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Software solutions providers are an integral part of the team

Greg Bentley, CEO of leading software solutions provider Bentley Systems, caught up with Andy Walker at the recent European CIO Conference in London for a chat about digital developments.

Bentley Systems’ CEO Greg Bentley was in fine form when I spoke with him at the recent European CIO Conference in London. Maybe it was because his company had just announced a major acquisition that will extend digital workflows for infrastructure project delivery through 4D construction modelling or perhaps it was because he was at an event attended by many of his current and potential customers. Whatever the reason, Bentley was enthusiastic, engaged and always interesting.

Commenting on Bentley Systems acquisition of 4D construction modeling software company Synchro Software, Bentley says: “The opportunity to extend digital workflows from BIM to institutionalise 4D construction modelling across infrastructure project delivery, superseding disconnected planning and scheduling, is enormous and immediate.

“As we know in every actual project there are changes during construction. Those can go back and be incorporated in the BIM deliverables through our connected data environment. It’s going to make the work of the consultant more valuable. Every constructor and every infrastructure project can gain from going digital through our 4D construction modelling,” he says.

The need for firms to adopt new business models and change their approach with the increasing pace of technology advances was much discussed at the CIO Conference. I asked Bentley how he thought that was progressing and whether the pace of change was quick enough. 

“Here in the UK it’s the owners asking for that; that’s what’s different,” he said. “I was also encouraged by the results of the CIO survey where half of those questioned think that in three years their consultancy’s business model will be considerably changed. The reason why I am not sceptical or cynical about that is that the software industry changed its business model. At one time we only sold perpetual licenses and then it was good luck to those who bought them, they were on their own with the risk of obsolescence and fit for purpose. Now we work on a software as a service basis where we get paid for the value our software creates over time,” explains Bentley.

So, what did that mean for tech companies’ business processes in taking that leap? “It changed software companies in general from being selling and marketing companies to needing to worry about customer success,” said Bentley. “We bear the risk of continued use and that business model change is just as important as the delivery model change which is now using cloud services and somebody else’s computing. The business model change made us better companies by having to care about customer success. Come to think of it that is analogous to consultants who otherwise only had to deliver a design and not be accountable for its performance over time,” Bentley says. 

Bentley Systems works with many organisations that are well down the road of digitisation but what advice would Bentley give to firms contemplating the first steps? “I remember when China for instance was the slowest adopter of technology and that’s changed dramatically over five or six years,” he says. “Even those firms that haven’t progressed much yet in digital maturity, when they hire new people they are going to be hiring those who have been digital natives and already expect technology to be serving them in their consumer lives,” said Bentley.

Bentley believes the pace of change in the tech sector shows no sign of easing up, bringing with it real challenges for professional services firms. “The pace of change will continue to speed up as organisations innovate,” says Bentley. “Ultimately if the engineering firms are open to partnering with contractors and data capture firms they can catch up and get ahead. We believe in this so much that we’d like to be partners also. We want to have our own people virtually embedded because with everything done as a cloud service you can see what people are doing and see what help they need and make suggestions,” he says.

Bentley believes that software solutions providers need to go beyond supplying a product and work in true partnership with their customers. “For those of us that provide software tools, we have to realise that our deliverables and work product aren’t just the tools themselves it should be the software for the learning - the adaptive learning and the machine learning. We’re an integral part of the team,” Bentley says.