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.
A 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.
Two key changes from last year really made me happy:
- Box’s enterprise customers (at least the ones on the panel during the analyst event) are calling Box content management (advanced content management, even);
- 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.
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.
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, 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.
What 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 and 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.
Yesterday (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” …
- 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.
- 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?
- 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!!!
- 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.
- Performance concerns – hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!! Ha. That’s cute.
- 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.