How Bentley Motors is driving home a data advantage through cloud-based integration

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels October 13, 2023
Summary:
The automotive giant is using the Snowflake Data Cloud to bring disparate sources together and to democratize information access.

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Bentley Motors has implemented the Snowflake Data Cloud to help people across the business make the most of the automotive company’s information assets.

The firm’s data strategy aims to allow the business to achieve the fullest value from its information. To that end, it is using the Snowflake Data Cloud to democratize access and improve data literacy. According to Andy Moore, Chief Data Officer (CDO) at Bentley Motors:

Our data is in multiple transactional databases, whether that's on-premises, in systems we’ve built ourselves, or it’s in supplier databases. Getting access to each of those sources is time-consuming and difficult. And we really don't want to keep building point-to-point connections for whatever post-processing is required. 

The solution answer to this data conundrum is to create integration across disparate sources. Data will play a crucial role in the company’s Beyond100 strategy, which is something diginomica has analysed before. This strategy aims to re-invent Bentley and create a fully electric car business by 2030. To help boost data accessibility, Moore is using Snowflake technology to bring enterprise information together:

I view the Snowflake Data Cloud as that middle layer, where we ingest the valuable data, make sure it's governed and accessible, and then, on top of that, we can build the visualisations, the data mining or the artificial intelligence models.

Making choices

The decision to use Snowflake took place around the same time as Moore moved into the CDO position at Bentley last November. After finalizing a data strategy that was signed off by Bentley’s senior executive team, he went through the data platform procurement process. He says the flexibility of the Snowflake platform was instantly appealing:

I like the fact it's very accessible. And I like the fact it's a platform that we can build on top of as well.

One of the considerations that informed Moore’s decision-making process was that Bentley wants to develop a multi-cloud approach. Rather than relying on a single cloud platform, the business wants to pick and choose its services on demand – and he gives the ability to use Salesforce as an example:

We want the ability to collaborate and bring in data from different sources. I like the fact that Snowflake plays nicely with Salesforce because that's our major CRM platform. So, I see the two clouds complementing each other.

Moore says Snowflake offers the flexibility he’s looking for, as well as a platform for further innovation as Bentley continues to develop internal systems and external services:

It's about that ability to draw in data from multiple sources and to be able to carry out processes on that data, whether that’s to transform it or to build data products on top of Snowflake.

Empowering people

Line-of-business functions across Bentley are now thinking about how to access and use the data that’s stored in Snowflake. Making that shift can be a cultural challenge, especially in a big organisation like Bentley, which was previously reliant on an on-premises data warehouse that involved an element of what Moore refers to as “technical debt”:

Some of the technical debt is associated to what people are comfortable with, but the data has not been accessible to all. And I think where I need to move to with the strategy is effectively having a data mart, with self-service tables.

Moore argues that empowered approach would make it easier for business users to delve into the depths of the company’s data and to exploit its value:

Some of our data sources have 200 pages of documentation on what the tables mean. You've got to be a specialist in that particular data source to understand that level of detail. Whereas if it’s for a user who just wants a high-level view of information, then I need to make the data mart cataloged and accessible, so everybody has access.

The aim is to create one single source of data from top to bottom, so people in all departments – whether that’s engineering or sales – have access to the same information. Moore describes that process of using data to inform decision-making activities as “a journey”:

The journey will never be finished because there’s always another level of technology or another level of business need that comes forward. It’s about getting that data to the right people at the right time in as efficient a way as possible.

Looking forwards

To ensure people across the business can make the most of information, a data literacy program has been introduced. This initiative is helping to develop the next generation of data scientists, many of whom now work at Bentley. The program also helps Bentley to make better use of its data across various teams in the business:

If everybody calls a widget five different names, then when we come to filter and clean the data, we don't really know what we're dealing with. So, it's about getting the basics right. And then we can think, ‘Yes, we’ve got this nice Data Cloud, what can we build on top of it?’

When it comes to future developments, while Moore recognises AI is a hot topic right now, he thinks it’s important to walk before you can run. For now, he wants to bed Snowflake in, as well as the associated way of working that comes with an integrated data layer:

That's my priority – to get that basic layer in place first. Once we've got that, then we can start exploring the advanced use cases later.

Moore’s general advice to other executives who are thinking of using Snowflake is to be clear on business value. Digital leaders can sometimes oversell the potential of technology solutions, so show the people that matter why the platform is key:

The majority of people at Bentley don't understand that Snowflake is our data layer. They just know they can access their self-service tables in a tool that happens to be Snowflake. So, it's about being clear on the value that you're trying to achieve and the journey you need to go on to realize that value.

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