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Everyone's in the know while on the go with Dropbox Business
WITH today's demands on firms to deliver faster and more effective solutions, as well as maintain a high level of customer service, teams need a platform that addresses how businesses can communicate across devices such as Windows PCs and Macs, as well as through iPhones and Android mobile devices.
Dropbox Business is the answer to all that. Companies such as Characterist LLC and Simitri Group International have benefited from adopting Dropbox for both their front- and back-end operations.
A file-sharing company, Dropbox is increasingly being used by staff members to store items such as photos and files in the Cloud. Also, using Dropbox to make sure everyone is on the same page, even in today's decentralised office where staff members are working outside the office, makes good business sense for companies trying to future-proof their operations.
"We're in court a lot, and we don't always have the luxury of bringing a bag full of paper documents to court," says Adrian Wee, a director at Characterist LLC. Being a full-service provider of comprehensive and cost-effective legal solutions, Characterist adopted Dropbox Business to help with archiving and collaborative work on a massive number of documents. Its decision has cut down its warehousing costs significantly and made documents easier to access now.
The Singapore law firm was initially founded by Lie Kee Pong in 1978. Its name changed after a merger in 2007, and now the firm employs 17 lawyers and more than 30 staff members, catering to corporate and individual clients in Singapore. Its services include litigation and dispute resolution, corporate and commercial law, property and real estate, insurance and personal injury, criminal prosecution and advocacy, family and matrimonial law, trust, estate planning, probate and administration, construction, and intellectual property.
"Our real estate department relies a lot on automated processes," explains Mr Wee. "Documents are auto-generated, and we just fill in the fields with necessary details. To generate these documents, we invested in a proprietary system a few years ago. But it was very specific to the real estate practice and didn't cover our other practice areas, so we were looking for other solutions."
Traditionally, law firms handle vast amounts of documentation - all of which need to be taken to a court or a government office. Characterist initially used a hardware-based solution, but Mr Wee recalls: "We had storage issues, collaboration issues, data security issues, and we also wanted to be able to access our documents on the move. We could access our physical servers from off-site, but it wasn't ideal."
Mr Wee explains that the teams were in and out of court for the major part of each work day, and they can't lug loads of paper documents to court. Earlier on, Characterist had evaluated a high-end document management service designed for legal firms. But its functions didn't match its high costs, and there was no storage included - so third-party archiving was still a problem.
Early this year, Mr Wee assessed various cloud services currently available to businesses but, eventually, the firm chose Dropbox Business and introduced 50 licences for its lawyers and staff.
"We could get 99 per cent of the functionality we wanted with Dropbox Business. What clinched it was our IT vendor, whom we trust and have worked with for a long time," he said. The vendor introduced a Dropbox representative to the firm, and the rest is history.
Many legal documents originate from clients, who often send long email chains with multiple attachments - or send the documents by post. Today, Characterist simply prepares a file request folder for each client or case, enabling them to collect files with efficiency and organisation.
Law firms in Singapore are also required to store documents. Characterist used to pack old papers into boxes and send them to a warehouse, which incurred significant storage costs. With Dropbox Business, it aims to replace papers with electronic copies, saving both physical space and archiving costs.
"We've definitely seen an increase in terms of productivity," says Mr Wee. "It's difficult to exactly quantify that productivity increase but, given that the per-user cost of Dropbox Business isn't high, it's not hard to get your money's worth. Where we see a huge difference is in storage and archiving, because lawyers are required to keep documents for several years."
Where in the past Characterist used to bring a suitcase full of documents to court, now its lawyers just need to open the Dropbox folder on their laptop or tablet. Mr Wee adds: "Dropbox Business is a better set of tools for us. We work faster with better tools. Our productivity has increased. We don't need to get someone to bring documents to court, or have someone put documents in a physical file. We used to print emails and documents, and only one person at a time could have the file at any given moment. That's no longer the case."
His favourite feature in the Dropbox programme is its ability to add comments, because he can then communicate with the team clearly as the feature is document-specific.
"Another function we've used recently is Remote Wipe," says Mr Wee. A Characterist lawyer had his laptop stolen on a recent trip to Eastern Europe. After he reported the theft to the Singapore office, the firm was immediately able to eliminate sensitive data from the device remotely. This prevented information from being exposed to third parties, highlighting the high level of data security offered by Dropbox Business.
SIMITRI GROUP INTERNATIONAL
SIMITRI Group International, a consulting firm headquartered in Singapore, is a global institution with offices worldwide. Established in 2003, it has more than 200 trainers and 50 development coaches providing services across 52 offices and 28 languages in 40 countries. It adopted Dropbox Business in response to its strong business growth and changing work habits. Simitri develops curriculums focused on fostering communication leadership and self-development to leaders, managers as well as individuals. It has clients that include Fortune 1000 enterprises and multinationals.
"We're delivering more customised solutions requiring us to communicate and collaborate with our clients. We then build a programme to fit those needs," explains Scott Leonard, manager of the Research and Design team.
Simitri needs to stay nimble and communicate with its global staff members and also to collaborate on client programmes with other trainers and coaches. "We all work remotely," says Therese Webb, head of project management at Simitri. "We have an office, but we can also work from home or while travelling. A lot of our team members and project managers are in different countries around the world. We're all working in different time zones, but we still need to be connected - so we need an IT system unrestricted by time and place."
When Simitri started out, it had only three team members working on curriculum development. One of the members organised the workshops. Any content produced was sent directly to the regional consultant via a file-sharing service, leaving the rest of the team in the dark. According to Mr Leonard, a change occurred in the curriculum development process when the business grew a decade after its launch.
"In the last three years, our development team has expanded from three to 25 people. As we grew, we started to customise more materials and at greater scale. Dropbox worked really well for us, but we were buying individual licences as and when we needed them. We needed a stronger solution for central management, and one with better security and data backup capabilities. That's when we introduced Dropbox Business and extended it to our consultants - not just the development teams."
Staff members at Simitri use several types of devices. As well as Windows PCs and Macs, files are accessed through iPhones and Android mobile devices. Using Dropbox applications, the development teams and consultants can now flawlessly sync their files across all devices - even, says Mr Leonard, when 1,000 files are in the update queue.
Ms Webb says: "One of the first things said to me when I joined Simitri was about the importance of collaboration. Being collaborative is easier with Dropbox Business team folders. It's easy for everyone to get familiar at once, and you can share, edit and comment on files wherever you are. It's also fast and reliable."
It's only less than a year since Dropbox Business was introduced at Simitri, but Ms Webb says she can already see its effect. "Productivity of our teams significantly improved by using an environment that allows instant access to information. Those in charge of our curriculum development have an enormous amount of digital assets. But even if they upload all their files, other team members can use Selective Sync to copy just what they need."
Ms Webb says that by using Dropbox's Smart Sync feature, staff members can view files without a local copy, and they can also flexibly configure file share settings, and use separate personal Dropbox accounts to prevent private information from being shared by those who are not cleared to access those files.
Mr Leonard shares: "I've worked at a company that had a file server. There was always a risk of damaging a file due to a connection problem, so I used to copy everything to my desktop and then back to the server again after finishing work. With marketing materials, troubles often occurred through accidently overwriting a file with the same name.
"With Dropbox Business, you can work in team folders and, should you overwrite a file in error, you can quickly restore it to the original version." He says this flexibility saves time and prevents devastating moments between service provider and client.
Simitri is now planning a next-phase deployment, and is excited to see the effect of Dropbox Business after a full year of usage.