Bentley builds construction portfolio with E7

Feb 28, 2021 | Hot Topics

A couple of days ago, amid all of the earnings reports (and ahead of its own, on Tuesday), Bentley Systems announced that it has acquired E7, an Australia-based maker of project delivery software for heavy civil construction.

E7’s platform includes mobile and web apps that digitize workflows for daily diaries, unplanned (and planned) event tracking, timesheets, daily costs, and quantity progress measurement, among other things, which lead to better resource utilization and field productivity — the very unsexy things that keep a project on time and on budget.

Bentley plans to use E7’s apps to extend its SYNCHRO construction modeling, project management and reporting capabilities to further its vision of a comprehensive 4D construction digital twin. (You know 1-2-3D; the 4th is time.)

I had heard of E7 in passing, when it was called Envision*, but had no idea it is as widely used as it is. Bentley says E7 has been deployed on over 350 projects valued at more than AUD 50 billion (around US $35 billion). On one project, as an example, E7 is used to “deliver daily productivity insights and optimize resource deployment to drive better cost and schedule outcomes. E7 ensures that data from 115 subcontractors is efficiently captured and can be used with confidence for productivity tracking, progress measurement, and payment of invoices.” A project director is quoted as saying that E7 contributes “failsafe systems that ensure large volumes of information can be processed accurately and fast. The efficiency of E7 has saved our project time and money, as it minimizes errors and maximizes productivity.”

E7’s CEO Hugh Hofmeister and CTO Adrian Smith, join Bentley as director of product management and director of product development, respectively.

It’s an interesting combination. E7’s product (and brand) are mobile-first, starting as Software-as-a-Service rather than bolting that onto an on-prem architecture. Adding to Bentley’s recent audio capture acquisition, it further integrates mobile with 3D, scheduled with as-completed and as-designed with as-built. That appeals to the large contractors and asset owners who are probably its primary clients — but E7’s apps are available on the various app stores, making it accessible to project teams, too. That matters, since project data is best collected as close to the point of creation as possible — by the worker at the construction site. We’re increasingly hearing from large firms that they’re entertaining including in their IT infrastructure the tools that have proven successful at the project level — so this two-pronged approach is a very good idea. Finally, E7’s data (versus document) focus enables what it calls “a clear line of sight” at a very granular level — an important element as Bentley and its peers talk more and more about analyzing project data.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but it seems like it’s completed. Expect questions about it on the earnings call on Tuesday.

*Interesting side note: When I worked backward to find out how Envision became E7, I stumbled across this. In June 2020 Mr. Hofmeister explained:

“As we secure more and more projects across the globe, we have decided to change from Envision to E7 to make our name more accessible and universal across borders and languages.”E7″ is distilled from Envision (E and the seven letters that follow), in a deliberate design cue reflecting our decade-long tradition of supporting major resource, energy, and infrastructure projects… Our new logo is inspired by our focus on the capture and analysis of data from projects.”

Now we know.