In late February of 2015 I attended Box’s analyst day in London. As many of you already know, I am quite a fan of Box and I see them as a contender to eventually displace legacy ECM vendors. What I heard and saw in London from the various speakers and panellists (Box and customers) just makes me surer that they are on the right track.
An example that really stands out to me, because I’m a parent that’s sent off a couple of unaccompanied minors, is that of a transportation provider that’s using Box to handle authorizations for getting kids on their conveyance and picked up at the destination. A couple of tweaks could be made to make the process a little smoother for all stakeholders, and really put something innovative out there. What struck me is the absolute simplicity and elegance of the whole thing and that it didn’t take weeks of requirements, design, development, testing, and deployment. A guy with a phone and Box credentials had an idea to make things a little easier and it was done. How friggin’ cool is that?
It’s awesome, but the information governance geek in me cringes a bit. Yes, I know Box comes with all sorts of tracking, auditing, and reporting capabilities, but they’re not enough. If I’m going to put Box or any other platform in front of my clients as a viable option, and I have, I need to be certain that the governance and compliance requirements can be fulfilled. And this is where Box currently has a bit of a disadvantage.
People like Box because it’s slick and easy to use. However, when you start adding in things such as regulatory compliance, metadata, records management, workflow, and eDiscovery, you need to add more rigour to how the platform is deployed and used. When you add rigour you remove flexibility and, more often than not, positive user experience. Things like metadata, Information Architecture, and repository design become extremely important. The usual result is that users lose flexibility, have added tasks, and generally have a poor experience in doing their jobs with the platform. The trick for Box will be in making sure the governance pieces get taken care of without sacrificing the experience that users have gotten used to. I think they’re on the right path.
Between Box for Industries, a burgeoning services organization, and the recently announced ACE (App Configuration for Enterprise) Standard, Box is ticking a lot of boxes (Oh jeez, pardon the pun). Of those three things, the least exciting to me is Box for Industries; everyone’s doing it and Box has to in order to compete. It’s important, just not overly exciting. I think the services and app aspects have the potential to be exciting.
I love the idea of apps that do just one thing and do it really well. I love the idea that an app can create a “tunnel” from my device to a managed repository somewhere and that I don’t have to worry about anything other than getting my job done. Whether it’s the end user organization or a development shop, ACE ought to simplify the job of building process and task specific apps that sit nicely on top of Box and maintain that slick experience we’ve grown accustomed to.
I’m excited about the services aspect because I am a services guy. In the Box context services are going to be critical on a number of fronts. First, planning and setting up a managed content repository is a basic task and is not easy or trivial. More than one ECM (Enterprise Content Management) deployment has failed right out of the gate because someone got the basics wrong, for whatever reason. By making services available Box takes a portion of the burden off the end user organization.
Services, if leveraged properly, can serve another couple of critical purposes to Box. An effective services organization can be a boon to product development. By bringing back requirements, complaints, and other intelligence from the field consultants are instrumental in informing product development and strategy of what works, what doesn’t, and what’s missing. Additionally, and this is pure speculation for now, I think an effective services organization can play a part in determining what apps are built, how they’re built, and who builds them (kind of a nice thought in light of the ACE announcement).
While I love the fact that Box is growing its services organization, I am curious to see how they’re going to sell it and price it to clients. Are they going to do what so many vendors, including a couple I’ve worked for, do? I sincerely hope not. In my utopian view, services are there to make sure the customer and the platform succeed and grow. Is Box going to use services as part of a one-and-done approach or are they going to foster partnerships / trusted advisor relationships. The chats I had in London lead me to conclude the latter.
One of the things that I’ve noticed over the years is that vendor services organisations are generally composed of consultants that are really, really good with the technology. What’s missing is consultants that know business and managing information. I hope that Box does not make this mistake.
Odds and Sods
While I was in London had breakfast with the CEO / Founder of cloudfind. Cloudfind is a service that looks at your cloud stored content (Dropbox, Google Drive, Salesforce, Box) and creates tags for it. I tried it out and it’s pretty good, but it’s too early for it to be very useful to me. That said, I got some insight into what the roadmap for cloudfind is and it’s pretty cool. Based on my conversation with the CEO / Founder I can envision the day where cloudfind could be used to help in eDiscovery, taxonomy design, and repository design. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with in the future.
I’ve never liked Box being referred to as Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) or Enterprise Content Collaboration (ECC). So what should it be called? I’m of the opinion that Box fits into some slots in the Information Governance (IG) market. I mentioned this to one of the executives in London and she wasn’t thrilled; not because I’m wrong but because IG just isn’t sexy. As far as I’m concerned there’s something tremendously sexy about a platform that appeals to the users, satisfies IT, and can grow into satisfying the regulators.