#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.

#TBT: Does ECM need Kevorkian or Kardashian


Not KKThis is a Throwback Thursday post. I originally wrote this back in January 2012, at the invitation of Ron Miller. Ron was with FierceCM back then, and I thought he covered the ECM space pretty well. Anyways, I was reading this recently and thought that it is still pretty accurate, mostly. I was thinking about updating it a bit, but I just left it alone.

So, is ECM all puffed, primped, pimped, buffed, glossed, sprayed, splayed, like Kim Kardashian, or is it time to summon Dr. Jack (Kevorkian, not Daniels)?

The way I see it, ECM doesn’t really exist; at least not as something I can hit with a hammer (not that I advocate hitting KK with a hammer). ECM is more of a wrapper/ label that we’ve put around a whole bunch of other related things for the sake of convenience and to make it look and sound pretty. Inside the wrapper we’ve got things like document management, records management, digital asset management, and web content management. Depending who you ask, there may or may not be business process management stuff in there as well. Go further and include content that’s stored in ERP, CRM, db, and various line of business (LOB) systems. The truth of the matter is that I don’t give a rat’s ass what’s in there as long as it can do good stuff for my business. And by that I do not mean just managing content.

Managing content is great, but if it doesn’t serve the goals of the business, if it doesn’t get stuff done, there is no point. In order to serve the goals of the business managed content, in all its forms, needs to be available when business activities are executed. It doesn’t matter whether that activity is approving invoices, publishing web content, administrating social services programs, developing new drugs, or a telco ramping up new services for subscribers.

Consider this for a moment; I recently came across an initiative to implement paperless claims processing. The organization will use ECM tools as part of the solution, but it is by no means an ECM initiative. This organization will develop what they call ECM Governance, but the reality is that it’s going to be about managing information for the enterprise. Whether or not the information is managed with ECM tools remains to be seen, My guess is that some of it will and some of it won’t. Oh, and if you want a little more justification why we should be calling Dr. K in to deal with ECM – a major ECM vendor has rebranded the ECM out of their products and now just uses the word “content”.

If we scrape away the goop that’s on the surface of Kim Kardashian, we know that underneath is a real person with the requisite components to ensure everything is in proper working order (I’m bashing on ECM, not on reality TV celebrities, remember?); can we say the same for ECM? Here’s a challenge (not open to vendors, especially their marketing folks) for implementers and clients; go find one real ECM implementation that’s in production. First person to find one, within two weeks of this article being posted, and prove it to the satisfaction of a panel of judges (me and whomever I select to help me out) can name the Canadian animal or children’s charity to which I will make a CDN$50.00 donation.

Things have changed, dramatically, over the last few years. We used to be happy with document management. If it was done well, most people in a department had the latest version of the document they needed. But it didn’t span the enterprise in the majority of cases. Web content management systems were fine because they helped to ensure that your site had the most up-to-date copy, images, videos, etc. (helped by digital asset management tools, whatever they really are). Records management systems tried to make sure that once we were done with our documents they were properly declared, stored, and disposed of. They couldn’t do diddly about the rogue copies of stuff that were all over the place just waiting for a discovery order.

Even all those pieces that are supposedly under the umbrella of ECM tools don’t really work together in an “enterprise” fashion. That is, they don’t talk to each other, their reach doesn’t extend throughout the organization, and they sure don’t play well with LOB systems. I think it’s time that we admit ECM is simply on life support and will never be what we thought it would be. Call Dr. Kevorkian and let’s do the right thing.

I’m not certain what’s going to replace ECM, but I am certain that it’s gonna be cool. We’re at a point where we need to mix together what used to be ECM with social tools, engagement tools, governance, and process management. These things need to be deconstructed and then recreated as services (as in Service Oriented Architecture) to be consumed by organizations in order to truly manage their content, holistically, across the enterprise. I’m not ignoring cloud or ?aaS, they’re just not really relevant to building the solutions, they’re delivery options.

unFUDding Cloud Content Management


child-1099770_1280Yesterday (May 30, 2016) I read this article which contends that Box, Dropbox, and others are not content management platforms. I was considering not linking to the article and just putting up screen shots of the main points, but I decided on the link instead. The article is nothing but FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) being spread by an on-premises content management provider (props for dropping Gartner, Forrester, and AIIM names though). As a bit of a refresher on where I stand, you might want to read this whitepaper I wrote last year (sponsored by Box, 12 pages long). By the way, I tried to post a comment to the article, but it seems the site’s not taking comments (mine had a couple links).

Without further ado I’ll get into the counter arguments to the author’s “five reasons why cloud file sharing platforms can’t touch document management software platforms from an enterprise functionality standpoint” …

  1. Security at all costs – If the author had written something about data residency I would have bought it, probably. However, the author goes on about a bunch of FUD, and does nothing to dispel it. The author also illustrates her lack of knowledge, not only of security issues, but also of the capabilities of the cloud players. She implies that many think that on-premises security is better, which we know isn’t the case. Major hacks and leaks have come primarily from on-premises data centres.
  2. Document storage and beyond – uhm, just plain wrong. Sure, it may take a combination of tools to achieve the same level of functionality that one could achieve with a traditional, legacy suite such as OpenText, Filenet, or Documentum, but is that really a bad thing? Haven’t we already accepted that the whole ECM world is actually changing and the way forward is platforms, integrations, and API’s? I have. Has someone forgotten the abysmal success rate of traditional ECM deployments?
  3. Not yet ready for primetime – What? This is 2016, technology is changing and advancing more rapidly than ever. No one has a 10+ year window any more to demonstrate anything. Those traditional ECM players you mention are precisely the reason people and organizations are going to the cloud. Traditional ECM platforms are old and out of date. Yes, some are making changes, re-architecting, and adding CLOUD -FREAKIN’-CAPABILITIES-DAMMIT!!!
  4. Migration issues – Really? You really want to go there? How ‘bout migrating from OpenText to SharePoint? Or from Documentum to Filenet? Or from what you’re selling to anything else? Or from file shares to whatever the hell you want to name? Migration sucks. Always has sucked. Always will suck. Cloud or on-premises makes no friggin’ difference.
  5. Performance concerns – hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!! Ha. That’s cute.
  6. It’s ON-PREMISES for ***** sake!

Now I’m just angry and irritated. I need a drink.

I’m not saying that everyone should move everything to the cloud, but at the very least think a bit and don’t buy into the nonsense spouted by some people who may have something to gain by spreading FUD. The fact is that managing content in the cloud, whether via cloud capabilities of legacy vendors or via the “new” vendors, is perfectly viable. The key is to know what your requirements are before choosing a technology.

For a different take on this, check out this excellent post by Paula Smith on Linkedin.

5 Thoughts – Box Included in Forrester Wave for ECM


sand-716660_1280On August 28th The Forrester Wave™ for Enterprise Content Management (Business Content Services, Q3) was released[1]. I’ve been saying for a while that some of the EFSS vendors, Box among them, are going to be part of the next generation of ECM platforms. It pleases me greatly that at least one analyst firm agrees with me.

I’ve included a chart showing the vendor rankings, based on Forrester’s scores. I’ve included the summarized MARKET PRESENCE score, as well as the detailed scores for Revenue and Customers & Markets; I’ve got a reason for doing that.

Without further ado, here’s some thoughts I have about Box’s inclusion in Forrester’s ECM Wave.

  1. CURRENT OFFERING: Box ranked 9th out of 11. The low ranking is no surprise given Box’s relative immaturity in the ECM space. What does surprise me is that it beat SharePoint 2013, and that it’s pretty close to Alfresco and EMC. As much as I dislike SP as an ECM platform, I do think it should have been ranked higher than Box.
  2. STRATEGY: Box was ranked 1st. Given who else is included in the Wave that’s a fairly significant accomplishment. Now, before any of us get too excited, having a solid strategy and executing it are not the same things. Given the ECM stalwarts that are on the list I have to assume that Box outscored them because of focus (I mean, look at the bags of tricks that ECM, OpenText, IBM have to throw at something). Will this hurt Box’s current offering scores in Waves to come? Dunno. The surprise to me in this bit is how low Alfresco scored.
  3. MARKET PRESENCE – Revenue: Box is 5th with a score of 3.9/5, which kinda has me scratching my head a bit. They were beaten by EMC (4.1/5), IBM (5/5), Microsoft (5/5), and OpenText (4.9/5). If the scores are reflective of current fiscal year revenues, why isn’t Wall Street showing Box more love? If not, maybe Forrester needs a bigger scale for this bit.
  4. MARKET PRESENCE – Customers & Markets: Box tied for 5th with Lexmark. Depending on how Forrester calculated the revenue scores, and Box’s business model, I’d expect this year’s customers & markets score to impact (positively) next year’s revenue score. A big question I have on this score is whether or not Box’s non-paying customers made up some of the market score.
  5. The main thing to take away from the Forrester report is that Box was included. I’ve been calling for them to be seen as ECM rather than EFSS for a while now, so I’m obviously happy with the outcome. Frankly, even if Box hadn’t been included in the final 11 but had been mentioned in the “Explore Other ECM Vendors …”, that would have been a huge step in the right direction. So, yeah, I told you so.

Forrester ECM Vendor Ranking

[1] You can download the full report from the vendors that are caught in the wave or head to Forrester and buy it.

The Hybridization of EFSS and ECM


work-in-progress-24027_1280Consumer and enterprise file synchronization and sharing popped up because people needed a way to easily share and collaborate on business content. This gave rise to the “Dropbox problem”, which is just stupid and ignores the real problem; organizations didn’t provide their people with policies and tools that allowed them to GSD[1]. Today there are plenty of options, consumer and business grade, that provide a cool experience with the security and controls that business and IT need.

Organizations that haven’t sanctioned business grade file sync and share are foolish and open to a world of pain. If they think that their people aren’t chucking content around in the wild, well, think again. Go fix that problem, it’ll take all of 5 minutes.

The bigger problem today is figuring out what goes in the cloud and what doesn’t, and then providing access to it (don’t use this as an excuse to do nothing, start with something easy and low risk). The reality is that, for any number of reasons, not everything can be chucked into cloud based repositories. Even if an organization were committed to putting 100% of its content and processes into cloud services and repositories, that would not happen overnight. That reality means many, many organizations are going to require hybrid solutions.


Cloud On-Prem Arch


The image above is not an unreasonable representation of what many organizations are faced with. It’s fair to say that even if you remove the cloud based services, organizations can’t adequately provide a single point of access to all of the on-premises content people need on a day to day basis. The problem is exacerbated when that content must be shared and collaborated on by disparate groups of stakeholders. Now add in other information governance and management requirements, such as metadata, classification, retention-disposition, e-discovery, process integration, legal and regulatory compliance, and security and the challenge is more difficult still. Toss in some cloud services and repositories and what do you end up with?

The real initial challenge was conceptually pretty simple: “I want access to content from wherever I am, using whatever device I want, and I want to work on that content with whomever I need to work on it with.”

The likes of Google, Dropbox, Microsoft (OneDrive, not SP online), Box, etc. solved that problem, but in doing so created other problems, both real and perceived. The perceived problem they created was a security one. Trust me, it’s less of a problem than most organizations storing stuff in their own data centres or networks is. The real problem they created was around information governance and management, which is a strong suit of many Enterprise Content Management (ECM) vendors.

ECM vendors like Alfresco, EMC (prior to selling off Syncplicity), OpenText, and Oracle tried to solve the initial problem, and did a fair job of it. The big problem there was cost. In order to use their file sync and share capabilities you had to be using their repositories. Sure, you could opt for a cloud deployment, but you’re still running a full-blown ECM platform (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

Google, Dropbox, Microsoft, Box, Alfresco, OpenText, and Oracle all work on the premise that your content is in their repository. If it isn’t, oh well. Syncplicity allows access to Documentum and SharePoint content, so I’ll categorize that one as a not quite semi-open option, though it does work on-premises and in the cloud.

Accellion, AirWatch (VMWare), Egnyte, and Citrix all offer hybrid solutions that may or may not work with ECM repositories in a limited capacity. However, from what I’ve seen from some of those guys the user experience is not always, shall we say, pleasant.

Of the ten vendors I’ve identified, not one is capable of providing secure, mobile access to all an organization’s content, and governing and managing it. Not one. Go and check out the latest Gartner (MQ) and Forrester (Wave) reports ranking the best of ECM and EFSS (silly market categorization); of all the vendors in those reports combined, not one can provide that combination of access, search, security, and governance.

Now, if a service were providing access to content in an ECM repository there would be no real need for that service to also provide all the information governance and management capabilities. Maybe I’m making the problem bigger than it really is. On the other hand, OneDrive, Google, and Dropbox have no governance / management capabilities to speak of, and what’s available from Box is 1st version functionality that has improving to do.

As far as I’m concerned:

  1. The initial problem has only been partially solved;
  2. There was not, is not, never will be a “Dropbox problem”;
  3. Sharing and collaborating on content is easier today than it was a couple of years ago;
  4. Platforms, apps, and API’s are the way forward;
  5. There’s still a long way to go, but holy crap have opportunities for innovation and transformation opened up.

[1] GSD – Get Sh!t Done

Box Announces Governance – Another Step Towards #ECMnext


mis-megaphoneSo Box came out and announced Box Governance this week. For those of you thinking that Box is just one of the surfeit of file sharing providers on the planet, think again. Box has been steadfast in stating that they are providing content management and this week’s announcement is further proof of that.

Box Governance provides three important capabilities: 1) Retention Management; 2) Content Security Policies (really should have something about “sensitive information” in the name); 3) Defensible eDiscovery. While having these capabilities available is in and of itself a major step forward, it’s also important to note that organizations that choose to deploy Box can now claim compliance with a number of government and industry regulations and standards (e.g.: PII, FINRA, SOX, SEC 17a-4). However, the most important thing about this announcement, in my opinion, is that it serves to remove additional barriers to including Box in the conversation when talking about Enterprise Content Management vendors (pay attention Gartner, Forrester, IDC, et al). Coupled with Box’s Enterprise Key Management (my post on the topic) announcement earlier this year, organizations relying on FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) to exclude Box from consideration are losing rationale for doing so. Security and information governance are what separates true managed content from just another shared drive, and Box has them. Bleat all you want about cloud not being secure and cloud content repositories being unmanaged messes, it’s not working anymore.

Since BoxWorks last September (my thoughts) Box has made a number of feature additions, announcements, integrations, and alliances that are moving it closer to being able to deliver the right balance of System of Record and System of Engagement. At this point it’s still a little ugly and cumbersome for administrators to configure the backend to deliver the various governance, workflow, and security bits to work properly, but that’s what the team at Box Consulting is paid to help with. Those paid to worry about security, legal, regulatory, and audit have less to worry about now than a few months ago. From a content consumer/contributor perspective it’s all pretty slick and that’s what it’s all about.

It’s no coincidence that a white paper I wrote for Digital Clarity Group was released yesterday. The paper is about the next generation of ECM (#ECMnext) and how Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) platforms will provide it. We’d (Box, DCG, me) love to get your thoughts on the paper. Feel free to reach out to any of us (you can reach me via email at chris.walker@phigsimc.com as I am no longer with DCG) to rant or rave. There’s no data collection, fees, marketing gates or other intrusive nonsense to get the paper, so download The Next Generation of Enterprise Content Management to your heart’s content.

Image taken from http://ontheedge.dezignstuff.com/survey-ends-today/1404/mis-megaphone

The Metamorphosis of Enterprise Content Management


Butterflies

Image by Luna sin Estrella, used under Creative Commons 2.0.

Regardless of what you’ve been hearing, Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is not dead. For years ECM has been harangued as being overly cumbersome, overly expensive, overly difficult, and underwhelming when it came to delivering benefits. That’s all about to change…

The manner in which ECM is delivered is going to change. Taking a cue from what consumers have come to expect in terms of the technology they use for personal reasons, a subset of Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) vendors, led by Box, are emerging as purveyors of ECMnext – the next generation of Enterprise Content Management platforms. The focus is on how and why people create, consume, and share content, supported by a foundation that provides the security and governance required in today’s digital business environment.

This whitepaper explores the short-comings of legacy ECM platforms, and how ECMnext vendors can step up and deliver what we’ve wanted out of ECM all along. While there’s still a ways to go for ECMnext platforms to be able to completely replace legacy ECM platforms, the basic building blocks are in place and the roadmaps are pointing in the right direction.

You can download the whitepaper directly from here.

If you need a little more evidence that ECM is changing, take a look at Box’s announcement about their governance functionality: Introducing Box Governance – Delivering Control and Compliance in the Cloud.

If you’d like additional insight, this 15 minute podcast from February 2015 features Connie Moore of Digital Clarity Group and me discussing EFSS and ECM.

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