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.

 

#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.

#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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

AIIM2015 – Quick Thoughts


IMG_1301This year the annual AIIM Conference was held in San Diego, California; way better than last year’s location which was really a few hotels sitting on reclaimed swamp land or something. And it was great to reconnect with people and meet some new folks and blah, blah, blah ….

Overall I found this year’s event much better than last year’s. This could be because: A) I had no responsibilities as a speaker or representative of any company in any form; B) The content was just way more compelling to me. Either way the AIIM crew, led by Georgina Clelland (recently promoted to VP of something at AIIM, deservedly so), deserves huge congratulations. If I’m not dead or incapacitated I fully intend to be at the 2016 conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

On to the good stuff …

Priorities

IMG_1324I have to say that I was pretty dismayed, though completely unsurprised, that most people and organizations still view managing information from the risk / compliance side of the ledger. Even one of the vendors I spoke to understood that their tools could do so much more if they were employed for insight and analytics, rather than for responding and defending against discovery and compliance issues. During the conference AIIM ran an informal, unscientific survey about organizational priorities; the results are over there <-.

Information Governance

Information Governance seemed to be a hot topic this year, with at least a couple of roundtables and one panel discussion dedicated to it. Good news, right? Sort of. Between the sessions I attended and discussions I had, no one offered up a definition of Information Governance. In fact, one of the IG vendors went so far as to say that they don’t do IG, they’re merely a small part of it. For the record, this is the same vendor that opined their tool could be used for value as well as risk. Regardless of the lack of a cohesive definition (just shows that what the IGI, I, and others have said is true) it was apparent that IG is an important topic.

Enterprise File Sync and Share (aka The mmppfff Problem)

You don’t think that file syncing and sharing is important or disruptive? I don’t know how many sessions at the conference covered the topic, but I attended three:

While Lubor’s session was not explicitly about EFSS, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where things are headed. Actually, you could say that we’re already there, but just not in a very polished way. In his session, Alan pointed out that, while working for some client or other, he and his team stopped counting once they’d reached 130 EFSS vendors.

EFSS is a big deal. No, it won’t kill ECM; depending on the vendor, it will BE ECM. Don’t believe me? Think about ECM vendors coming out with their own EFSS offerings. Some because it’s the future, some because it’s the only way to defend against the likes of some of our favourite EFFS players (130+? Holy Carp!)

Bits and Pisces

Lane Severson and I chatting about big data, analytics, data scientists (that kinda stuff) – if your data scientist type people don’t understand your business and context, they’re not worth it.

The guys in the corner from a three-letter ECM vendor now flogging an EFSS solution – if you can’t answer the simple questions, why are you here? Seriously. Why?

You know who you are – a roundtable session is not where you talk about your product for 20+ minutes to the point the AIIM monitor person has to step in and tell you to give everyone else a turn. That said, once you stopped talking it turned into a pretty good session.

Surprised but not by the absence of some of the EFSS players. You should have been there; I think it would have worked out better than last year.

Panel moderators should be like hockey referees; we don’t know they’re there until a fight breaks out.

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