BK: Welcome to HxGN RADIO. My name is Brian. Thank you so much for joining us today. We’re going to be talking about the expansion of EcoSys beyond project controls. With the release of EcoSys 8, EcoSys will now offer a complete solution for customers to improve the performance of their projects, becoming the first commercial vendor to offer solutions for full life-cycle project performance, project portfolio management, project controls and contract management. The integration between solutions offers added value that is unmatched in the industry.
Joining me is Mark White, senior vice president of projects performance at Hexagon PPM. We will be discussing EcoSys 8 and its expansion efforts. Mark, welcome and thanks for joining me.
MW: Thank you, Brian. Good to be here.
BK: So, tell us a little bit about EcoSys.
MW: Well, EcoSys helps our customers plan and execute all the projects, programs and portfolios. Usually, engineering construction starts with the identification of a project opportunity. This helps customers determine whether they should invest in a particular opportunity. Whether they’re an owner organization, EPC or other contractor, it would help them manage the bid opportunities. So, we work for both types of companies. Then, into project execution, we provide best practices for product controls and contract management.
EcoSys offers three products: EcoSys Portfolios for portfolio management, EcoSys Projects for project controls and EcoSys Contracts for contract management. The unique thing about EcoSys is that all these products exist in one web-based enterprise platform.
BK: Excellent, excellent. So now, what’s your role there, and what are you specifically working on?
MW: Well, I’ve been in EcoSys for about five years. The first four and a half years I was in a sales organization, so I’ve worked directly with a lot of our customers – some of the major customers, whether owner operators or EPCs – and just helped them understand the business value of EcoSys, and obviously helped with acquisition of the software. About the end of July, I took on a new role where now I’m responsible for the EcoSys product vision and strategy, and the road map for Hexagon PPM globally. It’s a very exciting role, a new kind of work for me. I’m very excited to take that on and to take the product vision forward, working closely with our customers and partners, of course.
BK: It sounds excellent. It sounds like a great opportunity and seems like you’re doing some really, great stuff. So, now with the release of EcoSys 8, EcoSys has announced the availability of new solutions for the management of portfolios, contracts. Talk about these new solutions a little more in detail.
MW: Yes, so we’ve always focused on project controls. We’ve certainly had aspects of portfolio management and contract management, but fundamentally, we realized there’s no point controlling a project perfectly if it’s the wrong project to begin with. Similarly, without ensuring all your projects are managed effectively, you can’t really control all aspects of a project. So we decided to invest in the expansion of those capabilities to create those two new products—EcoSys Portfolios and EcoSys Contracts—and while these projects can stand alone, maximum benefit is derived from using them all together with EcoSys Projects to create a comprehensive projects performance solution.
An exciting consequence is the ability to recycle data. Once you’ve executed a project, you get achieved cost and quantity information. You can recycle that back into the front side within EcoSys Portfolios to make sure that your estimates for future projects are that much more accurate through benchmarking.
BK: Nice. So now, what led you to develop these solutions? I mean, was there a problem in the industry that wasn’t being solved correctly?
MW: Yes, and it was the problem that we solved with EcoSys 10 years ago. Ease of use, flexibility, enterprise scalability. We brought all of those key capabilities to project controls. And then our customers told us that the portfolio of contract management tools were clunky, rigid, didn’t scale very well and were built on old technology. So, we decided to invest in portfolio and contract management. This allows our customers to benefit from all our core strengths and helps them replace their legacy point solutions for portfolios and contracts.
BK: Excellent. So now, what does this new category, Enterprise Projects Performance, mean?
MW: Glad you pointed it out. It’s a new category and we’re very excited about it. We realized project controls didn’t properly or fully describe what we do anymore, nor do other terms like PPM or project management. So, we decided to create a new category, one that highlights performance over management. Performance connotes both delivery and excellence, not just for projects, but for your entire company. Projects is deliberately plural because you can’t make significant improvements in performance by executing one project at a time. Instead, you need to select the right projects and execute them all in accordance with standards based on best practices. That’s only achievable with one modern, scalable web platform. So, hence, we came up with the name Enterprise Projects Performance.
BK: Perfect. Now, does this signal a shift away from project controls, then?
MW: No, no way. We’re the global leader in enterprise project controls. We won’t be resting on our laurels there. We have a lot of fantastic customers who continue to rely on our technology for project controls, and it’s still a critical part of the projects life cycle. So, we’re always looking to make improvements there and offer more options out of the box. In fact, we’re investing in new and enhanced features for project controls in our current road map. The aim is to just further separate us from the pack.
BK: I know you’ve already touched on this, but tell me a little bit more about how the EcoSys 8 platform is unique in the industry.
MW: So, everything happens in one platform. It’s the same browser base. Mobile applications connect to just one database. Other vendors who provide solutions in all three areas really do offer three technology products on three different platforms. We have three products on one technology platform. It makes a massive difference! It’s fully integrated, so when you select a project from any one of the three products, you’re selecting it from the same list of projects. There’s no integration; you don’t have to automate the data exchange between the three pieces. IT groups love that because they only have one platform to manage and host, support, upgrade, etc. That reduces a lot of their costs. They don’t need to buy multiple operating systems and app servers and database servers. That role-based security allows them to give end users the parts and pieces of each product they need, again, all within one environment.
BK: So, obviously, significantly more efficient, more user-friendly, and then overall, more effective for the company.
MW: That’s right. Absolutely.
BK: Excellent. What other benefits and value are you going to deliver?
MW: You know, the returns on investment are massive, and I look at it this way: If you’re in the projects business, whether you’re an owner or an EPC firm and you don’t standardize projects prioritization, planning and delivery, what result should you expect? You’ll select projects without knowing whether they align with your strategy. You won’t be able to establish real performance baselines—you’ll need to control, so you’ll lose control. You’ll manage contracts in an ad hoc way, and you’ll rely too much on the expertise of your people, not the standards you should institutionalize as part of an EcoSys 8 rollout.
So, you must manage these processes as efficiently and effectively as possible to not only maximize gains, but also reduce losses. Every organization managing a portfolio of projects—especially engineering and construction projects, but even IT projects—will benefit from using EcoSys 8.
BK: Do you have any examples you can share of a company’s performance before using something similar? Do you have a comparison of what it was like before they used EcoSys 8 and now?
MW: I do. One of our key customers, an EPC firm, selected EcoSys when they were using Excel spreadsheets. There were tremendous inefficiencies from having to manually obtain all the information required to effectively control the projects and put their all into an Excel sheet. They calculated that before implementing EcoSys, it was taking 60% of the work week just to manipulate data, just to move data around. After implementing EcoSys, they shaved that down to 5% of low-value work.
In an organization with 100 project-controls people, it doesn’t take a genius to work out the considerable savings there, and it’s not really dollar savings. They didn’t let all those people go; they allowed them to focus on higher-value activities like communication, analysis and forecasting, so they themselves, the employees, were much more enriched on a daily basis. They enjoyed their work and the attrition rate dropped. It was a significant win for that company.
BK: Wow. That’s fantastic. You also mentioned improving returns and margins. What’s an example of how using EcoSys leads to those financial gains, since you mentioned just now the incredible efficiency increase. What about those financial gains?
MW: That’s right. It can be summed up with the phrase efficient predictability and control. We talked about the efficiency piece, but the real gains, the real big-dollar gains come in improved predictability and control. So, knowing your processes will maximize the chances of picking the right project. There are many cases in the industry where major organizations have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the wrong project – where the business case on which the project was executed was flawed. It didn’t matter how well they controlled and delivered the project; it was never going to give them a return on investment.
So, the predictability piece, right from the inception of the project, enables customers to use those benchmarks to improve the quality and accuracy of early stage estimates, and then continue to evolve those estimates into execution. That predictability is critical for an organization across an entire portfolio in understanding whether any given project will deliver on the returns that they promised.
BK: Do you have to use all three of the solutions together?
MW: Well, of course, with my sales hat on, I would say yes. We really do recommend it to get the most gains. But if you have a priority in one of the three areas, we can start there and evolve with you. If you have success with other tools that don’t need to be changed in the near term, we’ll interface with those. We have a lot of expertise and technology for integrating with other systems, so that’s okay. But certainly we’d have a long-term vision of bringing all three tools, all three process areas and disciplines, into the one enterprise platform.
BK: So based on what you said, it makes the most sense for an organization to use all three solutions.
MW: It does, it really does. If you want to get the most synergy, the most value, reduce the footprint of platforms and technologies within your environment, we highly recommend to use all three within the EcoSys 8 platform.
BK: Excellent. So, what do you see as the future of EcoSys and Enterprise Projects Performance?
MW: I may not mention often enough that we’re now part of the Hexagon PPM group. For a couple of years we’ve been in that company, and that really adds a new dimension for us. It’s very exciting. We’re already, for example, interfacing with the Smart 3D, Smart Materials and Smart Construction products to automate data exchanges for progress and commitment to actuals. These are key areas for efficiency and accuracy gains within our customer base. We’re working on the automation of progressing methods for the development of 3D models.
It’s really difficult to measure how much of a 3D model you have completed, because there’s no real baseline. So, we’re creating a really new, innovative solution around that. And perhaps one of the most exciting areas is in the realm of 5D, where we’re, again, using our colleagues in Hexagon PPM with the Intergraph Smart 3D products to provide project and contract data into a model so we can visualise it in 3D and offer a unique perspective on projects performance.
BK: Very exciting.
MW: It is, it is. I’m excited to be a part of it. We have a massive global organization. Our goal is to rule the world, change the world and have everybody using EcoSys 8 over the next few years.
BK: Excellent. Well, thank you very much, Mark, for sharing all of this. Thank you for your time today. This was fantastic and we’re very excited to hear what you’re doing.
MW: Brian, my pleasure. Thank you very much.
BK: And thank you for joining us here today on HxGN RADIO. You can learn more about EcoSys over at ecosys.net. That is E-C-O-S-Y-S.net. Be sure to tune in to more episodes on HxGNRADIO.com, or you can visit us over on iTunes, SoundCloud, or Stitcher Radio. Thank you so much for listening.