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The Benefits of Bentley Expert DesignerTM Learning Technology

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					The Benefits of Bentley Expert Designer Learning Technology
TM

Vonnie Smith

®

Introduction
This paper explains how a utility company can derive significant benefits from implementing a “smart” design application based on innovative learning technology. The focus of the discussion is Bentley Expert Designer, which gets its intelligence from an array of learning technology principles operating behind a familiar user interface. This learning technology not only gives inexperienced users immediate access to the best practices of utility design but also allows the software to improve itself over time, offering both novice and proficient users an increasingly rich environment of accumulated expertise.

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Productivity issues in utility industry
The utility industry is undergoing the most sweeping transformation since its beginnings more than a century ago. Amid volatile markets, shifting business models, surging demand for more reliable energy transmission and distribution, and pressure to deliver shareholder value, utility companies are working to radically streamline their operations. Streamlining is resulting in a smaller workforce. Reorganization in the wake of mergers and acquisitions as well as the effects of natural attrition have enabled companies to shed additional payroll costs. According to the Energy Information Administration, employment at the nation's investor-owned utilities decreased by about 27 percent between 1990 and 1998. In states like Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas; reductions in electric departments reached 45 percent during this period; in Arkansas, 60 percent. This trend is expected to continue. The problem, though, is that a smaller workforce has to be offset by sustained gains in productivity. This is becoming increasingly difficult for several reasons: • As a company grows, complexity and work volumes tend to outpace the hiring of additional employees. • A larger proportion of the workforce is reaching retirement age while fewer younger workers are entering the workforce. (The Bureau of Labor estimates that more than 25 percent of the working population will have reached retirement age by 2010, leaving a potential shortage of 10 million workers.) This means companies will find it difficult to replenish vacant positions from the dwindling pool people who are available to work. • The exodus of older, more experienced employees • from the workplace results in a drain in knowledge, leadership, and talent. • Almost every industry is witnessing a decline in employee tenure. Today's average employee remains with the same company for only about three years-a period of time that often equals the learning curve in many professional jobs. One of the key drivers of productivity growth has traditionally been automation. By computerizing as many tasks as possible, a company can increase its output of goods or services with fewer workers.

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But to maintain productivity in the face of a shrinking, undependable supply of skilled workers, competitive utility companies are going to need not simply more technology but technology of the right sort-software systems that closely fit the company's business needs. One of the most pressing of these will be to maintain productivity growth in the face of a shortage of experienced employees.

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Expert Designer Learning Technology
Bentley developed Expert Designer as a productivity tool for all users, no matter what their skill level. While its powerful engineering features appeal to advanced users, Expert Designer's innovative use of learning technology provides an intelligent environment to support less experienced users. Expert Designer allows beginning users-with a few basic competencies in network design-to be as productive as their more experienced coworkers. For a utility company with personnel constraints and mixed groups of users, this learning technology provides an ideal solution to resource pressures, lowering training costs and accelerating the return on IT investment. Furthermore, as users interact with the software, Expert Designer continuously and automatically assimilates user behavior and improves on itself based on the knowledgeable decisions of its users. This characteristic of the software maximizes the company's human capital and further leverages the technology. Expert Designer's learning technology consists of ready-to-use design elements, information structures, and data relationships that are based on engineering standards, company construction practices, and the design expertise of other users. Thus the new user enters an intelligent system where experience or specialized training is not as critical. Instead of starting from scratch, the new user can exploit existing knowledge and then modify the design as much or as little as necessary. Over time, as the user gains design expertise and technical mastery, the user's work contributes further to the intelligence of the system, which becomes available to other users. Expert Designer's learning technology provides users with three types of “smart” functions that operate together seamlessly: • System-wide intelligence, which supplies users with design defaults that reflect the company's business practices. • Personal items, which give users the capability to adapt the system to their own way of working. • Shareable items, which allow users to exchange capabilities with other users.

System Wide Intelligence
The initial installation of Expert Designer includes a broad set of system-wide

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configuration settings that tailor Expert Designer to closely match the best practices of the utility. This initial configuration becomes the baseline from which the system learns new and improved practices. Since these settings are in place when the first user launches Expert Designer and are typically managed by an administrator, the company is assured that designers are following its construction standards, asset accounting methods, workflow protocols, and other business requirements. For the less experienced user, these system-level settings speed up and simplify design work for two reasons: (1) they organize and filter vast quantities of detailed information that would otherwise be tedious and time-consuming for a user to manage; (2) they may operate as behind-the-scenes defaults that require no action, freeing the user to concentrate on design tasks. Some important features of Expert Designer's system-wide intelligence are explained below.

Design Objects
Design objects, the building blocks of designs, are data constructs that represent generic facilities such as poles, transformers, and conductors. When the user selects a design object and assigns it to a design, the object's basic attributes and behaviors have already been defined-for example, what the object is called within the company's other enterprise databases or systems (Fuse or Fused Cutout?), whether it belongs on a map , its mapping and/or relational characteristics (offset? inline? upstream or downstream?) whether it requires a map annotation, what symbol is used to represent it on the map, which compatible unit is normally associated with it, and so on. If a GIS or other system is in place which already models these generic facilities, Expert Designer learns everything there is to know about the system via standard configuration. Users can begin building designs immediately, without looking up facility information or figuring out how to enter this information in Expert Designer. Design objects can be configured as simple or as compound objects, whereby an aggregation of simple objects represents common combinations of facilities (for example, OH Primary Conductor might consist of OH Primary Neutral and OH Primary Wire). Compound design objects not only save time but also minimize complexity and foster standardization because attribute inheritance behavior has already been established by Expert Designer.

Catalogs
Expert Designer's catalogs are tabbed panes containing highly organized lists of items that users need constantly in their design work. The Features Catalog dis-

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plays groups of designs objects; the Units Catalog displays various types of cost units, such as compatible units, macro units, materials, and custom costs. To assign a catalog item to a design, the user simply drags the item from the catalog to the appropriate location in the design. Through system-wide intelligence, all of the company's users work from the same catalogs, which are configured to fit the company's business practices. For example, the Features Catalog can be configured to reflect the utility's main types of networks: Electric Overhead, Electric Underground, and Gas. Features of each type are grouped under corresponding tabs, and the customer determines the labels that appear on the tabs. If the utility acquires, say, telecommunications facilities, a new tab for these design objects is easily added to the Features Catalog. With the Units Catalog, the utility can likeUnit catalog wise structure its units to match the requirements of its materials management, facilities management, construction, and accounting systems. The tab for aggregate units, for instance, can be labeled “Macro Units” or “Assemblies” or something else. System-wide configuration gives further structure to the catalogs, organizing items by functional tabs (e.g., Conductors, Devices, Structures, Service) or alphanumeric tabs or both. The customer can determine which feature attributes and unit properties are displayed on the pages of the respective catalogs, and users can sort pages by these columns. The number and arrangement of catalog groupings is limited only by what the customer finds practicable, and the initial organizational scheme can be modified over time. Catalog data can be automatically updated as items are retired and new items become available. Expert Designer's configurable catalogs not only give a utility a high degree of control and flexibility in structuring and maintaining company data but also ensure data uniformity across the enterprise as designers work literally from “the same page.” Users, especially those with less experience, benefit as well. The catalog format presents complex information with a logical structure that is quickly grasped and requires little or no knowledge of the company's warehouse operations or accounting codes and classifications.

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Geospatial Defaults
To ensure that designers meet the utility's mapping and engineering standards, Expert Designer can enforce mapping defaults called placement rules, which govern where facilities are placed in the geospatial world window and how they are displayed. Placement rules also include geospatial business rules, which determine which features can be attached to each other and whether their relationship is merely structural (i.e., physical) or functional (the basis of network connectivity). With mapping defaults enabled, for example, a conductor feature can be automatically placed with the right amount of offset, and the annotation in the appropriate position with the correct orientation. Through special rules which match combinations of facility information called attributes to compatible units, a compatible unit can also be automatically placed with the feature. Mapping defaults make a design not only faster and easier to draw but also more consistent and error-free

Optimization Rules
Expert Designer's Optimization tool analyzes a design to verify that it meets the utility's operating standards without being over-engineered. The analysis is based on company specific optimization rules, which specify the features to be included in the network model, normal network conditions, and allowable boundary values for operating conditions (maximum allowable voltage drop, maximum initial conductor loading, allowable line overloading, allowable transformer overload, maximum flicker, etc.). These rules give users without an engineering background a quick and easy way to optimize complex designs. If the user accepts the optimization recommendations, Expert Designer automatically resizes the facility, selects the proper compatible unit(s), and updates data in the geospatial world.

Electric Optimization recommendations

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Workflow States and Actions
New designers who are unfamiliar with the utility's business practices may not understand how to push a job through its life cycle. Through system-wide configuration, Expert Designer represents the company's design workflow as a sequence of steps, or states (such as “In Design,” Design Complete,” “Waiting Approval,” “Approved,” “In Construction,” “Job Complete”). In another level of system-wide configuration, the current state of the job will determine what actions the user can perform (i.e., what commands are available on the contextsensitive menu). For example, a utility can prohibit changes to a design while it is in the Waiting Approval state. This preserves internal procedures and, for less experienced designers, takes the guesswork out of organizational protocols. Expert Designer also supports multiple workflows for companies with various user groups, who may need access to jobs for different purposes. An estimationonly job, for example, might not require interaction with the geospatial system.

Personal Items
With some software products, the application itself is in control, not the user. Expert Designer's personal items allow users to customize numerous functions of the application to best meet their needs and match their way of going about their work. For less experienced users, this learning technology can soften any resistance to the new software and dramatically accelerate proficiency. Furthermore, Expert Designer learns these preferences, so it becomes increasingly personalized and gives the user a sense of ownership in the software.

Personal Folders
Folder List with custom folders In addition to the standard folders displayed in the Folder List, Expert Designer gives users the capability to create additional custom folders for organizing their work. For example, they can add a custom folder for their rush jobs, for designs that they want to keep indefinitely, for frequently used job defaults, or for other items that they want to access quickly or segregate from the main lists of items for easier navigation. Since this feature of Expert Designer is shared by the most popular Windows-based programs and is therefore familiar to users, less experienced designers can feel comfortable with Expert Designer from the outset. Its

Folder List with custom folders

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intuitive interface shields users from the complicated data operations that are occurring in the background.

Design Templates
Expert Designer allows the user to create personalized design patterns that contain commonly used design layouts and data defaults. The user may want to create a generic layout (e.g., a simple overhead extension) that could serve as a starting point for many other designs of this nature. When a user creates a design template, a shortcut to the item is stored in the user's Favorite Designs list, which is displayed when the user launches Expert Designer.

Personal Catalog Pages
Although most compatible units are automatically assigned through Expert Designer's configurable business rules, users can create special catalog pages to provide quick access to any compatible units that must be manually assigned to a design. Since the user sets up these pages and controls their contents, they can be tailored to the type of work the user is typically assigned.

Custom Queries
To locate specific work requests, designs, units, materials, custom costs, and job defaults, a user can build custom queries to search through the contents of folders. With a custom query, for example, a user could quickly locate all designs within a particular cost range (e.g., $5,000 to $10,000) or all designs that are ready for as-built posting. Or an administrator could view all jobs that have a Posting Failed status. This capability thus speeds up the work of all users-including clerical users, who may have little knowledge of geospatial system. In addition to the personal items described above, users can of course customize the appearance of Expert Designer's screens and views using standard Windows techniques (repositioning toolbars, resizing and rearranging columns, hiding panes of a window, and so forth).

Shareable Items
Shareable items are design solutions that can be shared with other users, who can copy them and use them either with very few changes or simply as a starting point. A clonable item usually originates as a private item created by a user for a special situation. But if this private item proves to have wider applicability and would assist other users in their design work, an administrator can promote the item to a public item. Clonable items thus serve to transfer expertise to less

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experienced users as well as eliminate redundancy in solving special design problems. While preserving and distributing costly expertise, this learning technology adds intelligence, and therefore value, to the system over time as the knowledge base expands.

Design Templates
A design template is a “stencil” into which design patterns can be saved. The template can be applied in its entirety to a new design, or it can be used as a pick list from which to pull specific design objects. A design template contains no spatial data, so users can easily create them as Favorites in the office or in the field or wherever the geospatial system is inaccessible. Design templates created as Favorite items by specific users can at any time be shared with all users. Thus, design templates are not simply time-savers for their creators; they also transfer design expertise to other users as reusable components and, over time, make the system even smarter.

Job Settings
Similar to a design template, a job setting is a named group of default design object settings that Expert Designer automatically applies to new design objects when they are added to a design. These settings include facility attributes, placement behavior, compatible unit assignments, and so on. To supplement public job defaults, users can copy these items and adapt them for special situations. These custom job defaults, once they are given public status, can in turn be shared with other users. This allows users to capture the knowledge and expertise of their coworkers, eliminating unnecessary problem solving.

Compatible Units
Likewise, a company's public macro and compatible units can be cloned as private units, modified to address special job requirements, and then promoted to public units, putting more options at the designer's fingertips. Since compatible units are unique for each utility, new designers tend to find that gaining a familiarity with the company's units is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in their design work. By facilitating the collaborative sharing of units, Expert Designer eliminates a major impediment to productivity among less experienced users.

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Summary
Expert Designer offers users three types of learning technology for improved productivity: system-wide intelligence, personal items, and shareable items. Systemwide intelligence provides an array of predefined elements for faster, easier creation of design layouts. Personal items give users control of the design process by adapting Expert Design to fit their learning style and work habits. Shareable items support the capture and exchange of knowledge among users and throughout the enterprise. The development of Expert Designer was grounded in the Cook-Hurlbert philosophy that performing design work in a geospatial environment should not require people with highly specialized skills resulting from lengthy, expensive training. Expert Designer's learning technology allows companies to achieve productivity growth with a smaller mapping group and, at the same time, with a minimal training effort. Despite the vast quantities of complex data that geospatial systems store and process, learning technology gives users natural, readily understandable ways of accessing and manipulating the information. This technology is not simply a substitute for headcount, however. Expert Designer also improves the quality of the user's work by producing more consistent designs and enforcing sound engineering practices. Furthermore, Expert Designer provides an intelligent system that improves over time as it formalizes and integrates diverse sources of practical knowledge, protecting and leveraging the company's human capital as well as its IT investment. If you would like to obtain additional information about Expert Designer or any of Bentley's product offerings, please visit www.bentley.com, call 1-800-BENTLEY, or your local Bentley office.

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© 2005 Bentley Systems, Incorporated. Bentley, the “B” Bentley logo and Bentley Expert Designer are either registered or unregistered trademarks or service marks of Bentley Systems, Incorporated or one of its direct or indirect wholly-owned subsidiaries. Other brands and product names are trademarks of their respective owners. Bentley Systems, Incorporated believes the information in this publication is accurate as of its publication date. The information is subject to change without notice. DAA036360-1/0001


				
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