Event Report: BE 2006, Part 1

22 May, 2006

At its annual user conference, Bentley Systems announces new e-learning service, two new acquisitions and more

It's Speed Week in Charlotte, North Carolina, and although I can't tell you much about the NASCAR races, I can cover the highlights from the first day of activities at BE 2006, the annual Bentley Systems user conference. The day began with a series of keynote addresses and the news that the long-awaited MicroStation V8 XM is now available. I'll review the highlights of the new release later this week. Following is the balance of the company's news from today.

Learn Online
Tony Flynn, Bentley Systems chief marketing officer, announced a new program called Bentley Learn, an on-demand e-learning service that will provide 800 hours of courses when it launches in June. Flynn expects that amount to triple by year-end. SELECT subscribers can access Bentley Learn for 20% of their select fee -- for example, a subscriber that pays $700 per year can add the e-learning service for an additional $140. Users can also configure Bentley Learn as a private portal and incorporate their own training materials.

Incidentally, Bentley reports that it will increase pricing for its SELECT program, its first increase in ten years.

Buying Spree Continues
Bentley CEO Greg Bentley announced two very recent acquisitions -- so recent, they won't be immortalized in press releases until after the event. GEF-RIS is a German company that develops GIS for multi-utilities -- those that provide more than one service (gas, water, electricity, telecommunications, heating, sewage and disposal). The sisNET product is built on MicroStation, ProjectWise and several other Bentley products. Styli Camateros, vice-president of Bentley Geospatial, says that many utilities in Europe need to incorporate more than one service into their model -- for example, a city might provide both water and electricity.

Bentley also acquired the CADScript and MAPScript applications from Corporate Montage, an Australian developer of MicroStation add-ons. MAPScript is a plotting product that can be used with any application. It creates a range of output formats, including PDF, GeoTIFF and PNG, and creates plot sets that can be archived and distributed. MAPScript is a map-finishing application that will provide Bentley with cartographic capabilities.

Corporate Montage reports that it plans to focus on its CADConfirm standards management software, which I saw in action on the exhibit floor. The server-based product presents MicroStation users with a drafting environment through which they access design elements that conform to the company's CAD standards. Users can work in standard MicroStation, if they choose, but what they create won't adhere to the standards. A Check and Fit tool enables the CAD manager to find and fix nonconforming items in a process similar to spell-checking. A digital watermark can be attached to files that pass the standards audit -- the watermark invalidates itself if any change is then made to the document. To facilitate the process, CADConfirm supports the import of a company's existing standards in a variety of formats, including DGN and DWG files, templates, PDF files and more. Corporate Montage estimates that it takes three to four days to build a comprehensive set of standards in the product and that the average cost is $500 per user.

Business Report
Greg Bentley also presented a quick summary of the company's 2005 performance. It earned $336 million in revenue, with an organic growth rate of 8%. Two-thirds of the company's revenue comes from subscriptions, and half is generated outside North America.

Conference Count
The Charlotte conference, which runs through May 25, attracted 2,000 attendees from 700 companies, according to Flynn. Attendees come from 41 countries, an impressive number considering that Bentley is staging a European conference in Prague in early June. Users in the Civil arena made up 31% of attendees, followed by Building with 22% and Plant and Geospatial with 21% each.