Edmonton-based PCL Construction is a group of independent construction companies that operates across Canada and around the world. Founded in 1906, today PCL is Canada’s largest general contractor. It employs 4,500 salaried employees and more than 10,000 tradespeople, and works on everything from smaller general renovations to complex billion-dollar projects across the Buildings, Civil and Industrial sectors.
As a leader in the construction industry, PCL knows how to strategically partner with other companies on large construction projects. The company also uses that approach and expertise to successfully partner in their information technology projects.
The pandemic, said Fraser Clampitt, Director Business Technology, PCL, created a sense of uncertainty about the future and challenged his organization to find novel ways of doing business. To stay at the top of the fast-paced construction industry, Clampitt needed his team to accomplish more and continuously innovate. “We needed to manage our costs during the pandemic, because we weren’t sure what was going to happen,” he said. “We were asked to come up with creative ideas to advance our company in terms of technology while still supporting our existing people.”
He and Chief Information Officer Mark Bryant agreed that the central goal was to extend the capability of their development team quickly and cost-effectively.
“Managing cost and complexity was increasingly important,” said Bryant. Clampitt had a 50+ person team, multiple new software development projects on the horizon and over 40 existing products to maintain. Ultimately, Bryant and Clampitt needed to find a partner that had the right people and the right blend of expertise.
Clampitt thought of Vietnam-based FPT Software, a global leader in IT services and solutions. Clampitt knew FPT’s Al Gerardelli, VP of Sales, from a prior partnership, and he knew that FPT had a global presence, a massive workforce and a reputation for excellence in testing and augmentation. Clampitt also believed that FPT and PCL had similar philosophies about the importance of partnerships. “We prefer to work with partners that act as an extension of our team, rather than vendors who supply us a point service and then disappear,” Clampitt said.
Once the partnership was underway, it became clear to Clampitt and Bryant that FPT Software could augment their team by providing expert capabilities in an extremely cost-effective manner. “At the beginning we were a little unsure,” said Clampitt. “But we put the time and due diligence into making the relationship with FPT work. Once everything got rolling, we were able to establish some momentum, which has carried us to today.” The results speak for themselves.
FPT Software supported PCL with three styles of augmentation. The company supplied or augmented developers for the PCL team, provided first-cut passes on application development and provided testing and automation services. However, FPT Software also worked with PCL on artificial intelligence capabilities, including a chatbot. After development, FPT trained PCL to manage the chatbot. Clampitt said this was “the perfect example of how we didn’t have the expertise we needed, so FPT gave us a first-cut pass.”
For Clampitt, the key value of going the outsourcing route was speed. “We needed to expand at a much faster rate than would otherwise have been possible. FPT had a lot of people available for our use, and that was our key to quick expansion.”
FPT Software has written about 2,000 automated tests for PCL, primarily focusing on its project management suite. “This has helped us roll out products faster,” Clampitt said. “More importantly, they’re built correctly. Our customers receive as perfect a product as possible. Sure, we miss things, but being able to do a full regression test on all our applications really helps.”
While automated testing is important, PCL also counts on FPT to provide manual testing. “Having a full suite of manual testing has worked out really well for us,” Clampitt adds. “It has enhanced our ability to deliver top-quality products.”
When asked to define the key ingredients in the success of the PCL/FPT partnership, Clampitt emphasized the importance of commitment and shared values.
“This relationship has allowed us to extend our shop; instead of just being a ‘normal’ eight- or nine-hour type shop, we’re pretty much 24-hour as we have FPT working remotely for us. So, they’re working when we’re not. But they do even more than that. They’re more than willing to stay and work, and overlap with our time. We do weekly standups with them. Sometimes this happens more than weekly. We find FPT to be unusually accommodating and eager. They truly want to help us.”
While PCL and FPT are two separate teams, their integration is seamless. Mutual values are a crucial part of this. Both Clampitt and Bryant immediately noticed similarities between the two companies’ cultures. Both companies are highly driven and focused on providing solutions for their clients, which creates a natural synergy. “They want to make sure we succeed, because they know if we succeed, they succeed,” Clampitt said. “We’ve got that culture built inside us at PCL, too. That’s where I saw the biggest alignment.”
“We’ve tried offshore in the past and had some success,” Clampitt continued. But PCL’s experience with FPT has been exceptional. “Even though they’re on the other side of the planet, in a different time zone, speaking a different language, in a completely different culture, we really have come together well. We are perfectly aligned with one another. We’re customer-first, and fortunately so are they.”
Another element in what has become a successful partnership between the two companies is communication – and it has proven to be a two-way street.
“Mutual understanding is the biggest thing,” said Bryant. Companies, he said, will often turn to offshoring as a way of saving money. “But if you become stalled, and start losing time, and find the communication isn’t there, then you’re really in trouble.”
A big part of good communication is having a rapport between teams that are familiar with one another, having worked together for an extended period. FPT, said Bryant, brings exactly this to the table.
“That they keep a consistent staff makes a huge difference. In many other cases you might have a partner whose staff is always turning their staff over, and in those cases the lines of communication can become unstable, and this can kill you.”
Clampitt agrees. “Working with FPT, we have had, more or less, the same people. In some cases, it’s been the same people for three years. This makes for smooth sailing. They’ll transition someone else in, train them, get them fully up to speed. They’re willing to adjust their schedules – and do anything else required – to ensure project success.”
As PCL expands its portfolio, this fruitful partnership with FPT has continued to grow year after year, with increasing numbers of FPT employees involved in PCL’s projects. The success of this partnership is not just a testament to the companies’ mutual dedication and shared values – it is a lesson in how effective outsourcing can add value and drive better results.
“I referred to FPT being an extension of Fraser’s team,” said Bryant. “This is so much the case that he and I actually took a trip to Vietnam. We met the FPT team in person – had a chance to spend a week with them. What this trip did more than anything else was cement for us that these are the right people – the right partners – for us.
“Despite living thousands of miles apart, we nonetheless share a similar culture in terms of general attitude and work ethic and having pride in one’s work. This experience brought everything into focus, to the point that we decided to renew our relationship with them for another three years.”