Interview: Easing the remote work transition with ProjectWise 365

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Though the pace and push to digitize workflows is ongoing, perhaps no single event has pushed the industry to become more flexible to remote work than the COVID-19 crisis. The ability to work from home, using portable hardware, coupled with the demand for continued work on large scale projects has demanded that companies figure out a solution, and fast. In this interview, SPAR 3D editor talks to Dustin Parkman, VP of Project Delivery at Bentley Systems, to discuss how the industry has reacted – and is quickly adapting to – the prospect of long-term remote work. With their newly-launched ProjectWise 365 software, Bentley has been helping their clients to make the adjustment and continue their crucial projects.

Bentley Systems has also announced that their ProjectWise 365 is waiving subscription fees in through September 30, and more information can be found on www.bentley.com/en/workingfromhome.

Carla Jean Lauter 0:09
Hi, I’m Carla with SPAR3D.com and today we are joined with Dustin Parkman, who’s the VP of product delivery at Bentley Systems. And we’re going to talk to him a little bit today about what’s going on with ProjectWise 365 and also Bentley’s suite of civil engineering tools. So, Dustin, welcome, and thank you for joining us today. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you do at Bentley?

Dustin Parkman 0:30
Yeah, sure, Carla. So I am the general manager or business unit executive for Bentley’s project delivery business unit. So that that basically embodies all of the collaboration and work in progress, cloud services that we have for for engineering for construction, and for capital and program management from an owners perspective. So you can think of it as common data environments for all those things. Three different three different groups allowing them to deliver projects more effectively.

Carla Jean Lauter 1:06
Fantastic. So, you know, jumping right into it, what are some of the major challenges that people who are working on the types of projects that you, you know, work with these infrastructure projects during COVID-19? You know, how, how are they handling working from home? What kind of challenges have you heard that that they’re facing?

Dustin Parkman 1:24
Yeah, I think there’s a lot of different challenges that people have been facing around the globe. Everything from corporate or government level policy for working from home cases, some cases like geographically, there’s been areas where they just weren’t really they didn’t really have good work from home practices, even from a labor law perspective, areas could be like India and China and parts of Southeast Asia for example were really kind of caught flat footed initially. But the good news is that because of everyone rallying really quickly, they were able to get policy created in a matter of weeks, which would have probably taken years to accomplish otherwise. So that’s kind of the happy ending of that of that story is a lot of things.

Dustin Parkman 2:20
A lot of corporate culture and a lot of government culture has really changed their mind with regards to having a good mobility and work from home strategy. Everything from having the the IT infrastructure in place, having making sure colleagues have the kind of backpack mentality of “hey, I can put everything in my backpack and no matter where I go, I can actually do my work very effectively.”

Dustin Parkman 2:49
Bentley as a as a technology company, we were very well suited for this. We really didn’t skip a beat, so to speak. We were already kind of working in this type of paradigm already most of us, we travel a lot, we go, we go to projects all around the world. And so it really didn’t affect us that much.

Dustin Parkman 3:14
And in fact, many of our, our users had the same type of effect, particularly some of the ones that already had. They had good cloud strategy. They already had good collaboration tools, everything from the, you know, the generic collaboration tools like zoom and, and, and Microsoft Teams and those types of products. Two very specific tools for doing engineering work in progress, doing managing projects and handover data, doing construction correspondence and things like that. And ProjectWise, obviously, fits into those sits in those categories. So, yeah, we were actually able to see some of the trends it was it was kind of interesting to see Some organizations really just didn’t skip a beat.

Dustin Parkman 4:05
But in the industry, we’ve seen, we’ve seen different changes, like I mentioned some of the geographical differences that the trends that we’ve seen, but you’ve also seen some interesting trends at the government levels of how they’re actually doing projects. So most governments are at least hoping, if not planning for some level of stimulus funding to come in. So you so what you’ve seen is they really kind of taken their project portfolio, so to speak of things that they were trying to do, and they’ve shifted how they’re actually executing them.

Dustin Parkman 4:43
For one, particularly urban area construction, you’re seeing a lot of that get expedited because of all the challenges you would normally have doing construction in very dense urban areas. You’ve got some freedoms that you wouldn’t otherwise have. There’s no book There’s no traffic. There’s not a lot of people on the street. So doing, particularly things where you’re having to do underground utilities and drainage networks that are very disruptive, usually to traffic and mobility, those projects have a luxury to actually do that now without all of that disruption. So you’re seeing that you’re also seeing trends like where rather than doing the the actual project execution, they’re using their existing capital budgets to actually get a lot of the design work done ahead of time, in preparation for stimulus funding that might have some constraints on time to deliver so that way, they’re well prepared to actually move from, you know, right into construction from design construction. So they’re shifting that work upstream in preparation for that, so so that’s been interesting, as well.

Dustin Parkman 5:58
I think at the government level, a lot of governments were kind of caught flat footed as well, they we saw this kind of this dark period, few weeks because yeah, a lot of times they didn’t have a good work from home policy, maybe they didn’t have the right computing hardware to take home laptops or laptops that had the capacity to do some of the more complex graphical type of design work or virtual construction work. So, so yeah, there’s, it’s been, it’s been a very interesting, it’s been very agile time. We’re learning a lot each week based on behaviors and trends.

Dustin Parkman 6:37
And so it’s been, you know, despite the tragedy of all of it, it’s actually been a there’s been some exciting things that have happened as well. And I think, you know, what, what is the the saying? Catastrophe is the mother of innovation, or necessiity as a mother of innovation. So I think you’re seeing a lot of that happen in business. New norms that are actually I think that will stick around so I think a lot of the things that you’re seeing particularly in the in the in the professional work you know, professionalism and workforce areas. I think a lot of these trends will stick I think a lot of them will stay I think on the on the social aspect of our lives. I don’t think the zoom happy hours are gonna last, though.

Carla Jean Lauter 7:24
I think we all have a little zoom fatigue?

Dustin Parkman 7:27
A little zoom fatigue. I think they’ll be glad to get back to their normal socializing.

Carla Jean Lauter 7:33
Kind of on that point that you were just making there, you know, for SPAR 3D and AEC Next, the two publications that we we manage here, we talk a lot about kind of what’s driving people towards digitization, and what’s what’s going to help them “go digital” and sometimes it’s a you know, an unusual circumstances. But I want to talk a little bit with you about how kind of that common data environment things like Project wise 365 can kind of help people make that transition. Can you speak to that a little bit?

Unknown Speaker 8:13
Yeah, absolutely. So So Project Wise 365 is our is our new product offering underneath the Project Wise umbrella, it is a it’s really meant to give people the same type of capabilities and benefits that traditional project wise has had. But, but traditional Project Wise has really historically been kind of an enterprise level system, right. So, it typically, you know, you companies are making a larger decision on on their technology stack whereas Project Wise 365 is meant to be, it can be used at an enterprise level, but it can also be used at a small workgroup level, because it’s it’s SaaS. With an instant on, work groups of essentially any size can get can get benefits on the very low end, it can just be you know, document management and file sharing, doing collaborative design reviews, whether that be in 2D or 3D, just to allow teams to be mobile, but yet connected to integrate, you can integrate those types of design review sessions and systems and issue tracking into the, the some of the general collaboration platforms like Microsoft Office 365. So you can embed this inside your team’s environment.

Dustin Parkman 9:36
So you you can already leverage the collaboration platform you have, but provide engineering and construction tooling that is relevant for what professionals and practitioners really need to do their job. So project wise 365 you know, really kind of goes down the pyramid. of complexity of projects allowing people to kind of use this even on the smallest of projects. So small work groups, small organizations, small firms very cost effective model as well allowing anybody to get the benefits of, of engineering work in progress collaboration, I can also use the environment to do all of their correspondence with with with clients, as well as the, you know, the supply chain of subcontractors, whether that be on the engineering side or on the construction side, it provides this platform of capturing feedback, capturing issues allowing you to do transmittals and ROI responses, traditional core construction correspondence, and capturing that, that communication over over the live feed project. So it’s really, you know, it’s our first foray at it. And there’s already a tremendous amount of uptake we’ve seen globally. And so we’re really excited about it. And there’s a lot of a lot of great things to come as well on that platform.

Carla Jean Lauter 11:10
Absolutely. And, and I, you know, I hear your point about kind of the medium to small, you know, kind of firms being able to get on board with this, because I know that you guys work with a lot of some of the largest firms out there, you know, the, in the ENR top 100. But, can you speak a little bit to how those medium or small firms might be able to benefit, but what would you also say to those who are saying, Oh, well, you know, I have a file sharing thing. And yeah, I have one collaborative tool, and I have, you know, they have these kind of piecemeal solutions, you know, is there. Is there kind of one major benefit to kind of having that sole source for them?

Unknown Speaker 11:45
Yeah. I think the the difference between what Project 365 is and some, you know, more generic collaboration platforms, Dropbox, OneDrive, and the likes is are the tooling that we have on top of all of that is is really kind of what the typical day in life would be for an engineer for a designer for for construction project managers really providing those practitioners specific tools for, for analyzing deliverables, analyzing models, doing spatial based review and commenting, tracking, making sure that the data is available on any device, whether you’re in the office, whether you’re in the field, and really providing that kind of neural network of communication and and an execution for what a infrastructure project is actually about. So it’s it’s above and beyond just vanilla collaboration, it’s very catered and to to engineering and construction professionals

Carla Jean Lauter 12:59
And for those professionals, how much training or onboarding is needed to kind of get someone up and going with this, what’s what’s that learning curve, like for new users? And and what other resources and support are there for when they decide to try it out?

Dustin Parkman 13:15
Yeah, so right now, we were offering the ProjectWise 365. At you know, we’re basically waiving subscription fees until September 30 of this year in in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And so as a result of that, we we have, we basically built an onboarding program. So anybody who signs up for that offer, we have our user success specialist, actually walking people through how to use all the different tools to answer your first question. These tools are very approachable, they’re really meant to be kind of self discoverable, not requiring a lot of training or you know, typical over the shoulder type of stuff. It’s they’re really meant to Be insistent on. But with that said, we do have four sessions that we put people through that, when I sign up to allow them to get the most value out of the product really kind of do some deep learning on a couple of the different areas. So that’s what we’re offering to the industry right now.

Carla Jean Lauter 14:25
And so, you know, just kind of looking forward, beyond, the COVID-19 pandemic, are you seeing any trends in the way that maybe infrastructure design and engineering is going to change in the future and in terms of just how it’s going to be done generally, like, what kind of things are we doing now that might stick or that we need to adopt in the industry?

Unknown Speaker 14:45
I think there are a lot of trends that are gonna stick I mean, the obvious one is mobility. Everyone will have a good mobility strategy. Going forward, I think I think most people will be prepared, preparing or not if but when The next pandemic or natural disaster actually takes takes place so that their business isn’t disruptive, disrupted.

Dustin Parkman 15:09
But there’s also a lot of trends that we’re seeing, like, for example, a lot of the site surveying type of work is actually being done. Instead of sending out all the disciplines to the site to do the do the review, we’re seeing people tell me sending one person on site and they’re actually using a drone, and everyone else is on a zoom meeting or a team’s meeting. And they’re actually using, you know, just the pilot on site to basically go and analyze the different areas, but everyone’s actually doing the review from from their homes, which is, which is kind of interesting.

Dustin Parkman 15:45
Obviously, we’ve seen construction change up a little bit as well, as far as how to kind of stay true to the social distance thing and how do you how do you break up disciplines? How do you do work? A bit differently. And so so there’s some system changes there. I think that might stick around, obviously, the use of any type of mobility or virtualization, to get your work done. I think that’s, that’s here to stay. I think most people are realizing, hey, we’ve been traveling all over the place all the time, we probably don’t need to do that as much. I know, from our own personal perspective, as someone who’s spent the last 15 years on an airplane traveling all around the world to different projects and meeting with different users. You know, it’s kind of been, you know, we’ve been able to do what we would have done before without having to do that. So I think, you know, I don’t think that travel I think travel will definitely be changed quite a bit. And I think people are going to figure out how to do things virtually, that they probably wouldn’t have have otherwise.

Carla Jean Lauter 16:56
Well, thank you so much for joining us today. And you know, we appreciate everything. thing that you guys are doing and good luck in the future and I hope that we get back to back to work, whether it’s the new work or the or the same work as we were before. Thanks very much!

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

 

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About Author

Carla Lauter

Carla Lauter is the editor of SPAR3D.com and the SPAR 3D Newsletter. Before joining SPAR 3D, Carla spent 10 years on NASA and National Science Foundation funded projects focusing on Earth science and communication. She has worked on web-based outreach and online interactives for NASA Earth Science, including products for satellite missions measuring sea level, salinity and hyperspectral ocean color.

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