#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.

5 Things – Innovation


duck-416972_1280This was taken from the next to last slide (full presentation available here) from my keynote session at the IRMS Conference in Brighton, UK from 15-17 May, 2016. These things were also included in the ebook Digital Transformation in Action by John Mancini, that was put out in advance of the AIIM Conference in April 2016.

These are five things, in my view, that you need to do if you want to foster innovation, transformation, and disruption (the good kind) in your organization.

  1. Focus on value, forget risk. – If your entire approach to managing 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Don’t try to change the world. – Closely related to “Start something.” Trying to change the entire organization is going to take time and resources, so don’t try to do it all at once. Start with something that you know isn’t working optimally and change that. Then move on to the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing, ….
  4. Blow stuff up, make people cry. – Change, disruption, transformation, and innovation require that things get messy and people get upset. Don’t worry about it. Find the internal champions and sponsors that’ll have your back. Maintaining the status quo hasn’t worked up until now, what makes anyone think it’s a reasonable path forward?
  5. Get out of the way! – You want your people to innovate, transform, and disrupt, but you’re still relying on out-moded and out-dated managerial structures. Stop. Create an atmosphere that encourages people to go out on a limb and try something new. Give them the freedom to try, but define some reasonable boundaries for them.

The ducks may or may not have appeared in a previous “5 Thoughts / Things” post, but my 4yr old liked them so there they are.

Thinking Out Loud: Using Social Network Analysis to Transform Organizations


tavern-586323_1280I haven’t thought this all the way through, and there are a lot of people (Jon Husband, Harold Jarche, and a guy I had beer with on Monday who is the founder of Simplexity Systems and the inspiration for this post, for example) who are way more knowledgeable about Social Network Analysis (SNA) than I am. I’m really just riffing a bit here.

Monday evening I had beer with a couple of people, one of whom I’d just met (thanks for buying, by the way). His official title is something like Manager of Enterprise Architecture, but his real mandate is to shake things up and make some changes for the good of the organization (a client of mine, BTW). Anyways, after a bit of chit chat, and my two companions finishing up with what they were talking about before I got there, the conversation turned to the topic of Social Network Analysis. What the heck is SNA? Well, my very simple understanding of it is something like …

Analytics and algorithms are used to mathematically prove the strength of relationships between nodes (people) in a network. For example; by examining aspects of an email chain between multiple people it is possible to map the relationships between the various participants and to see how strong those relationships are. One thing that’s really cool about the whole SNA thing is that it not only measures the numbers of emails flying about and their sources and destinations, it also measures and evaluates elapsed time. What’s missing (or we just didn’t talk about it) is the sentiment of the relationship, since the analysis is focused on emails going back and forth and not the content and tone of the emails.

Before I forget … you ought to check out Wirearchy for some more in-depth stuff about SNA and how it can be applied …

Anyway, after chatting for a couple of hours, and the conversation being cut short (babysitters, feeding kids, family nonsense) I went into head scratching mode for a bit. I started thinking about other types of connections that could be mapped, using SNA principles. Could we map relationships between people and content, and then make inferences about those relationships? Could we make suggestions about potential relationships? For example, could we make inferences and suggestions about a relationship between two people (content author and content consumer) based on the consumer’s relationship (activity) with the author’s content, even though the people may not know each other? To what end would we apply these insights?

I also started thinking about what would happen if we added content and semantic analysis to the mix. Could we draw conclusions about the tone of the relationships? Could we figure out if a relationship between individuals was positive or negative? What else could we infer about the relationship?

What if, instead of looking at relationships between individuals, we aggregated the findings to look at relationships between departments in an organization? Could we identify relationships and dependencies where we previously assumed none existed? If we could, could we also then use this information to restructure certain elements and systems in the organization? In effect, could we use the combined results of Social Network Analysis, Content Analytics, and Semantic Analysis to tear down silos and improve information flows, thereby positively impacting the organization? My gut says we can.

As I said, I know very little about SNA though I am convinced that if it were applied in concert with other analytic approaches there’s a lot of good stuff we could do. For the moment I’d really like to spend more time with my new drinking buddy, some wine or beer, and a whiteboard to learn more about this whole Social Network Analysis thing.

Cheers!

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