Dropbox Business enables the award-winning architectural firm to collaborate easily on large design files from any office or device, leading to faster turnaround times on client projects.

BNIM, an architectural firm

BNIM's key results

40% reduction in IT management overhead

Faster response times with colleagues, consultants and customers

Tighter security and ownership of proprietary designs

THE CHALLENGE

Simplifying workflows during expansion

BNIM design buildings that do more than just look great – they win national awards for sustainability and energy efficiency. This success has led the company to expand beyond its Kansas City headquarters, launching seven new offices across the US. But when it came time for employees in different locations to work together, existing processes were clearly hampering growth. Each office had a separate network drive, making it difficult for colleagues and consultants in different cities to collaborate, especially when handling complex files such as 3-D Autodesk Revit models. Proposal deadlines crept up earlier than expected as architects needed to upload files onto the server the night before the due date, says Erin Gehle, Director of Communications. “We had to build in large margins just for communication” Gehle says. When they were outside the office, architects had to wrestle with VPN and project management software, a struggle that repeated itself every time anyone made an edit. “Our existing tools didn’t perform when we shared large Revit models” Paul Waters, Director of IT says. “Some other mechanism had to be used”. To get around all of these issues, employees started using Dropbox personal accounts under their BNIM email addresses. After evaluating a number of enterprise cloud providers, there was little surprise that Dropbox Business emerged as the clear winner. “From a device agnostic point of view, Dropbox Business was the easiest to operate” Waters says.

THE SOLUTION

A new blueprint for collaboration

For BNIM employees, the process of going from concept to blueprint has become a lot smoother since deploying Dropbox Business. Gehle says that, instead of spending hours working around a server’s restrictions, employees quickly initiate a file request, which guides recipients to add content to a specific folder. “When a consultant looks at a proposal and wants to see an alternative image, it’s a very simple process” she says. Teams of architects and engineers now iterate easily on models in shared folders. When they're ready to send designs to customers, they use shared links, which have eliminated concerns over file sizes or types. And BNIM employees can now share many of these documents with clients on mobile devices, making it easier to visualise early concepts when on job sites. “Working on my phone is a much more seamless experience now, versus loading email or trying to download a file” Gehle says. Moving to Dropbox Business has also provided BNIM with the necessary peace of mind that its proprietary company documents are always secure. Waters calls the admin console a “saving grace”, giving BNIM greater control of data through features such as remote wipe, which lets IT delete files from devices when employees leave the company.

THE RESULTS

Quicker response times

Dropbox Business is helping BNIM employees save time, just like the buildings the firm designs are helping clients save energy. “No more late nights transferring files back to the network” says Gehle. The faster turnaround times have also been noticed by customers. “It has just completely transformed our ability to react quickly. It increases our reputation for being responsive, aware and interested. And clients appreciate that.” BNIM’s IT department has seen a similar effect on speed and efficiency with Dropbox Business. Waters estimates that the service has reduced IT management overhead by 40%. “For example, instead of asking a user who has lost a file ‘which day do you want it restored back to?’, users can do it themselves” he says. As a business-savvy IT team, this time saved helps BNIM remain at the cutting edge. “We’re striving to put BNIM on the edge of technology and look at all emerging ways to enhance the design process” Waters says. “So having this reduction in overhead is fantastic”.

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