BoxWorks 2015 ran from September 28th to September 30th in San Francisco. Day 1 was for us analyst types and for CIO’s; the general conference ran on the 29th and 30th. Attendance numbers that I heard ranged from 6,000 to 9,000 – I have no clue how accurate these numbers are. Anyways, here’s my thoughts on some of the key announcements / moments, from my perspective … Oh, this Box post has all the goods from the event …
Aaron Levie’s fireside chats with Tim Cook, John Chambers, Ed Catmull – The Tim Cook chat was, I think, one of the most anticipated events of the conference for many people. It was good, nothing special for me. The chat with John Chambers, however, was the one that I found resonated most with me. I missed all but the last 5 minutes of the chat with Ed Catmull.
Best comment at the afterparty – “Is that One Direction?” For what it’s worth, One Republic is way better live than I thought they’d be. Too bad I only got to see them for about 30 of their 90 minute show.
Realization on the way home – Over the last 18 months or so I’ve met a lot of people from Box, either in person or on the phone. There’s not one where I’ve come away from meeting them thinking “what a dick.” That’s pretty impressive.
Jeetu Patel actually categorized Box as ECM during the analyst summit. He’s the first Box exec (I think) that actually made that statement.
I reminded Whitney Bouck that earlier this year I referred to Box as being part of the information governance landscape and that she wasn’t thrilled when I said that. She just smiled at me.
Proof that some people still don’t get it –
That some people (analysts, even) are still including Box in the same category as Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Egnyte, etc. is, I dunno, stupid, I guess.
Box Capture – see my quick review here.
Better image / video support in previewer – Box announced enhancements for interacting with 3D, video, and DICOM images directly within the Box previewer. The DICOM bit doesn’t interest me much, but it is impressive. The 3D and video (up to 4K, adapts to bandwidth issues) enhancements are going to be a big deal for the clients I deal with. Training, safety, and technical content will benefit hugely. Marketing, sales, media & entertainment, … any use case that relies on rich content and the ability to collaborate on it is going to benefit. Oh, and all this is delivered in HTML5.
Box Platform – In my opinion, the announcements about Box Platform and its separation from Box’s product group are huge. I know I got excited when Box made their original platform announcement (last year?), but now I think we’re really going to see the fruits of that decision.
Platform’s going to allow app developers, including Box, to focus on providing functionality to their users without having to worry about all the content services and security stuff (i.e.: pesky infrastructure stuff) in the back end. Jeetu Patel (SVP Platform & Chief Strategy Officer) estimates that folks building content apps spend about 80% of their time buggering about with infrastructure related stuff and only about 20% building the core functionality that users want/need. Now, I don’t think app developers will ever get to spend 100% of their time on only the core functionality, but even a 20% increase (very conservative, IMO) would yield significant benefits. Time to delivery, innovation, creativity, and quality would all improve.
The impact to corporate IT is going to be significant as well. To all you CIO’s and IT execs hesitant about cloud because in reality you’re worried about being marginalized or losing power / relevance: get over yourselves. The opportunity is there for you to shift from fixing printers and patching outdated systems that are barely able to stand up anyways to actually becoming MORE relevant by adding value to your organization and delivering functionality (apps) that add business value. And I strongly urge you to check out what John Chambers had to say. Read it however many times you need to to get it (this goes for the couple analysts that claimed Box is not a platform, as well).
This tweet from Jeetu Patel sums up nicely what the impact will be to users and developers:
Something else that makes Platform such a compelling story is that users won’t even know that they’re interacting with Box. They’ll simply use an app to get their work done, and all the content services will be in the back end. In many (most?) cases there won’t even be a need for users to have a Box account. IMO, this path leads to delivering on the original promise of Enterprise Content Management.
Content Management & Collaboration – There’s a lot in this bunch of stuff announced by Whitney Bouck (GM, Enterprise & SVP, Global Marketing), so I’m just going to focus on the stuff that really stands out to me.
The whole Box/IBM thing is “f**king brilliant”, as I said to a couple of Box and IBM execs at some high falutin’ gathering. Remember when I said that a hybrid approach was needed? Well, the Box/IBM partnership provides EXACTLY that. Box+Content Navigator and Box+StoredIQ (is it pronounced stored ick?) provide a unified view into Box and on-premises content, along with the ability to do some analysis, tagging, discovery, and classification. It’s boring stuff from an apps point of view, but for being able to put together an information governance strategy it’s absolutely critical and kinda sexy.
Box and IBM are working together on further integrations, including Datacap and Case Manager. There’s going to be a whole bunch more use cases that open up to them with these integrations. It’s not that Box couldn’t participate in these use cases previously, it just couldn’t be done end-to-end. Now, to the users’ benefit, there’s really no reason to jump into another tool to execute any portion. Human resources, mortgage & lending, claims management, incident investigations, etc. will all be able to be executed from within a single UI, regardless of whether the content is on-prem or in the cloud. That’s friggin’ cool. Oh, and the IBM MobileFirst for iOS is gonna have a pretty big impact on the whole Box partnership thing, too.
Hmm, I wonder if there’s any plan to hook Datacap to Box Capture. If not, THERE SHOULD BE. At the very least there should be some plans on the roadmap to provide similar capabilities.
Storage & Security – Perhaps some of the most significant announcements at the conference relate to changes in security and storage options.
Box’s Enterprise Key Management (EKM) announcement earlier this year was key (no pun intended) in eliminating some security concerns about moving content to the cloud. However, it turns out that EKM is expensive and a bit of a chore to configure and manage. In order to alleviate those concerns Box announced that, next year, customers will be able to use Amazon’s AWS Key Management System. This changes things from a hardware appliance based approach to a software based approach, without sacrificing security. It ought to make things less expensive and cumbersome for customers.
The one thing I don’t like about the whole key management thing is that customers lose the benefit of full text search. The partial solution to that is to rely on metadata for searching.
In the coming quarters customers are going to be able to choose from among three storage partners for storing their Box content (I think we can all guess who they are). In addition to storage provider flexibility, this will eventually afford customers the option of where (think data residency) to store their Box content. There are some details still to be worked out, but this could be massive for organizations that have operations across multiple jurisdictions and have to deal with a myriad of data residency issues. I fully expect that as time marches on there will be more choices for customers.
Between the EKM changes and the storage flexibility, I foresee the day when customers will be able to choose what gets stored where, and what portion of their content gets secured via the key management solution (it’s currently an all or nothing proposition).
The Crystal Ball – This was one of my favourite sessions. A bunch of folks from Box’s product team presented a bunch of stuff that: 1) will be delivered this year; 2) will be delivered next year; 3) may not even get on the roadmap (exploratory stuff, you know). All I’ll say is that there’s nothing I saw that shouldn’t make it into the product at some point, with one exception. But, it’s all about priorities, babies.
Metadata – Much of the good stuff that was announced is going to rely on having really solid metadata. Regardless of the release of Metadata Template Editor earlier this year (my thoughts about that), applying metadata to content in Box is still a huge pain and needs to be automated. I know Box is thinking about this and I hope that they deal with it sooner rather than later.
Services – Box is going to need to beef up their services organization. Even a year ago I think they could get away with having a roster of consultants that are almost exclusively technical in nature; that’s all changed. Between the IBM partnership and stepping out of EFSS into ECM, they’re going to need a services group that includes ECM and information governance SME’s, business solutions folks, and some other non-technical skill sets. Will they do this via partnerships or by bringing the skills in-house? I don’t know and I don’t think it makes a huge difference. All I know is that they need to do it fast.
As I said during the conference:
Box is going to need a services organization to support that.
Anti-Big Blue – The Box/IBM partnership has accelerated Box’s ability to provide ECM and information governance capabilities. However, for whatever reasons some organizations simply will not have anything to do with IBM (I know, weird, huh?). However, these organizations are still going to need the same capabilities. Will Box take steps to provide these capabilities or forego the opportunities?