NoteVault, a US-based provider of voice-based field automation for construction management (post), aiming to expand “Bentley’s SYNCHRO digital construction environment with industry-leading mobile field applications to track and manage labor, materials, and equipment.”
During Year In Infrastructure 2020, Dustin Parkman, right, Bentley’s vice president, project delivery, announced an extensive integration between NoteVault and existing site-based data capture capabilities. A mobile application, SYNCHRO Field, that initially required manual data entry into forms, now offers voice-to-text transcription functionality alongside access to 4D models in the field. Over time, Parkman said voice-activated data entry would be augmented by functions that were entirely voice-controlled solutions, potentially simplifying and speeding up user interactions.
Parkman said Bentley had also significantly expanded SYNCHRO capabilities spanning 4D construction modeling and sequencing, document controls, cost management, and field management:
“We have added new capabilities and iTwin enabled SYNCHRO to view 4D models and fully detailed schedule simulations with animation and sequencing using only a web browser. Now, any project stakeholder can readily view project information without requiring special software or equipment.
This new functionality enables project stakeholders to instantly collaborate online simply by clicking on a link, with the ability to provide real-time comments back to the project manager. The ability to view a 4D model and a fully detailed schedule via a simple web browser is unmatched in the market.”
Parkman’s presentation also made a brief mentions of cost and contract management. A new product, SYNCHRO Cost, is set to be launched towards the end of 2020, aligning bid management processes to other construction management workflows, streamlined sourcing with automated bid solicitation and analysis, while also reduced risk and enabling better compliance with proactive contract management.
ProjectWise 365: Project Insights
Now in continuous development for over 20 years, Bentley’s project collaboration workhorse, ProjectWise has been improved by addition of new business intelligence reporting capabilities. Through its strategic relationship with Microsoft – the Azure cloud platform is used to host ProjectWise 365 – Bentley has incorporated PowerBI analytics and reporting functionality, and has been expanding this to support wider data needs. As well as summary views of data about design activities or about individual projects, Parkman said users can now aggregate data across entire portfolios, monitor trends and access predictive analytics. As well as comparisons across projects, users can also interrogate data about particular types of projects – water, rail or highways, for example.
“ProjectWise Insights now provides the ability to customize dashboards with a web-based editor or to build custom dashboards from scratch. Every project team can now afford a dashboard, and not just for the largest projects. Project managers can quickly understand if a project is on track. Having access to real-time reporting is helping project teams achieve efficiency improvements of 30%.”
A new task-based interface provides each ProjectWise user with unique insights to their tasks, issues, and objectives helping them to keep projects on time and within budget. Real-time 2D and 3D design review capabilities are built in, making it easy to collaborate in review sessions remotely from almost any location.
Capital project delivery: GroupBC
YII2020 was also an opportunity to catch up with how Bentley has been integrating its March 2020 acquisition of UK-based GroupBC (post). The core Business Collaborator system is now being described as as ‘capital project information management’ platform that can be used as a common data environment by owner-operators to manage asset delivery programmes – complementing ProjectWise (engineering working in progress) and SYNCHRO (construction work).
“Since the acquisition of GroupBC earlier this year, our focus has been on iTwin enabling Business Collaborator and integrating it with ProjectWise,” Parkman said, citing use of this federated common data environment on projects including HS2 and an implementation for Highways England. The GroupBC product portolio included BC Connect (now rebranded as BC Sync to avoid confusion with other Bentley ‘Connected’ solutions) – a toolset designed to streamline the often intensely manual and time-consuming selection and transfer of data between different CDE instances. A new product – Business Collaborator Projects (or BC Projects) – is also being developed for small and mid-sized projects and comes pre-configured to support ISO 19650 information management processes, building on GroupBC’s familiarity with implementing platforms compliant with the emerging suite of international standards.
Parkman said the latest release of Business Collaborator introduces a new self-serve portal that allows end-users to intuitively navigate disparate sources of project and project controls information through asset-based and geospatial interfaces.
“End users can understand in a natural, intuitive context the information they have (and don’t have) and answer questions about their asset or asset portfolio quickly and accurately through a user interface that requires no knowledge of or access to the source systems.”
This is leveraging the GroupBC GeoConnect+ functionality originally developed in the UK with government mapping agency Ordnance Survey and consultant PCSG (now part of Bentley – post) for use internationally, working with other partners providing mapping and other geospatial services (Bentley partner Microsoft, for example, has its own Azure Maps geospatial APIs).