The Roadmap to Success: How U.S. DOTs Are Advancing to Digital Delivery

Transportation expert Bill Panos paves the way for U.S. DOTs in new Bentley role.

Bentley Systems has sponsored this post.

The task of digitally transforming a single state’s department of transportation (DOT) is no small feat—and Bentley Systems wants to help all DOTs advance to digital delivery. That is why the Pennsylvania-based infrastructure engineering software company has brought in industry expert Bill Panos to serve as its new senior director, North America transportation. He will oversee advising DOTs on which Bentley solutions can best help meet their individual needs.

(Image: Bentley.)

(Image: Bentley.)

Panos is the perfect candidate for this position as he has more than four decades of experience in the transportation field. We recently spoke to Panos to learn more about his tenure in the field and his new role.

As former CEO for the Wyoming and North Dakota DOTs, he’s seen first-hand the challenges DOTs face. He led all aspects of the agencies beyond handling transportation policy, including transportation operations, engineering, construction, land use, finance, highway safety, workforce, and technology.

Bentley’s recently appointed senior director of North American transportation, Bill Panos. (Image: Bentley.)

Bentley’s recently appointed senior director of North American transportation, Bill Panos. (Image: Bentley.)

Getting DOTs onboard with the latest technology is a challenge. There are thousands of people and dozens of departments to convince, and you can’t do it alone. It takes not only the right people, but also the right technology.

“We’re surrounded by an incredible team of people here at Bentley. They know technology and how it applies in the field,” said Panos. “I feel grateful to bring to Bentley a practice of applied technology, in the complex infrastructure and government space.”

During his time at the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT), they were named the number one DOT by the Reason Foundation, which is rare for smaller DOTs. At the time they had between 1,000 and 1,300 employees, making them one of the smaller DOTs in the country.

Making the Reason Foundation’s list was a goal set by the governor at the time. “We were able to achieve that because of the hard work of the staff that were there. We had safer roads and lower fatalities and better budget utilization. We had lower turnover rates for our staff, better partnerships with universities, better use of technology… Those things resulted in a lot of attention for our small DOT, and in this case, we were ranked number one for the last two years.”

NDDOT is still number one. So why did he move toward technology deployment?

Basically, he said it just made sense as his job over the last few years has been to help organizations transform.

“[Digital advancement] is the number one issue going on inside of the infrastructure space right now. And this company [Bentley] is leading the planet in terms of [digital advancements] in the engineering and infrastructure space. So that made sense to me, and participating in that made sense to me,” said Panos.

“Also, I’m an integrated systems thinker. It’s my practice and it is what Bentley Systems does. They integrate disparate systems and bring them together in a logical collection of usable products that are practical for our clients, whether they be a designer, a builder, or an [owner-operator].”

“And who wouldn’t want to be part of the largest transformation in the infrastructure space that at least I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

The Current State- DOTs Are on Their Way

When asked how close the WYDOT and NDDOTs are in terms of fully integrating a digital twin, Panos said they were “progressing aggressively,” and that state DOTs in general and their department of motor vehicles divisions in particular were heavy technology users.

Overall, most state agencies such as regional departments of transportation, airports, rail systems, and maritime ports, were on their way to using a digital twin or at least saw the value in it. “It’s one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the value of the infrastructure that they already have, and of building the infrastructure that they need as they move forward,” said Panos.

“Investments in technology are growing and I think it’s going to stay that way, especially because of the talented people in this space that are coming up with incredible ideas.”

These forward thinkers are progressing even further by using artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT), he said.

Another way technology is helping the transportation industry, according to Panos, is with the workforce and lack of industry professionals. “Technology allows us to extend the workforce… [it] allows us to do more with the same and allows us to really become even more productive and meet the challenges and do so without having to go out and hire a lot of new people, because those people just simply are not there.”

Bentley can help these infrastructure providers extend their reach around the world with their technology. They are well-known and widely used in the transportation industry and their portfolio covers all infrastructure: from roads, to bridges, to water systems. “It’s a remarkable set of products on a platform that is being evolved constantly to meet the needs of our users,” he said.

He’s particularly impressed with the iTwin Platform for its open data format, and its depth and flexibility. “It all starts with making data more accessible and actionable and our focus is making this possible with applications and solutions powered by iTwin across the  design, build, operate lifecycle,” said Panos. “[The platform] becomes flexible in terms of meeting users’ needs and all types of infrastructure. We are constantly learning from our users what they want – more of this or that – and we can build on this open and flexible foundation.”

The Road to Success

The bottom line: there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, according to Panos. Every state is going to have its own needs, but he said everyone is learning from one another.

Panos is excited to help U.S. DOTs with their needs and help guide them on their digital advancement. He will lead a dedicated team in driving the growth of Bentley’s transportation partnerships with the help of his colleague Sheilah Brous, senior director, North America mobility at Bentley. Brous’ background includes serving as government relations manager and acting director of federal, state, and local government affairs for WSSC Water. She also worked directly with the White House, Congress, state legislature, and local governments on legislation, funding opportunities, education, and advocacy.

To learn more, visit Bentley.