Bentley Systems Explores SAP S/4HANA
By Brianna Shipley, Director of Editorial, SAPinsider
Editor’s note: This article appears in SAPinsider’s 2021 September Executive Magazine.
At a Glance
- Bentley Systems, a global software provider serving professionals who create and manage the world’s infrastructure, is in the exploratory phase of developing its enterprise system of the future.
- The company is following a cloud-first strategy, running its SAP landscape on Microsoft Azure and developing the business case for SAP S/4HANA.
- Bentley’s senior director of global business solutions shares early learnings and advice for appealing to leadership.
Bentley Systems serves engineers worldwide with its innovative software products. The company’s mission is to advance the world’s infrastructure by helping companies like AAEngineering bring gold production into Kyrgyzstan; Sterlite BIM delivers reliable, renewable power to some of India’s most remote areas; and the Liaoning Water Conservancy and Hydropower Survey and Design Research Institute address a water supply shortage in Beijing’s cities.
According to Barry Carney, Bentley Systems’ Senior Director of Global Business Solutions, the software provider is leading the way in digital twins in the infrastructure space. The next-gen technology provides a digital representation of a physical asset in the moment, allowing companies to understand what is happening with real-world assets in real-time without having to leave the office.
Among Bentley’s over 300 software solutions are MicroStation, one of the company’s flagship products that are used in modeling and simulation; ProjectWise, used as a project collaboration platform in the engineering space; and AssetWise, asset reliability software.
“As the business landscape changes, we’re expected to keep pace with innovations as they happen. As a software company, we have to continually move and customize our applications to support new business initiatives and processes. Senior management is focused now on positioning the company to seize market opportunities before our competitors,” Carney says.
SAP technology serves as Bentley’s core engine, responsible for running about 90% of the business. The massive technology provider is a critical component to the company’s modernization strategy, which is currently in an exploratory phase.
The objective is simple: Become adaptive to the pace of change, bring technological innovation to the forefront, and ultimately deliver advancements quicker to users.
The company is moving steadily to consolidate its infrastructure, reduce costs and complexity, and develop a roadmap and sponsorship for the upgrade.
“We think SAP is a great partner. We’re very vigilant and deliberate in our approach to how we want to tackle this project,” Carney says.
Moving to a new system is a monumental project for a company like Bentley Systems, which runs a very customized IT landscape, requiring that every system and linkages between systems be considered as part of its modernization effort.
“We don’t want to jump in the water. We want to get our feet wet by dipping our toes in.” In other words, he wants to get it right.
“Keeping up with demand and the ever-changing business landscape and fighting to win business every day are important things for us as a company to gain market share,” Carney says.
The Road to Simplification is Paved in Learning
A learn-it-all approach is helping Bentley Systems develop its enterprise system of the future. To begin the road to simplification, the company is following a cloud-first strategy and learning from what other customers are doing to inform the business case for SAP S/4HANA.
Today, the company’s SAP footprint is hosted on Microsoft Azure, which affords the business the scalability it needs to grow, Carney says. “We’re a Microsoft partner. The benefits that we get from Azure make our developers’ lives a lot easier because we’re highly customized. We see great performance in our development and quality assurance (QA) systems running on Azure. Ultimately, that helps us deliver enhancements and changes quicker.”
Carney says Bentley’s IT operations and BASIS team are managing a hybrid environment today, running its infrastructure-as-a-service in its Azure data center. “We’re managing that infrastructure just like we would manage it in our data center, but we’ve moved it all to the cloud,” Carney says. This approach highlights the unique requirements of staff and skillsets when moving to the cloud.
Barry Carney, Senior Director of Global Business Solutions, Bentley Systems
Paying the Learnings Forward
Carney is careful to note the learnings and preparations that have been essential as the company builds its business case for SAP S/4HANA. He’s paying forward his early learnings to the community based on lessons that others have shared.
Learning #1: Reduce complexities in current systems. Carney says the company is reducing complexities and simplifying where it can. “For example, we’ve migrated our legacy territory management function from our on-premise SAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application to SAP Sales Cloud and doing things like moving data feeds out of SAP CRM directly to big data repositories.”
Learning #2: Evaluate different vendor approaches and recommendations. “We’re talking to different vendors about their capabilities and what they can bring to the table. Each vendor has a different spin on things.”
Carney says he’s asking vendors specific questions to understand what working with them would mean for Bentley, like what lessons they’ve learned about the change management aspects of moving to SAP S/4HANA and how they approach technical configurations and the architectures.
Learning #3: Leverage available tools from SAP to realize value opportunities. “Our SAP enterprise support team has provided invaluable resources, pointing us to webinars, giving presentations, showing us the tools that we could use, and answering our questions. We’re a big mid-market customer for SAP, and our enterprise support team has stepped up to give us guidance and answer a lot of questions around SAP and the migration potential that we can have as we move to SAP S/4HANA. They’ve been a great benefit to us to try to understand the capabilities and the benefits of moving to SAP S/4HANA.”
Carney says Bentley is considering how tools like SAP Transformation Navigator can reveal value opportunities for the business and is interested in best practices and how Bentley compares to other world-class organizations. “SAP’s value maps surveys have been selected as another data point to identify potential wins, but we haven’t actually started the business reviews yet. This capability could help us benchmark against other leading enterprises.”
Think Beyond Performance-based ROI
Carney has been thoughtful about which impacts of moving to SAP S/4HANA will contribute most to the return on investment (ROI) equation and is building this information into the business case.
“I hear a lot of business cases that describe the value of SAP S/4HANA being that it’s faster or that SAP HANA is a simpler database and easier to manage, or that it will allow the business to close its books faster. However, we need to get a bit more meat on the bones. The C-suite is going to say it’s a significant investment and will cause significant disruption to the business. Why would we spend money just to close the books a little faster?”
Carney has zeroed in on the following aspects so far:
- Out-of-the-box business process. “Having our processes in one platform is a benefit to the business and potentially reduces technical debt. The preparation to move to SAP S/4HANA also presents opportunities to consolidate the portfolio, simplify infrastructure, and reduce costs and complexity. This could lead to better portfolio management and reduce high ticket volume associated with a legacy system,” Carney says.
- Capabilities of SAP S/4HANA mapped against current, in-house capabilities and processes. Carney says that Bentley is first identifying the in-house capabilities of its customized system and mapping those against the added capabilities of SAP S/4HANA.
- Bluefield vs. brownfield vs. greenfield. Each has its pros and cons, says Carney, and Bentley is currently contemplating them.
- Holistic business transformation prospects and moving to the cloud. Bentley is at an inflection point as a company: build up its data center to support growth or move to the cloud. A tenant of its IT strategy, says Carney, is being a cloud-first organization. Bentley is considering moving SAP S/4HANA to the cloud as a future vision and a way to scale its computing environment quickly. Carney says it’s too early to tell whether Bentley will join other RISE with SAP customers, “but the idea intrigues me.”
What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders?
- Put things into context for the C-suite. Every business has current capabilities that are adding business value or keeping the lights on. The C-suite may benefit from learning what those capabilities are and what they could be with an upgrade. Don’t assume that leadership knows how everything works or that they’re reading between the lines. Keep the business case:
- Specific. When it comes to money and time saved, spell that out. For Bentley, this will include costs for add-ons that will be eliminated by moving to one platform, reducing the support burden, and potentially reducing technical debt.
- Supported. Carney says he’s looking for a business sponsor to bring with him along the journey, who is committed to getting buy-in before they get too far down the road or present at the executive level.
- Forward-thinking. Once you explain the current state, wow leadership with how SAP S/4HANA can open the door to innovative features and differentiating capabilities specific to your business.
- Take SAP up on its offer to help. Carney says he can understand why SAP is eager to move customers to SAP S/4HANA — he sees the benefits himself. What better provider to help you communicate the paybacks and capabilities of a software suite than its creators? In addition to working closely with its SAP enterprise support team, Bentley is looking at how SAP Transformation Navigator and value mapping tools can inform the business case and put into context for leadership the full potential of SAP S/4HANA.
- Beware of version fatigue. People need stable systems to do their jobs, and there’s constant pressure to innovate, especially for a software company like Bentley Systems. But when you push out a lot of enhancements, says Carney, those enhancements have to be tested and configured, and your staff has to learn the new functionality. “Having the latest and greatest technology is great, but the downside is the potential for version or enhancement fatigue.” Don’t fold under the continual marketing campaigns. Make educated decisions that make sense for your business and your team.
Company details: Bentley Systems is an infrastructure engineering software company. They provide innovative software to advance the world’s infrastructure — sustaining both the global economy and environment. Their industry-leading software solutions are used by professionals, and organizations of every size, for the design, construction, and operations of roads and bridges, rail and transit, water and wastewater, public works and utilities, buildings and campuses, mining, and industrial facilities.
Headquartered: Exton, Pennsylvania, with locations in 172 countries globally
SAP Solutions: SAP ECC, SAP Sales Cloud, SAP Marketing Cloud, SAP SuccessFactors, SAP Concur, SAP Customer Relationship Management, SAP Business Warehouse, SAP Jam, SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP NetWeaver, SAP Solution Manager, SAP Integration Suite, Qualtrics
Employees: More than 4,000 worldwide