May 13, 2011

Retrospective: Perforce on a world stage


This post is part of a series. This week is a retrospective designed to look back at Perforce’s beginnings through the eyes of the company’s guiding architects.

As employee number 18, I was hired to set up Perforce Software’s first overseas office. I’ve been here at our European head office in Wokingham – in the heart of the UK’s Silicon Valley – for over 12 years now. Originally, the European office supported local customers and the overseas operations of our US customers. As our business grew, we added an office in Sydney – celebrating its 5th anniversary this year – that allowed us to provide “follow the sun” support service. Our Canadian office completes our current set of international offices and our unofficial motto is “Same Perforce. Different accent.”

The market we were addressing in Europe, back then, is very different to the one we’re in now. Significant technological, cultural and legislative changes have ushered in incredibly sophisticated collaboration using the web. For example, we are dealing with one of the largest distributed development organizations in the world: Google. They are attempting things never done before in the history of online collaborative development, and we are there with them as they blaze the trail. Enabling over 10,000 concurrent developers to version and retrieve their code across the world is quite a feat. So, if you’ve got questions about Perforce and scalability, Google is your proof.

And it’s not just code development that’s gone global, it’s every artifact in product development. It used to be that physical prototypes were built separate from the software. Now companies are able to simulate almost all of what they build, without the need for physical prototypes. This ability has accelerated the break-up of the development of complex software and products into a global assembly line consisting of many – sometimes hundreds – of collaborating teams. Consider a smartphone that consists of apps, components, chip designs and drawings from multiple sources. All these items break down to various digital files that Perforce can version and manage.

Not all these components come from the same vendor. Many products come to market thanks to a host of firms contributing their know-how or specialized components to the finished item. Moving the correct software components and digital files from place to place in order to get the item to market is an enormous challenge – and Perforce is at the heart of this.

Our experience helping companies manage global development has also taught us that we can’t do it all. There are places where there is a cultural or commercial barrier (laws, politics, currencies, etc.) where it’s easier or preferable to work with a local provider. So, I am excited to be making a special announcement at the User Conference about our new global sales partner program which builds on the success we’ve had over many years with our Korean and Japanese partners. The aim of the program is to identify and work with leading companies around the world that provide local value-added products, services and expertise that our customers need.

Each of our partners has a compelling story for the markets they serve, where Perforce provides the SCM piece. I look forward to sharing those stories in the future. Once again: Same Perforce. Different accent.