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Shopify manages its rapid growth with PlanGrid

Founded in 2004, Shopify intended to be an online snowboarding store but ended up growing into a commerce giant. Facing the challenge of maintaining their cultural identity as they built around the world, their facilities team worked with PlanGrid to keep all their projects on schedule and on brand.
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Massive growth brings its own new challenges

Shopify has a problem. Fortunately, it’s not a bad problem to have. It’s growing so rapidly that its existing office spaces are becoming overcrowded. To accommodate this growth, the company is swiftly building new offices around the world.

Established in 2004 in Ottawa, Canada, Shopify was originally intended to be an online store for snowboarding equipment. But after a few years, its founders discovered just how difficult it was to create an eCommerce platform to sell that equipment. Seeing a real need, they took a chance and shifted their business model. Now, 15 years later, that business pivot has proven to be the right move and the company is one of the top multi-channel commerce platforms.

Such rapid growth meant they had outgrown their roots in Ottawa and needed to expand to new offices in new cities. They initially focused their growth on Canada and set up their next office in Toronto, before building in Montreal (2013) and Waterloo (2015). International expansion came next and they opened offices in Germany and Lithuania in 2017.

But simply giving their teams a workspace wasn’t enough. Office spaces have become a primary asset in the effort to attract and retain tech employees. Shopify needed to ensure that their office spaces inspired creativity, enabled work to happen and sparked joy in the hearts of employees.

Implementing a system to help scale production goals

Fortunately for Shopify, they have Bernard Haddad and Baron Bryant as their Project Development Lead and Program Manager, Real Estate.

Both Bernard and Baron joined Shopify three years ago and were quickly introduced to PlanGrid by one of their General Contractors. Understanding how construction technology could benefit the company, they were able to expand their business operations. Baron told us, “When I started, we were so small that everyone sat around the design table and attended all the construction meetings. Then as we grew, we’ve expanded into different project teams and we just sync all project plans and documents through PlanGrid. I have ten different projects on my phone right now.”

The teammates’ professional relationship is pretty straightforward. Bernard’s team designs and Baron’s team builds – but that’s where the simplicity of their job roles ends. The ongoing expansion means that they are constantly bouncing from one job to the next, using PlanGrid to keep everything in order. Baron says, “I’ll land in the city and will be opening PlanGrid as I’m walking to the office to see where we are on that project, because all sorts of details like finishes change constantly.”

Baron says the key to their success with PlanGrid has been how it enables them to stay organized on multiple projects and all the updates that happen with each one. “PlanGrid helps us by keeping all that information organized and in one place. It’s the source of truth.”

Using the software, Bernard is able to spot issues on the jobsite and during design, then assign tasks and create drawing markups as an organized way to create and manage punch lists. “It helps out in the field because you see an issue, you quickly pull out your phone or tablet and you have all the information there. Back in the day, before PlanGrid, it was so inefficient and took a lot longer. Now, it’s easy to streamline decisions.”

As owners on the projects, Shopify is always pushing for proper As-Builts. Due to ongoing operations and maintenance, a “living,” always updated document is needed to reflect what is actually on-site and not just the original design intention. Baron’s presence on-site means he’s driving the development of this documentation, “We’ve been very diligent in collecting all of the information, specs and drawings, so that we can hand it off to the facilities team without having to continuously offer context on why something was done the way it was.”

Quotation mark

"We often start construction with 70 percent of the drawings. PlanGrid is vital in that communication of site construction to get the updated drawings to the team as soon as they’re ready."

- Baron Bryant, Program Manager, Real Estate

Jobsite coordination drives results

All the hard work and coordination amongst the construction team has paid off. Despite the rapid expansion and tight schedules, the Real Estate team hasn’t missed an opening date for any of their floors or offices. That’s no small feat considering the company’s exponential growth in the past couple of years.

And the growth continues. Shopify’s ongoing success means that the Real Estate team is working in multiple cities, on multiple sites with varying schedules and complexities.

Fortunately, Shopify made the move to standardize on PlanGrid across all of its projects and with all of its external teams. Bernard tells us, “PlanGrid provides a way to see everything on one set of drawings, through one platform–it really speeds things up.”

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