LAST MONTH GRAPHISOFT, a world-leader in BIM technologies and software for the AEC industry, announced that Huw Roberts was named as its new CEO. The change was not an isolated incident but rather a component of a larger reorganization of the Nemetschek parent company’s executive board. Viktor Várkonyi, its former CEO, would be taking up a full-time position as chief division officer (CDO) for the Planning and Design segment of the Nemetschek Group. (see: Architosh, “Toward a Billion Euro Company—Patrik Heider Discusses Nemetschek’s New Formulation,” 29 April 2019).
Architosh noted that the news of the reorganized executive board and management of Nemetschek segments wasn’t particularly surprising given recent announcements, including the formation of Spacewell at Nemetschek, the decision by the Nemetschek to develop a group-wide CDE (common data environment) solution based on Bluebeam technology at its core, and deeper analysis information Architosh hadn’t yet published.
Huw Roberts had already taken up a post in Boston, where GRAPHISOFT has its executive offices for the Americas. Moving to Budapest to become its next CEO wasn’t necessarily obvious but in the absence of Várkonyi—whose own role change will be explained in a new feature on the Nemetschek Group—GRAPHISOFT needed a deeply experienced CAD/BIM industry executive and Huw met that criteria.
We start our interview with a continuation of that line of inquiry about how the CEO role emerged for Huw Roberts, how his Bentley experience has an impact on his new role, and how he intends to lead this venerable BIM innovator.
(Anthony Frausto-Robledo) When you joined GRAPHISOFT late last year, did you do so with the understanding that you were possibly going to become the next company CEO or was the role of the CEO a sudden development?
From my perspective, I joined the GRAPHISOFT team as VP Americas with a specific focus on driving our success in those markets. In that role, I was also a member of the Executive Leadership team centered in Budapest and contributing to global, strategic, and operational topics as well. This was a great way for me to really learn the company and our business, and it also provided opportunities to show value for the company as a whole. It also enabled the company to learn and evaluate me as well—all of which is now proving highly valuable in ensuring a smooth transition to CEO for me and the company.
Now that you are the CEO of GRAPHISOFT, what are some of the opportunities you see in the BIM leader and what types of initiatives may you take to drive at those opportunities?
GRAPHISOFT has enjoyed a very dynamic growth phase, especially over the past decade. This success creates a very solid basis for our continued and accelerated growth in the future. We have a tremendous technology base, global market-leading products for architects and designers, and what is likely the most loyal and passionate user base in the AEC space—all of which will help us build great things together.
We have some really compelling and exciting innovations currently in the works (that I won’t share publicly yet), some really transformative ideas cooking, and of course, will continually enhance the capabilities of our products and services.
As we look ahead to our growth strategies, for me it will always be about how we can add significant value for our customers by helping them be their best, and offering new capabilities to design, collaborate, communicate and deliver great architecture. We have some really compelling and exciting innovations currently in the works (that I won’t share publicly yet), some really transformative ideas cooking, and of course, will continually enhance the capabilities of our products and services. Stay tuned!
As a Bentley executive with years of experience competing in North America, against your primary rivals in the US market, what unique insights might you bring from that perspective that you can deploy in your new role at GRAPHISOFT?
As a follow-up, how do you see GRAPHISOFT’s US-based efforts at addressing its biggest competitors in the States?
I am fortunate to have had wonderful experiences throughout my career—as an architect, in software teams, and in marketing and business leadership—helping to drive innovation and transformation in AEC to creatively build value for everyone. I’ve also been lucky to have had many fantastic in-depth interactions with all types of AEC professionals in practice, government, education, and industry associations worldwide. And, as you rightly point out, I learned much about this ‘competitive landscape’ during my time with Bentley working with some smart people and in challenging a worthy rival, Autodesk. I look forward to applying lessons from all these experiences here at GRAPHISOFT—but I am a firm believer that our job is really to focus on providing our customers and future customers advantages in their market—and if we continue to do that well our success will naturally follow.
Do you envision a new strategy for how you will target the US market for GRAPHISOFT growth?
Oh, you want a longer answer? 😉 Simply put, it’s about delivering compelling capabilities, offering attractive commercial terms, and providing the exceptional training, services, and support to help our customers succeed—and letting everyone know about it.
What types of synergistic opportunities do you see emerging under the new Group divisional structure?
The products in the Nemetschek portfolio collectively deliver a broad set of key capabilities for AEC professionals and project enterprises. With this new structure, leveraging those capabilities in concert to address customer needs becomes much easier, and in fact a key strategic focus.
ARCHICAD with BIMcloud and BIMx, strengthened by openBIM workflows, has proven to be highly aligned with these large enterprise needs, and we expect to continue our growth in this area.
Some obvious examples of interest to the US market could include synergies between Risa, the most popular structural engineering software in the US, and ARCHICAD to integrate multi-disciplinary workflows amongst architects and engineers; or with Bluebeam to keep BIM and document workflows aligned; or with dRofus to integrate planning and client requirements with the design experience in ARCHICAD; or with Solibri to integrate quality checking throughout workflow. We’re all very excited about these synergies and the benefits.
At Bentley, you dealt with very large enterprise customers in the US. Such massive customers for GRAPHISOFT have mostly emerged in Japan and Asia. Do you see a path forward and strategy to capture some of these large customers for GRAPHISOFT and will your Bentley experience provide you some strategic advantage?
Large enterprises are interesting in that primarily they have all of the same needs as smaller enterprises—great tools to help each individual do exceptional work, and tools that help project teams work well together—they just need ‘more’. Additionally, the nature of many such large enterprise customers is that they typically seek to integrate aspects of the project workflow internally and to a much higher degree. This could be amongst disciplines, across project phases, and between stakeholders of all kinds. As you note, we have been successful with these types of larger enterprises, and most visibly in Asia, but we also see growing demand and opportunity around the world.
A clear observation we have found is that many larger enterprises had previously disproportionally focused on the broader generalized solution issues over, or separately from, core capabilities and needs within each function—often resulting in real dissatisfaction with the solution during use. And, in fact, we’ve been quite successful in displacing systems for that very reason. ARCHICAD with BIMcloud and BIMx, strengthened by openBIM workflows, has proven to be highly aligned with these large enterprise needs, and we expect to continue our growth in this area. The Nemetschek Group portfolio and new strategic focus provide many opportunities to further expand and strengthen our success with such enterprises as well.
Will you work full time in Budapest and if so, who will lead GRAPHISOFT in the US?
I am based in GRAPHISOFT’s corporate headquarters in Budapest, Hungary. Our US team is led by Tracey Gatland, Managing Director of GRAPHISOFT North America, leading a great team based in Waltham, Massachusetts and across the country.