First of all, thanks to Jeetu Patel (Box SVP for Platform and Chief Strategy Officer) for taking time on a Saturday to answer some questions.
Even though I laid out some thoughts about Box Platform in my post-BoxWorks post (that sounds awkward) I’m taking the occasion of its general availability to jump up on my soapbox (I slay me sometimes). Some of this will be repetition, but it’s worth repeating. I’m not gonna gush too much, I hope.
1. It’s Managed Content-as-a-Service (CaaS)
It’s not that Box is the first content management vendor to provide content as a service, they’re the first to do it in a way that doesn’t, for all intents and purposes, lock you into a single stack or deployment model to build solutions.
For example, a few years ago I was involved with a couple of projects when I was at Oracle (my fave on-prem ECM platform, FWIW) that embodied the whole CaaS approach. However, they did rely on the fact that almost everything in the solution stack was Red.
Box are taking the notion that no one really cares about content management, which most ECM vendors actually understand, and building out from there. They’re allowing organizations to focus on building solutions while Box worries about managing content and infrastructure. Everything from version control and retention to authentication is invisible to the user, which is as it should be.
Equally as important as insulating the users from content management is that Box’s approach lets organizations build solutions that are heterogeneous. What’s this mean? Read point 2.
2. A Solution, not ECM, Approach
Box’s approach to managing content, providing the platform, and providing the API’s means that organizations can build heterogeneous solutions. Effectively, an organization can build a solution using Box as the main content & collaboration repository and include other tools and platforms in the mix, regardless of the deployment model (cloud or on-premises).
Let’s, for the sake of discussion, pretend that I’m working on an RFI (Request for Information) response for a municipality that’s looking for a development permit application solution. We should also assume that all necessary API’s are available. What I might propose to the municipality may look something like this:
- Box as the main enterprise managed content repository;
- Tempest on-premises as billing component;
- ESRI on-premises as the GIS component;
- JDE on-premises as the ERP piece;
- Salesforce as the CRM piece.
The main point is that, as long as the API’s are available, Box can be the content management part of a solution design that incorporates all necessary functionality, regardless of whether it’s deployed on-premises or in the cloud. Another point is that it’s about building business solutions, not implementing ECM.
What Box is doing isn’t all that novel, it’s how they’re doing it that’s they key.
3. IT Will Change its Focus
As more and more functionality and related content moves to the cloud, in-house IT shops are going to have less and less to do. This will bring about a great opportunity to reduce headcount and save some money. Or …
Or this could be an opportunity for IT to forget about fixing printers and patching applications and change their focus to developing and delivering apps that their users need and will actually use enthusiastically. It’s an opportunity for IT, on a broad basis, to change the nature of the relationship with their business stakeholders and become an equal partner in driving innovation and business transformation.
As much as this change will require a shift in how technology is procured and deployed, it will also require a cultural shift in how IT and business work together. Frankly, I think it will require major changes to many aspects of corporate culture. In order for orgs to take advantage and succeed, they are going to have to adopt different ways of communicating and experimenting.
4. Data Residency
So this is the 363.64kg gorilla in the room. Sure, data residency is and will continue to be an issue for some time to come and the recent European Court of Justice Safe Harbour ruling isn’t going to help matters. However, as pointed out in #2 above, there’s no reason why part of the solution design cannot include on-premises or in-country data centre components. Also, upcoming offerings, enabled by the Box/IBM partnership, mean that customers will have options for where to store Box data.
5. The Experiences
Jeetu’s tweet from Boxworks says it perfectly …