Enhancing the infrastructure



Bentley Systems is the global leader dedicated to providing architects, engineers, geospatial professionals, constructors, and owner-operators with comprehensive software solutions for sustaining infrastructure. Jenny Kassis had the chance to meet with Mr. Greg Bentley, CEO, Bentley Systems who was visiting the region, and discussed their solutions and vision in the Middle East and the UAE.


Please give us a brief background about Bentley Systems and its operations in the UAE?


Bentley Systems is present all over the world where there is a path of infrastructure development. The company applies information mobility to improve asset performance by leveraging information modeling through integrated projects for intelligent infrastructure. We have been in the Middle East for a long time. We have 7 offices throughout the region. Our Dubai office is the biggest in the region. We started operating here in 1998, and are currently growing faster. The number of people here is a bottleneck for our business opportunities in the UAE. Thus, I plan to campaign among our 3,000 colleagues elsewhere in the world for their interest in the international posting to Dubai.


What kind of solutions and products do you provide in the UAE?


We have a portfolio of software applications to support all infrastructure engineering activities, from architecture through construction and collaboration services to tight the applications in the project together, so the work can be shared everywhere in the world. We also have software for asset performance for infrastructure projects of great importance for this region. This includes rail and metro assets, water and waste water, buildings and industrial operations counting offshore platforms. Infrastructure engineers work on it from a civil and structural standpoint. We have a software for the campuses in which they work and the utility connections between them. The software is well utilized in the Middle East and the UAE in particular.


Which sector in the UAE requires your solutions the most?


The civil and rail sectors are a bit larger than building and plant. Moreover, geospatial disciplines underlie all of the utilities in water.


How is Bentley Systems improving the infrastructure in the UAE?


For us, the Middle East and especially the UAE is the place for megaprojects. Megaprojects take advantage of everything Bentley Systems offers. I am so pleased to be here representing all of our colleagues who have developed all the software used in here. For instance, the way in which the scale of the Abu Dhabi’s midfield terminal building is all put together. The level of ambition for information mobility is really exemplary as one awards and deserves it. It is leading the way in the world for how to take risk and schedule and get cost out of megaprojects. We are glad to be part of this.


What kind of challenges do you face in the region and in Dubai specifically?


The biggest challenge we presently have, is the level of resources we can bring here at one time. For instance, the BIM (Building Information Modeling) and the advances of it for better performing assets and projects. The new technologies have the interest of everyone in the world. The major engineering firms in the world are locating their center of competence for rail and water projects here in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, not only for the projects here, but to serve projects elsewhere in the whole world. That is a population of engineers eager to participate in these advancements, especially in integrated projects where the design is considered along with the constructions and ultimately the operations.


The bottleneck we have is helping that learning to be done as quickly as we all would like. Providing learning, we call it our Bentley institute. Everything else depends on that. We have resorted to some extraordinary form factors for that. We have held a 2 weeks training recently and invited interested engineers to participate and learn about technologies. However, we need to make it easier than that. We need to have our own experienced colleagues to join us in the region. In my opinion, the best solution is to persuade many of our colleagues elsewhere to come to Dubai for the sake of challenges and the quality of life that infrastructure is providing, and to join other engineers who have come to the UAE as a place from which to serve the rest of the world. That is the phenomenon I have mostly marked upon since arriving here. Of course we have challenging megaproject and megaprojects’ successes here, but the engineering talent is attractive.


What differentiates you from your competitors in the region?


The software companies we compete with elsewhere in the world are present here as well. We try a bit harder and do a great job on the megaprojects scale. Our software has been performing better under very large projects. However, in terms of computing and software today, we have gone beyond applications for desktops and then servers for collaboration, to next work on apps for mobile devices. We also take advantage of cloud service computing such as the “Microsoft as your cloud” service provider, to work together in a hybrid way.


Another distinctive fact of our company is that among our 5 founding Bentley brothers, 4 are engineers and software developers. They continue to lead the direction of our software development so we have consistency and coherence across all of our software. This includes the four form factors of computing. Thus, those aren’t separate and independent but integral and interoperable, and where it pays of most when you have applications and collaborations servers and apps for the field and cloud services to connect it all together is on these megaprojects. Therefore, these projects are a welcome shakedown for all of our technologies working together. The fact that they work well together is a competitive advantage for us and a differentiator that the Middle East appreciates our opportunity to continue to improve.


We know that you provide infrastructural trainings for professionals in the UAE; could you please give us more details about it? Learning has to be a lifelong activity for engineers today. Their lively hood is accomplished through computing. The level of depth of information modeling has gone from simply visualizing the project to simulating or exploring different alternatives for energy optimization for different combination of materials.


An engineer needs to keep learning to apply the technologies better. Increasingly, that is not a matter of traditional training course. It is a kind of exercises that are at the right time. It is about personalized recommendations that the software would make for functions that would be appropriate based on the success of other projects. This is an aspiration which is now possible and is a responsibility we have, as a vendor, to have software which can make personalized recommendations for playlists of tools to take advantage of, and learn how to use them better. We are addressing this bottleneck in learning in these multiple ways. We need to get it right because the learning curve will only get steeper.


I would like to mention something that has worked in London on the cross rail project. Bentley has created The Bentley Crossrail Academy, where suppliers, contractors, and crews can come through to gain an appreciation for information mobility and innovations, including apps on construction sites. This is in order to access data safely in the field, and advance the state of practice in this regard. While I am here in the Middle East, I will be encouraging this approach to learning as well. Everything from a physical academy to major projects, allow participants to be exposed to the importance of information mobility and the systems in which it takes place. This includes apps and devices that are used firsthand safely in the field.


What are your future plans for growth in the Middle East and the UAE?


There is already a larger backlog of infrastructure aspirations in the Middle East, especially in the Gulf region and the UAE. Airport and rail are very important at the moment. The Dubai metro is also important. However, the ambition to expand the metro is a tremendous opportunity for this advancement of BIM to make it possible so that the information created during design is used during construction and operations. The time to be thinking about that is now, and this is the level of thinking which is important now in the Middle East and the Gulf.


The proportion of the world’s infrastructure investment that will be here is a reason for us to prioritize this region, in terms of our own resources and investment. If we use the example of Dubai, the significance of infrastructure is not only important for citizens in Dubai; it attracts visitors and economic activity and workers. Thus, the very success of Dubai depends on the success of its infrastructure. This is a place we should give a first priority to in the quality and quantity of our investment and attention. I intend to apply what I am learning here to encourage my colleagues around the world to volunteer in the international posting to the region for the next few years, because the opportunity has never been better in the world and may not be better again to work on such megaprojects. To me Expo 2020 could be important in its own right, in terms of infrastructure opportunities and requirements. But, it is more symbolic of a city which aims to be smart in terms of its infrastructure investment and then to share the lessons learned with the world. That is what expos are all about. Expo 2020 will be a place where lessons of what can be accomplished in terms of infrastructure quality and megaprojects are shared. With smarter use of technology, we can work to reduce our environmental impact. This is what will be accomplished increasingly between now and 2020 in Dubai.


*Interview conducted by Jenny Kassis


About Greg Bentley

Greg Bentley is the CEO of Bentley Systems. Mr. Bentley holds an M.B.A. in Finance and Decision Sciences from Wharton University. He is a trustee of Drexel University, where he also serves as Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Pennoni Honors College, and a Trustee of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.


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