Solution Evolution


Note: I apologise in advance for this being an infomercial for Box. I assure you that was not my intent when I started writing this post.

monkey-1538315_1280A few weeks ago (Oct 10 – 12) my new colleague (I’ll explain later), Greg, and I were at BoxWorks in San Francisco. For those of you who don’t know, BoxWorks is Box’s annual conference, and a must-attend event for those interested in content management, especially cloud first content management. A topic that came up more than once was OpenText’s purchase of Documentum. Specifically, what it means for Documentum customers, and what they are thinking. I’ll give you a hint; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FPELc1wEvk.

Let me just say that Aaron Levie owes Mark Barrenechea a great bottle of Scotch, a bouquet of roses, and a hand-written thank you note. If OpenText hadn’t bought Documentum I doubt you’d hear of so many Documentum customers getting ready to bail, and taking a serious look at Box as a viable replacement.

More recently, we had a couple of very relevant and telling conversations; the first was with a Box customer looking to get off Documentum; the second was with Box. I also had a conversation at last year’s BoxWorks event with someone in a highly regulated industry. Their company is a sizeable Box customer and is, reluctantly I think, still required to use Documentum for some of their more regulated content. I’m fairly certain that they’d prefer not to have to rely on Documentum. For what it’s worth, I had this conversation prior to the closing of OpenText’s purchase of Documentum, but we all knew it was coming.

This is just me being long-winded in telling you that I have decided to join e-Wave Solutions (the Greg I mentioned is Managing Partner). We’re a small company headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In a nutshell, we bi-directionally integrate content management systems with SAP. Greg invited me down to BoxWorks, we had some interesting conversations, I got excited, Greg got excited, and we literally shook hands on a deal on the flight home.

Anyways, I digress a little … where I’m actually going with this post is that there is going to be an evolution of Box within client organizations. It won’t simply be spread and sprawl, like we see with so many ECM implementations that begin life in one department and eventually spread throughout most of the organization. Certainly this will happen with Box, but with the added advantage of (easily) encompassing the extended enterprise (i.e.: external stakeholders).

No, the evolution of which I speak is about starting as a relatively simple content management implementation and evolving into actual business solutions. Yes, legacy ECM platforms are certainly capable of this as well, but most haven’t gone down that path for one reason or another.

For Box customers this evolution is going to happen one of two ways, or, more likely, in a hybrid manner. Customers are going to sign up for Box to solve some pretty simple content management and collaboration uses cases. Once they have this initial set of use cases sorted out, they are going to get a visit from their friendly neighbourhood Box representative and be shown “the art of the possible” (I really, really hate that phrase!). Once they see what can be done with Box and its myriad integrations, they are going to start crafting solutions that solve business use cases.

As much as Box, paired with some of its available integrations can do, it can’t do everything. And this is where that second type of solution evolution comes in, and it’s called Box Platform.

I’m fairly convinced that organizations wanting to have content centric business solutions are going to need to build applications that tie together disparate repositories with business logic. Today, a basic premise of Box is that all your content is in one place; that’s not realistic, nor will it ever be. Even legacy ECM platforms relied on Business Process Management Systems (BPMS) to tie together content and logic from multiple systems in order to deliver business solutions, rather than content management solutions.

A client that I have spoken with intends to use their content management system (CMS) for loan origination. That’s cool, but, other than the content, there is nothing in the CMS that helps with loan origination. The business logic is in an ERP tool and the content is spread across multiple repositories, one of which is Box. Currently, they really have no way to tie everything together in order to deliver an elegant, functional, efficient solution to their users and clients. However, once they go down the Box Platform path, and they will even if they don’t yet know it, they will have the tools necessary to build an end-to-end solution for loan origination.

Think about all the different content centric / reliant use cases that every organization has that they use every day. Think about their desire to go mobile and go to the cloud with as much as they can. That’s when the beauty and the magic that something like Box Platform happen; it allows organizations to build content centric applications that transcend technical, geographic, and organizational boundaries. A little over two years ago, when Box Platform initially became available, I was pretty excited (as you can tell if you read this); there is no reason for me to change my mind. Box customers looking for solutions beyond content management and collaboration are going to evolve into Box Platform customers. When that happens the potential impact of Box products such as Relay, Skills, and Graph (all announced at BoxWorks, all coming soon) is going to be even more important than it is today.

 

Information Governance – Still Need It, Always Will


chicago-night-traffic-1447010-1280x960A while ago I was pointed to an article proclaiming that Information Governance is no longer necessary (ROFLMAO). I laughed because I think its grasp on reality is about as firm as that of whoever proclaimed that ECM is dead. However, once you get past the intermangling of “governance” and “management”, there are a couple threads that have validity.

Today’s technology and architecture are definitely built to encourage sharing and collaboration, and that is an awesome thing. As for a good digital workplace being a “bellwether of your company culture”, humph. “Digital workplace” is very tool and mechanics oriented, and has little to do with defining culture. A digital workplace (i.e.: tools) enables a culture that encourages trying stuff out, collaboration, openness, whatever. And the digital-ness of one’s workplace depends highly on what and where one’s workplace is. By the way, I am of the opinion that if paper can be eliminated from the workplace paper should be eliminated from the workplace (please insert caveats about having the right tech available and the required bandwidth). The more digital “aides” we have to help us do our core jobs and not have to worry about governance and management of information, the better.

(information) Governance is needed. Always has been, always will be. The level (think rigour) of governance required, and the manner in which governance is implemented vary depending on what information is in scope, what your regulatory obligations look like, what your internal policies are, and on and on and on.

The way work gets done and the tools used have changed to the point that governance has to change, rather than go away. The reality is that governance needs to be more stringent than ever before. Solution architectures today are designed to include multiple services, applications, data centres, and service providers. Regardless of how nimble and user-delighting the solution is, the governance requirements and challenges are exponentially tougher than when all you had was a single custom application that no one liked but it did the job.

We’re being handed ever more simple and elegant devices and apps with which to do our jobs. But, as everyone ought to know, the easier things look to the user, the tougher it was to build it and maintain it, and to impose an appropriate level of governance.

Fortunately, the tools we’re using to do information governance and management are changing as well. Egnyte, Dropbox, Box, Google, and a host of others are delivering applications and experiences that make many aspects information governance and management easier and more lightweight, and hidden from the everyday user. Even some of the legacy ECM vendors are getting in on the act.

Goodbye Governance? I don’t think so. What I find a bit amusing about the article is that it was written by someone who works in a space that, from a tool perspective, is littered with stories about failures that could have been prevented with … GOVERNANCE! Governance, you’ve come a long way, baby. (quote plagiarized from some 1970’s ad campaign for a product that’s no longer legal to advertise).

In this video, from Boxworks 2016, I express some of my thoughts about information governance, and how Box is approaching it. For those of you interested in ECM, cloud, and information governance, Boxworks 2017 is coming up in October. You should go. Maybe I’ll see you there.

If you love the video so much that you want your very own copy, you can download it right over here.

 

#5Thoughts – Cloud Information Governance


gerbera-1323960_1280Whether we like it or not, we’re storing more and more content in the cloud, and that content needs to be governed. Here are some things that I think about and talk about with clients when they are getting started with Information Governance (reg req’d):

  1. To paraphrase Ann Cavoukian[1] – You can outsource your data but you can’t outsource responsibility. All of the rules and regulations that applied to your content in your data center still apply. If something goes wrong you are still, ultimately, responsible. You may or may not have company in court or jail.
  2. Content in the cloud is likely more secure than content in your data center. Remember all those breaches that were so widely publicized? Well, most of them happened to corporate data centres. Companies whose business is storing other companies’ data haver better tools and resources to secure data than you do; it’s their job.
  3. To be effective, managing and governing content in the cloud needs a modern, simplified approach. Trying to manage content like it’s paper or stored in on-premises repositories just isn’t going to work. You chose cloud content management because it’s a better, modern experience for your users, governing your info can’t break that.
  4. FOCUS ON THE VALUE OF YOUR INFORMATION. IF YOUR ENTIRE APPROACH TO GOVERNING INFORMATION IS BASED ON MINIMIZING RISK (LITIGATION, LEAKS, ETC.), YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO FOCUS ON LEVERAGING THE VALUE OF YOUR INFORMATION ASSETS. IT’S THE VALUE THAT’S GOING TO ENABLE YOU TO INNOVATE AND TRANSFORM YOUR BUSINESS. (colour and bolding as requested by a loyal reader – thanks, Dan)
  5. Start Something. Anything. Sitting around navel gazing is going to result in you being crushed. Pick something small, easy, and safe, but with tangible benefits and get going. You don’t need to have everything planned and analyzed to get started; you just need to have enough thought out to allow you to get moving. Remember, some governance is better than no governance.
  6. BONUS THOUGHT – Your information governance doesn’t need to be perfect, it merely needs to be good enough to get the job done and to allow you to meet your obligations.

This Box whitepaper (reg req’d) provides some additional thoughts about Information Governance for cloud-stored content, as well as details about how Box is tackling some of the necessary functionality. We (Box and I) would love to chat with you about Cloud IG. And as always, I’d love your feedback about this post and the paper.

Cheers!

[1] Ann Cavoukian is the former Privacy Commissioner for Ontario (1997 – 2014) and is currently the Executive Director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute at Ryerson University.

The More Things Change – ECM Isn’t Really Dead


rose-165819_640Several weeks ago, a Gartner analyst wrote about (Enterprise Content Management) ECM dying and content services being born. That’s cool other than, you know, it’s nothing new. And it’s wrong, IMO. There were / are two ways of looking at ECM: 1 – ECM defines a set of tools / technologies, or; 2 – ECM defines an approach and strategy for managing information, and includes the tools. I tend to go with the latter, which means that I have never subscribed to the theory that everything had to be in a single repository. The fact is that much information that needs to be managed is not even in what most of us making a living in ECM or Information Management / Governance would even really refer to as a repository.

I remember having discussions (online and in person) about “content services” with peers and colleagues years ago. Way back then, we defined content services as those functions that ECM platforms and suites did so that enterprise content could be managed throughout its lifetime. You’ll notice the double emphasis I put on the word “managed”, because ECM really is about managing enterprise content. Think of “enterprise” as a meta descriptor of the type of content (or data, or information) being managed. I.e.: we’re managing stuff that belongs to the business, no matter the size or purpose of the business. And we don’t care about the purpose or format of the stuff we’re managing; all that matters is that it relates to, or is controlled by, the business.

AIIM (industry association for information management) defines ECM as: “…the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes.”

ECM is not a technology, methodology, or process. Rather, it is a mindset or framework designed to get the right information to the right audience, in the right context, at the right time. ECM is enabled by tools and processes that help capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver information.

Roadmap-Final

The graphic above (courtesy of AIIM) shows the five major activities that ECM solutions must provide to be considered ECM solutions:

  1. Capture – Content is submitted to, or created by the organization. This content may be electronic or paper-based and may be provided by people or systems/tools.
  2. Store – Store and secure information in appropriate repositories in order to achieve defined outcomes.
  3. Manage – Assign properties to content to make it appropriately accessible to the people and systems that require it.
  4. Preserve – Ensure content is accessible over its entire lifecycle and disposed of when required or permitted to do so.
  5. Deliver – Get content to the people or systems that need it to achieve objectives and perform their jobs effectively.

Nowhere in the definition of ECM or in the descriptions of the five functions does it state what type of technology to use, where the technology (storage) must be physically located, or how many different bits of technology can be used to build a solution.

The most common realization of the strategy formerly known as ECM was to provide a centralized enterprise (the E in ECM) wide platform that could meet one or all of the following primary goals associated with the utilization of “content”:” from the article linked in the opening paragraph

Says who? Of all the people that I hung out with and had at least 5 five minutes’ conversation with at last year’s AIIM and IRMS conferences, I don’t think you’d find one that believes ECM relies on a single repository. And that realisation is not very recent. I think what’s really happening is that certain vendors and some analysts are having their “holy sh*t!” moments and coming to realize that ECM isn’t the be all and end all. They’re realizing that ECM suites and platforms are nothing more than pieces of real business solutions.

To be fair, some vendors realized this a couple years ago, and have been making the right noises, though I still don’t see much in the way of solutions. If you really want to see how things are going to be, take a look at solutions / partnerships / integrations that have been largely spurred by cloud content management players like Box, Egnyte, Dropbox, Google, and others. While the cloud vendors may or may not be ECM vendors, they are certainly capable of being part of ECM solutions (assuming anyone really wants one to begin with). The same goes for MS SharePoint in its cloud or on-premises guise (it’s not an ECM product, but could be part of an ECM solution).

Legacy ECM vendors like OpenText, FileNet, Oracle, Hyland, etc. are certainly ECM solutions, but where they tend to lose their lustre is that they were not necessarily business solutions, which is where the real value lies. It seems to me that this is shifting as more and more vendors realize that the products they make are really better suited to be in the background, much like infrastructure. Their value is in serving up content to people and systems that need it. I.e.: their value is in providing content services, or, as I like to call it, content-as-a-service.

Look, I understand that Gartner and other analysts need to “refresh” things sometimes or face irrelevancy through stagnation, and I’m cool with that. But relabelling ECM is rather pointless. I’m fairly certain the buyers don’t care, and the vendors are going to have to use terminology that resonates with the buyers. “Wanna buy ECM? or “Wanna buy Content Services?” are likely to get the same none too friendly response. Content Services is not a market. Content services are what content management tools provide and it’s been that way ever since someone coined the term “Enterprise Content Management”.

#BoxWorks2016 – My Thoughts


boxworks2016Two key changes from last year really made me happy:

  1. Box’s enterprise customers (at least the ones on the panel during the analyst event) are calling Box content management (advanced content management, even);
  2. Box is unequivocally stating that Platform is the base upon which the Box application is built – they weren’t so clear about that last year.

On a personal level, the first of those makes me the happiest because, along with Cheryl McKinnon of Forrester (my reaction to Box’s inclusion in the Forrest Wave), I was the first analyst / person-who-should-know type that came out and unabashedly called Box an Enterprise Content Management vendor. Here’s my post from June 2015 when I first called Box ECM (you can also get to the whitepaper I wrote on the topic via that post). Whatever. I’m just happy and gratified that Box is finally being seen as what they are. I’m guessing they’re pretty pleased about it as well.

Remember in this post I included a footnote stating that BoxWorks could be a better Information Management / Governance conference than the AIIM conference (I didn’t even mention that records management conference or organization)? Yeah, nothing took place at BoxWorks that made me change my mind.

On to my thoughts about the conference happenings … I’m not going to recap all the announcements; they’re available on the Box site over here and elsewhere on the web and on Box’s site. There were a bunch of announcements about making Box more usable, intuitive, and user friendly, but they didn’t tell me that Box Capture for Android is coming. Box Desktop, Files, and Notes are much needed improvements that are coming, and will make for a much better user (yeah, I said “user”) experience.

Platform

If I’ve got this all right, Box Platform can serve up Relay (workflow) and Governance (governance), as well as versioning and all the other mundane content management stuff as a service. While that’s very cool and all, what I really find exciting is that there is a growing ecosystem of partners / developers that include companies like Cognizant, as well as in-house IT shops, ISV’s, and small niche / boutique app developers. The potential implications are pretty cool for all the stakeholders. For example – during his session at the analyst event, Jeetu Patel (heads up Platform and Strategy for Box and is a really nice guy) mentioned that: A – all companies are becoming digital companies (glad he gave up using all companies are becoming SW companies), and; 2 – there’s no templates for digital transformation (I am summarizing). So it seems that there is an opportunity for Box to do for digital transformation on an industry basis what SAP did for ERP on an industry basis. Between in-built capabilities and partnerships, Box has the beginnings of being able to build content-centric digital transformation on-ramps / roadmaps / whateveryouwanttocallthem. The Perkins+Will demo was really cool and a harbinger of what is possible.

What’s really cool and significant is that, if the implementation gets done properly, that whole thing about putting governance in the background and letting users just focus on their jobs will actually happen.

There’s also some other stuff happening with Platform and the application that, if done correctly, could make the whole auto-classification thing a reality. There are other ECM providers that have been working on it for years, to very little uptake. What’s happening, I believe, is that Box is trying to solve the same problems, but in a different way.

One of the product managers told me something to the effect that she was talking to her team and they were telling her they knew nothing about Information Management or Governance. She responded by telling them that they were actually delivering it. There’s a whole bunch more detail, but that’s actually a very cool story. It’s possible because Platform takes care of it in the back end.

Innovation

Regardless of the size of a company, if they operate in a regulated industry they have to comply with the relevant regulations and legislation. At the same time, if you’re one of the smaller players you likely need to do more with less and can’t afford dedicated compliance solutions. Where Box fits is that they don’t know how to do it the legacy way, and this is a very good thing.

During the customer panel at the analyst session, one of the customers, in a highly regulated industry, was lamenting that they could not use Box for some of their controlled documents. The issue is that Box brings out new stuff too fast and the regulators and legislators simply cannot keep pace. That just sucks.

I asked Aaron Levie something along the lines of “do you think that current legislation and regulations hamper your ability to innovate?” I liked that he acknowledged that it’s the customers, not Box, that are actually being hampered. Box’s approach is to innovate to the spirit of the legislation or regulation, rather than to the letter. I.e.: they’ll satisfy the what, but the how may look a little different.

Odds ‘n’ Enns

  • One of the most interesting, to me, integrations I saw at the conference had to do with SAP (apparently you don’t pronounce it “sap”). There’s this company based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada that effectively does for Box-SAP what OpenText Extended ECM does for OT-SAP. I don’t know a ton about it yet, but it is something I will be looking into and getting more familiar with. The fact that the folks at e-Wave Solutions have put effort into building a Box-SAP integration in addition to their Filenet-SAP integration (I think I have that right) is significant. They’re not just chucking up content that’s relevant to stuff happening in SAP. No, they’re doing it in an intelligent way that leverages / manages metadata and preserves the integrity of the “records”. That’s kinda cool. Like I said, I’ll be looking into this a bit more.
  • One of the really good things about being an analyst at an event like BoxWorks is that you get one-on-one time with some key people at Box. The normal scenario is the analyst asks questions and the company person answers them. What I love about the people at Box is that we both get to ask questions and have an open, frank discussion.
  • Thanks to the Box Governance Product Marketing people (thanks, Veena!!!) for inviting me to share some of my thoughts on Box Governance.
  • Thanks to Aaron Levie for taking the time to come and chat with us analysts. I’m a bit of a sceptic at times, and I sometimes wonder if certain tech CEO’s are putting on a show for analysts, the press, prospects, etc. After sitting less than thirty feet from him and being able to look into his eyes, I’m pretty certain that Aaron Levie truly believes in what he and the rest of Box are doing.
  • Lastly, a huge thank you to Joely, Signe, and Megan for making the analyst day and,boxworks2016-analyst-dinner especially, the analyst dinner truly excellent. The whole idea of going to a chef’s residence and having a home made meal in a more intimate setting … loved it.
  • That pic is what greeted us as we walked into the chef’s home. There were leftovers.

The one thing that I didn’t hear anything about is a service organization that can make it (all this next generation ECMness) happen (Box Shuttle aside). I still believe that without the right services capabilities, things will not progress as smoothly as they could. Overall I’m pleased about Box’s progress over the last 12 months. You could even say I’m optimistic and excited for what they can achieve and change about ECM in the future. The recently announced OpenText acquisition of Dell EMC ECD (ya know, Documentum and LEAP) just made Box a more attractive option for ECM buyers. As one industry analyst type mentioned, it’s a changing of the guard in the ECM space. Among others, Box is leading the charge. Not to say I told ya so, but I told ya so.

Information Governance Must Change


Information governance (IG) is all the rules, regulations, legislation, standards, and policies with which organizations need to comply when they create, share, and use information. Governance is mandated internally and externally. (PHIGs IMC Inc – 2014)

IGI Facets of IG 2015

The above graphic, courtesy of the Information Governance Initiative, presents facets of Information Governance. I don’t agree that everything in the graphic belongs under IG, but it does illustrate how all encompassing and complicated IG is.

With cloud content management, collaboration, and storage offerings becoming more and more accepted, IG needs to adapt. No longer can organizations govern and manage information as if it’s paper or as if it’s stored in on-premises, silo’d repositories. Vendors and their clients have rethought how to work with information; users have come to expect great experiences when working with information in the course of their daily jobs; now we need to rethink how we govern and manage information.

We’re at a point where the whole IG profession must change. It’s not just about the people practising the profession adapting, it’s also about how we actually execute that needs to change. Coming out of a couple conferences a while back I put my thoughts down. Read them for a little more insight, if you wish. I’m convinced that we’re at a point where, together, we can make a huge impact on how IG gets done, and actually get adopted by information workers. At 10am PDT on June 29th Box’s Jessica Fain and I will be chatting about How to Succeed at Information Governance in the Cloud; join us and join in on the discussion – we’d love to get your thoughts.

Three’s Company


Threes CompanyWhat follows in this post is pure fantasy and speculation, directly out of my head. Or not.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been talking to vendors and some end user types about Information-Governance-as-a-Service (IGaaS). Forget for a moment that no one vendor does all aspects of IG, or that there’s not even a universally accepted definition of IG. Focus instead on the lighter touch that’s required today when so many enterprise tools are required to have a consumer experience about them. Also think about Content-as-a-Service (CaaS, defined here) and what that means for building the apps needed to work with, manage, and govern content.

To save time, let’s get the fawning out of the way:

  • Box – I am unashamedly and unabashedly a fan;
  • Egnyte – see Box. I’m not getting into what Egnyte announced in this blog as there are plenty of great summaries around the web, including Egnyte’s site;
  • GlassIG – more quietly, but see Egnyte.

Pay attention to all three of those companies if you are remotely interested in Information Governance and/or Management. There are other companies that I think are pretty damn good, but when it comes to managing and governing content in cloud or hybrid environments, these are my three. Oracle Web Center Content would be my go to for on-premises ECM (w/some nascent cloud capabilities like file syncing).

When I mentioned to someone at Egnyte a while back that if they added governance to what they already had they could absolutely kill things, I wasn’t thinking about what came out in Egnyte Protect, announced earlier yesterday (June 7,2016). I was thinking more about things that the AIIM and ARMA crowds, especially ARMA, would consider governance. You know, stuff like retention management, legal holds, classification … all that records management-y goodness.

So, even though I was a little, initially, underwhelmed with what Egnyte did release, I sat back and thought that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. What was released is good and what’s coming up is good. Without getting too deep into the weeds, let me paint a little picture for you …

Let’s pretend, for the sake of discussion, that my organization just went out and procured Box as a content management platform. Let’s also pretend that I’ve got stuff stored in SharePoint and network drives, and that in addition to the standard security stuff, I also have to deal with internal policies and external regulatory requirements, a lawsuit or two, some retention requirements, …, you know, a bunch of IG stuff. Let’s also pretend that I want to monitor who’s doing what with content to determine its effectiveness. In other words, let’s say I need to manage and govern content like it’s 1999, but my content isn’t all paper or in one convenient spot that’s on my infrastructure. My point is, the what of what we need to do hasn’t really changed all that much; why, and especially how, have. Ideally, I want to, as much as possible, centralize policies and controls. Enter my IG Mirepoix (yeah, I just made that up) …

In order to meet the requirements outlined above, one could go to each of the individual repositories and do what’s necessary, hoping that things stay in sync EgnyteBoxGlassIG Logoand no one ever forgets to do anything in any of the repositories. Even if all that happened, there’s still nothing in place to handle any of the records management, legal hold, and discovery functionality needed. Note to self – go buy more software that needs to be installed, configured, and maintained. Or …

Deploy Egnyte Protect to handle my security and analytics across all the in-scope repositories; deploy GlassIG to handle the records management and related functions. The fact that two tools are needed is not an issue as the tools will be used by different roles in the organization.

I know mega-suites were all the rage for a while, but look what happened. I like the approach outlined above because it’s a best of breed approach. Each tool gets used for the stuff it’s best at. There are areas of overlap between Egnyte Protect and Box, and between GlassIG and Egnyte Protect, but it’s using the three tools as complementary technologies that, I believe, provides the greatest overall value to organizations.

#5Thoughts – Box Platform Now Available


Box-Platform-Graphic_2

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:

  1. Box as the main enterprise managed content repository;
  2. Tempest on-premises as billing component;
  3. ESRI on-premises as the GIS component;
  4. JDE on-premises as the ERP piece;
  5. 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 …

Jeetu Tweet

BoxWorks 2015 – My Thoughts


2015-10-03_001BoxWorks 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

alanlepo not getting 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.

Announcements

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:

Jeetu Tweet

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.

Some Concerns

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:

BoxSolnTweet

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?

Box Capture – Quick Review


Box CaptureOne of the things announced this week at BoxWorks was Box Capture. Box Capture is a little iOS app that lets users upload pictures and videos from their phones and iPads directly to a specified folder in Box.

So what? I can already do that.

Yes, you can. However, there is a subtle difference between just loading photos and videos from your device’s storage into a Box folder via the Box iOS app and using Box Capture. That difference is that with Box Capture the photos and videos are never stored on the device itself. It’s a minor thing, but for certain use cases could prove to be very beneficial.

Any use case in which content security and privacy are important would benefit. If the device is lost or otherwise compromised, there’s no longer the risk of someone getting access to content they shouldn’t (assuming you don’t leave yourself logged in to Box via the main app). It’s also handy for those that have limited capacity on their devices.

From an ease-of-use perspective it’s as easy to use as you’d expect of anything from Box. If your use case requires removing the photo or video from your device, Box Capture saves you a step or two. It’s not a big deal for one off’s or occasional use, but if it’s something that you do a lot, it could turn out to be significant.

UPDATE: As I was on the first of my two flights home today, I thought about how cool it would be if the new app had some sort of offline capability wherein I could take a picture and it would plunk it into the selected folder once I was online again. So I took a couple of pics to see what would happen. Initially, nothing. Once I was back on the ground and had a reliable signal, well, to my delight those pics I took on the plane suddenly appeared where I had wanted them to. Pretty slick. Keep in mind that my phone was in airplane mode the entire time; I don’t know what the result would be if I’d turned my phone off (does anyone actually do that?).

UPDATE TOO: If you set review to “on” (see the image), Box Capture allows you to change the file name and add a comment before the picture or video is saved to the selected folder. It also presents a list of recently selected folders. And in keeping with keeping things slick and fast, the picture files are saved in .png format.

Box Capture UI

#5Thoughts – Mixed Bag for the week of Sept 21


horses-265396_1280

No single theme was worthy of 5 Thoughts this week, so here’s a mixed bag of stuff.

1.   Cloud Security still a concern

On September 16th I spoke at an event in Calgary, hosted by Box and Skyhigh Networks (the video and slides, if you’re interested). My presentation was about using cloud to enable innovation, but the discussion that followed focused primarily on security. Specifically, that an org’s data centre is more secure than a cloud provider’s. Uhm, no.

2.   AIIM Road Trip – Calgary

On September 22nd I attended the Calgary session of AIIM’s 2015 Road Trip. The theme was the whole going paperless thing. It got me thinking …

Almost every project that I’ve been involved in or heard about that involved getting paper out of processes didn’t go far enough. Sure, they scanned the incoming docs (invoice, application form, cheque, whatever), but then the process reverted to what they used to do with paper. Stop that. When org’s go to the effort to eliminate paper, they also have to get rid of the whole circulation, review, approve steps where possible.

For example:

I worked on a project for an auto insurance company a few years ago. They were attempting to remove paper from their claims processing. One of their largest sources of paper was from car rental companies. Their initial approach was to have invoices submitted as email (attachments and body, depending on rental company). It was a good move, but still involved too much human intervention. My advice to them, which they followed, was to talk to the rental companies and get them to send over data batches, to be ingested by my client’s solution. They called, the three rental companies with the largest volumes agreed (hell, it saved them time and money, too), and my client ended up saving USD$250K annually. Development and testing was a total of 2 ½ days.

3.   I Wasn’t Expecting That

Back in April I posted this case study about a client of mine. At the time that I submitted the report I had no expectation that my client would do anything with it. After all, during the final presentation the message about “managing information is not a priority for this year” was quite bluntly delivered. As it turns out, a government audit that impacts public finding soon changed some of my client’s priorities.

I’m happy that the client is taking action based on the report I delivered (with Laurence Hart’s help). It’s a shame, but not unexpected, that it took negative findings to get the ball rolling. Oh when will they learn that it’s so much better and cost effective to be proactive about these things?

No, KS, I don’t think I called you “sad and tragic”.

4.   Data Residency

During the aforementioned AIIM Road Trip, one of the presenters mentioned something about data residency and how they could point to providers with Canadian presence (mostly small players, is my understanding). The issue I have is that it continues to cave to the FUD. There are very few circumstances under which Canadian organizations must, by law, have data reside in Canadian data centres. Before going and selecting a provider based on FUD and misinterpretation of requirements / regulations, find out what the real facts are and go from there.

5.   BoxWorks & Scanners

BoxWorks 2015 is next week and someone needs to build a scanner the automatically shreds the originals, then burns them as they come out.

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