Globe Network Image Credit Pete Linforth PixabayDrew Millen is the Chief Technology Officer at VertiGIS. He has been with the company for 21 years, starting as a Software Developer. VertiGIS is one of those companies that has been quickly growing, partly through acquisition but also organically. Since Battery Ventures invested in 2017, it has made a total of fourteen acquisitions, some of which were well-known brands in the sectors they operate in. They include ConnectMaster, Mapcom Systems and Facility Management Services.

It focuses on geospatial technology and has a strong partnership with Esri, the clear market leader in the GIS sector. VertiGIS operates across four key industries: the public sector, utilities, telecommunications and infrastructure.

Drew Millen, Chief Technology Officer at VertiGIS. (image credit - LinkedIn/Drew Millen)
Drew Millen, Chief Technology Officer at VertiGIS.

The company is also larger than one might think, with 600 staff across 23 offices and 5,500 customers. Those customers are both direct and indirect through its reseller partner channel. According to Millen, VertiGIS is also growing at a healthy 10% and has around 125 million in top-line revenue.

As for Battery Ventures, they are in for the long haul. Millen stated, “They are in year seven of the investment and very happy with the trajectory, the growth, as well as the profit margin. We see no shortage of opportunities in the acquisition pipeline. They’re very acquisitive, as evidenced by the 14 acquisitions so far.”

On Vision

What is the vision for VertiGIS? Millen replied, We want to be the global leader in spatial asset management solutions.”

For Millen, that means if anyone wants to consider buying a geospatial asset manager, VertiGIS should be top of the list, in the same way Esri is for GIS. He believes that the partnership with Esri should enable VertiGIS to achieve that.

The partnership with Esri is certainly a strategic one. Esri is the chosen platform for developing VertiGIS geospatial applications, and the relationship has helped VertiGIS grow. Would Esri acquire VertiGIS? It is possible, but with the Esri ownership still in the hands of its founders, it seems unlikely.

A busy year to date

I discussed with Millen what the company has achieved so far this year. It is a lot. On the product side, it launched VertiGIS Networks in North America. The solution is already available in Europe.

The Network Management tool is largely focused on the Utilities industries, which, for VertiGIS, include the electric, gas and water companies. VertiGIS stands out from other Asset Management solutions because its applications deal with more than just components and machinery. Its geospatial technology also enables organisations to manage wires, fibre, pipes and roads that make up the physical network of such organisations.

VertiGIS has also seen the first sales of VertiGIS FM in North America. Millen sees this as important, as not only does it indicate that it is now able to cross sell its acquired applications. It means its value proposition is enabled globally, rather than just regionally.

Millen added, “We’ve seen the first customers for a brand new product called network maintenance, which is an interesting play for us because it combines the power of our FM solution and its asset management capability with what our customers and utilities need. We’ve seen our utility customers picking up the FM solution in the form of VertiGIS Network Maintenance.”

VertiGIS also launched the VertiGIS Studio into the desktop space. Millen explained the reasons behind that, saying, “For decades, that product line has been a web and mobile-only offering. By offering it into the desktop space inside VertiGIS Pro, we’re capturing a new set of users and a new set of use cases. We’ve seen an uptick in that already, which is really exciting for us.”

What is coming up in 2024

VertiGIS will continue to develop its solutions. It is investing in VertiGIS Networks and aims to launch VertiGIS Networks for Telcos in q3/2024. It will be a minimum viable product for fibre but will have a robust roadmap the company intends to deliver on. As a result, the company will offer a modern network management solution running in a web browser and will provide all the features they expect.

VertiGIS has also heavily invested in a cloud infrastructure based on the Azure platform. This is a huge deal for VertiGIS over the next few months. The initiative, which has already started, will bring together the VertiGIS solutions onto a single global Cloud Infrastructure, and it already has a few clients in production.

Millen explained, “We anticipate the go-live of dozens of organisations who will move their existing applications to that cloud infrastructure, and they may be managed in private cloud managed service capacity by us depending on their needs, but many more will take advantage of a multi-tenant SaaS infrastructure that we’re setting up.”

Millen believes that this will take off in the next twelve months. It will mean that clients can reduce their infrastructure costs. It is also likely that VertiGIS will see an increase in revenues as it creates a new annual recurring revenue stream for the company.

On integrations

On the VertiGIS website, it lists SAP as an integration. Millen explained that much of its software is tightly integrated into other systems that customers use, such as ERP, Customer information and asset management solutions.

VertiGIS has two types of integration. The first is where the applications are integrated on the front end, where if a user clicks a button, an action is triggered in the second application. The second is data synchronisation at the back end between the two systems.

Millen explained the SAP integrations further saying, With regards to SAP specifically, we have a product that is uniquely adept at doing a tight data synchronisation between a GIS and SAP. SAP typically has the store of assets and all of the equipment costs associated with that. Then the GIS is the system of record for where those assets are located in the ground.

“We need to keep those two databases in sync. VertiGIS integrator is a certified product, certified by SAP, that is for keeping those two systems in sync.”


What differentiates the VertiGIS solutions? Millen highlighted five key differentiators that VertiGIS has over many of its competitors.

  • It has a modern, web-based and Software as a Services approach. Millen commented, “In the geospatial sector, you see a lot of organisations providing desktop software. Our solutions are modern, meaning their microservice architecture, web services architecture, browser-based applications, and mobile applications that service the increasingly modernised requirements organisations look to when they think of digital transformation.”
  • The software and its services team have deep domain-specific knowledge and capabilities. Built over a decade ago, the software has deep functionality across its four main segments. Its domain experts deeply understand the business problems in these industries.
  • VertiGIS is a global company that can scale to meet the needs of global customers and organisations worldwide. It has a robust network of partners within its network as well.
  • The VertiGIS platform is configurable and flexible. Millen added, “Unlike a lot of our competition, it’s not rigid and fixed, and only really solving one business problem. It’s very highly configurable and flexible to address the unique requirements of each of our customers.”
  • Importantly, VertiGIS has proof points of how it has helped organisations navigate technology change. The companies that make up VertiGIS have been in the industry for decades. Millen concluded, “We’re adept at making sure that customers are on top of the latest trends and staying resilient with regard to the ongoing pace of technology change.”
  • When differentiating with other asset management vendors, Millen explained, “A lot of organisations struggle with, where’s the digital twin? Is it in my asset management database? Or is it in my GIS? The answer is kind of both. You need both systems to be synchronised and well-coordinated to truly understand what that digital twin infrastructure looks like. Look to VertiGIS to provide the best example of that.”

On AI and Quantum computing

To date VertiGIS has announced very little about AI. I asked Millen about this, and he said, “Stay Tuned. Like everyone, we’re making an investment here, but we want it to be authentic.”

Millen advocates only developing AI Solutions that add compelling value to customers through time and cost savings through more efficiency. He inferred customers can expect some announcements for the integration of Gen AI into VertiGIS Networks.

VertiGIS has invested heavily in developing AI capabilities for its geospatial solution. With the huge volumes of data available to the company, it can train and improve customer insights.

Millen added, “We’re also investing in machine learning and AI to make better use of the way that our customers can make decisions with the data that they’re harvesting and collecting.”

Do you see an impact of quantum computing on GIS? And if so, what?

Millen believes that it will be some time before Quantum computing has an impact on the real world, it is still at the experimentation stage. He believes it offers promise, though. He noted, “GIS is the right industry to take advantage of that because we have massive volumes of data.

“Data collection is not really the industry’s biggest challenge right now. It’s the analytics and processing of that data. We have mechanisms to do that with big data technology. But I think quantum computing can really lean in there and potentially make that far more cost-effective and fast. We’re probably quite far from using that in the real world.”

The book question

What was the latest book you read?

I do quite a bit of reading on technology and product strategy. My passion really isn’t in product management. One that took me off of my regular reading list and into a space that’s really important was Brené Brown’s “Dare to Lead” (“Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.” Amazon Aus, UK, US).

“We can focus on technology and product strategy, but it all comes down to people and leadership in the end. How we organise ourselves, treat our staff and managers, etc. It struck a chord with me the way that she articulated the empathetic style of leadership and brought that into the organisation.

“I’m encouraging my management team to read this book as well, to understand a different way of working with our colleagues and understanding their professional growth.

“What they need out of the organisation and what we need out of them. Having the right conversations about those things. (It is) Increasingly important as our demographic is changing, we’re getting a lot more young talent in the organisation, they think differently than myself and others.

“Also, as we increasingly work in a hybrid or remote setup, those personal connections are harder to establish. We need to lean in more on creating them in a meaningful, genuine way, that encourages not just productivity but job satisfaction out of everybody we’ve worked with.”


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