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Managing an international team without a home base

WHEN Melissa Ng, founder of Melewi, started her business she had a vision of an entirely remote team of designers and developers. Melewi, is a travelling design studio with no physical home base, but a team connected around the world designing for international clients.

A self-confessed "digital nomad" herself, Ms Ng wanted to harness the creativity of a global team and take advantage of her designers' nuanced understanding of local markets, without the constraints of a physical workplace.

As a result, the dynamic blend of cultures, influences, and design backgrounds gives the team a competitive edge. "Our team is truly global, which is a real advantage when building design products that need to speak to everyone, everywhere," Ms Ng explains.

"We have designers in Singapore, the Philippines, Greece, India, Brazil, Denmark, the UK, and the US." Together the team has worked on projects for international clients like Visa, Samsung, and McDonalds.

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In order to create a coordinated global team, Ms Ng needed the right collaboration platform in place to help her team stay productive.

Ms Ng turned to Dropbox Business to help keep her team in sync and manage the massive amount of files associated with graphic design, UX, and development.

Things weren't always so easy. In the early days, organising and sharing these files proved a challenge. "We didn't have Dropbox set up initially, and we didn't have a structure for files," Ms Ng recalls.

"It was confusing - we had millions of emails floating back and forth, and you'd be hounded from people to send you files." The need for a solution became apparent.

Ms Ng's team was already using their personal Dropbox accounts to share large files with one another, making the upgrade to Dropbox Business a natural next step.

Now Dropbox Business is vital to the daily running of Melewi, as all assets, files, documents, and contracts live on the cloud. By implementing a strict file structure for every job, one folder for internal use and an identical folder for clients, Melewi keeps everyone in step.

"Once we had a file structure sorted, it made it much easier because everyone was on the same page," says Ms Ng. "With Dropbox Business we've cut down on time searching for documents, and the amount of file requests has dropped to maybe one per month."

In addition, the preview function speeds up approvals from clients who do not have design or development software, like Adobe Photoshop, installed on their devices.

The security features of Dropbox Business like sharing controls, tracking, and file recovery are further draws for Melewi, who regularly deals with the designs, developers files, user journeys, and strategic documents of international brands. When a team member accidentally deleted important documents from a Dropbox folder, they were easily restored. Ms Ng laughs about the incident: "Luckily we were able to restore the files. They all came back really quickly."

Ms Ng has been enabled by Dropbox Business to realise her vision of an empowered, remote, and diverse workforce who can draw on many different design languages and influences to deliver a better product. What's more, no one is disadvantaged by having to wait for a head office to "come online" to access important files.

She says: "We need designers to be able to access materials at any time. We can't have anyone disadvantaged because of a time difference."

Dropbox Business has lessened the communication overload that often comes with collaboration, so that Melewi can hone in on their clients' needs. "I don't want to just make pretty design," says Ms Ng.

"I want to understand my client's customers and their motivations, and what is happening in the business."

Without the need for a physical workplace, Melewi is able to remove location as a variable in hiring talent. "You have to find the right people with the same values as you to work with, no matter where they might be," explains Ms Ng. "If you don't have the right people, it makes it harder than it has to be."

Melewi relies on Dropbox Business as a central hub for any files, templates, or documents needed in the day-to-day business. Knowing it's all safe, secure, and synced to the cloud, means even though they're all in separate time zones, everyone stays on the same page - good design never sleeps.