Canadian Solar Solutions Inc. Chooses Quickbase Over SharePoint for Agile and Efficient Project Management
Canadian Solar Solutions Inc., the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) division of multinational solar industry giant Canadian Solar Inc. needed a way to manage highly complex projects involving a network of consultants and subcontractors in addition to the company's own resources. The internal Microsoft SharePoint site available at that time was unsuitable for easy collaboration, so Canadian Solar turned to Quickbase, building a project management app that is highly customized to meet its needs. The results are increases in project management efficiency and productivity that enables Canadian Solar to deliver more projects with higher quality in a shorter timeframe.
- No system for tracking and managing multiple, large-scale solar installation projects
- Existing Microsoft SharePoint instance not available outside the corporate firewall
- No central system for collaborating or sharing data with subcontractors, vendors, clients, or lenders
- Quickbase project management app
- Fully customized Quickbase app tailored to meet Canadian Solar's specific project management needs
- Project milestones, schedules, budgets, tasks, issues captured and shared from central repository
- Increased project efficiency from centralized database
- Time savings from storing design reviews and comments in a central, easily searchable app
- Key project data available online for fast access from anywhere
- Built-in roles and permissions ensure project data remains secure
A Global Company Needs a Global Solution
Canadian Solar Inc. is a global photovoltaic energy solutions provider with subsidiaries in 18 countries across six continents. The company's mission is to make a difference for the environment and society by delivering leading products and services to customers, partners, and investors.
The company is a top global manufacturer of photovoltaic solar panels, but also provides engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) services for building large solar energy facilities. These projects are complex, involving lenders (who often have their own engineers overseeing the work), subcontractors, and vendors to deliver to the customer.
To manage its projects Canadian Solar Solutions Inc. needed a system that would not only track all key project data, but also make that data available as necessary to others outside the company.
Canadian Solar Solutions Inc.'s existing Microsoft SharePoint software system could only be accessed inside the company's corporate firewall, so collaboration was nearly impossible.
"The SharePoint solution was not a good option, because we have a lot of consultants and third-party engineers who needed access to information," says Frederic Rivollier, Director of Engineering, Canadian Solar Solutions Inc.
After looking into other solutions, Rivollier opted to build a customized project management app on the Quickbase platform. He says the flexibility and simplicity of Quickbase made it the right choice compared to SharePoint.
"You don't have to be a programmer to configure it," he says. "You can be up and running with it very quickly."
Rivollier started with a simple app that tracked projects and key dates, adding new functionality over time to replace the spreadsheets the project team had been using. Eventually the team added functionality to manage tasks, assignments, documents, comments, and project milestones.
Crucially, Quickbase gave Rivollier the ability to set role-based permissions for each user of the app — ensuring that users only have access to the information they need to contribute to the project.
"Even though it wasn't one of the criteria I used when I selected Quickbase, the permissions are really powerful and work really well for us," says Rivollier.
Team members log in to the system from different locations to review solar plant designs and comment on iterations. Comments are filtered for either internal or external views, giving Canadian Solar the collaboration it needs to stay productive on large projects.
"We also have a lot of field guys who are using it to report back instead of sending daily reports via email; they punch into Quickbase and it emails automatically to the respective project's team members," adds Rivollier.
Driving Efficiency and Productivity
Five years after choosing Quickbase for construction projects, Canadian Solar is more connected and productive than ever.
The company is more responsive and efficient now that project owners can collaborate and share data across date lines and time zones with the secure online access provided by Quickbase.
Canadian Solar spends less time sifting through design reviews and comments now that the information is captured within the app, where it can be easily retrieved with a few simple keystrokes.
Staying on top of deadlines for simultaneous solar projects is simplified now that project milestones that used to be buried within email chains and spreadsheets are managed within the app.
And Rivollier was able to build a custom app that worked just the way he needed it to without the cost or complexity of hiring an outside developer.
"It's much easier not to have to rely on someone else," says Rivollier. "I don't think I could have done this with SharePoint."