C-Suite Corner: InEight comes marching in
by JUDY SCHRIENER, for BuiltWorlds | April 8, 2015
Bill Ponseti, who has been president and CEO of InEight, a Scottsdale, AZ-based software maker, for the last 15 months, recently sat down with me for a wide-ranging conversation on his company and the industry. This is an edited version of that conversation.
BuiltWorlds: What did you do before you came to InEight, and how did it influence your current mission?
PONSETI: The companies I’ve worked for before, well… at Chevron (tech group), we grew so much over time that we had to figure out how to configure standardization. As CIO of a construction company, I showed them that tech could make them a better company. They became an SAP reference customer, and SAP asked me to lead their North American practice. Then, after eight months, I was heading their global practice for engineering and construction. We released project management tools. I met with companies all over the world. We did well, but we didn’t change the industry. That’s one reason why I’m here: I want to change the industry.
BW: How did you get to InEight?
PONSETI: Kiewit had an analytic tool that shows the leading indicators of job failure and problems. They tackled the biggest challenge: connecting everything in a single code base. I could see an opportunity to make a difference in the industry.
BW: So, Kiewit owns InEight. You have how many employees? How many customers? How much in annual revenues? (If you can talk about that.) And what do your customers think of Kiewit owning a company that has all of their important data?
PONSETI: We have 225 employees. We have 400-some customers in 25 countries. We have an industry advisory group. We’re privately owned and don’t release our revenues. Everyone’s data is confidential. There’s no crossover — Kiewit doesn’t see any of our customers’ data. We’re the only software company in the world built for construction, by construction, that delivers the entire project lifecycle, from design through estimating and construction.
BW: Why does Kiewit want other companies, including competitors, to have the advantage of using your tools, other than to generate income?
PONSETI: They want everybody using these tools. They want owners to demand that they use these tools. They’d rather have successful partners than for anyone to lose money.
BW: What advantages do InEight have by being owned by Kiewit?
PONSETI: Their backing is a big advantage, and they’re a built-in test bed.
BW: What is your ultimate vision for InEight?
PONSETI: We hope to become the industry standard in an industry that lacks standards. Imagine a world with zero loss! We want to build organizational memory. That’s something construction companies don’t have.
BW: What’s your first tech memory from when you were growing up?
PONSETI: Dad was a military man. We were living in Misawa, Japan, and Mom bought me Japanese toys. One was a Triceratops with two buttons; the eyes would light up and he’d roar. For a three- or four-year-old, that was unbelievable. There was nothing like it in the U.S.
BW: Where’s your favorite place to be if you could be anywhere?
PONSETI: For cities, London! For places in general, the floor of a comic book convention!
BW: Comic books? Yes, I saw when I Googled your name that you collect original comic book art. Explain your passion for comic books, please.
PONSETI: I owned a couple of comic book stores in New Orleans some years ago. I was born in New Orleans. Mom had read the comics in her day, too. She was asthmatic and couldn’t go out and play like the other kids. In Japan, she bought me a Japanese comic book. It had slick pages and beautiful artwork. When I would learn Japanese words from the comic book, our housekeeper would reward me with candy. Back in the U.S., there was an explosion of Marvel comics. So Mom could pick up brand new comic books from the commissary. They became for me a sickness, almost. I can tell you the history of comic books – they started in the 1930s, and there were some great artists.
BW: What other passion(s) do you have?
PONSETI: I’m a New Orleans Saints fan. I’ve got season tickets. Still have them. This is my 35th consecutive season.
BW: Returning to InEight, what advice do you have for tech people at other organizations who still run into resistance from the old guard?
PONSETI: For even the most weathered superintendent, if you show them the advantage, they’ll buy it.
The author is an award-winning veteran journalist who has covered the design and construction industry since the 1980s. In 2010, she co-authored with architect Mike Kephart, Building for Boomers, published by McGraw-Hill. Today, she is a researcher, consultant, and the host of her own general interest radio show, Off the Record, which airs Tuesdays at 2 pm EST. She can be reached at email@example.com.