Box gave a taste of what's to come with the announcement of its Box Relay workflow automation solution today.

The announcement came as Box customers, partners and employees gather at Moscone West in San Francisco for the company's annual BoxWorks conference

Over the next three days, leaders including Box CEO Aaron Levie will take the stage to discuss updates and future plans for the content collaboration platform. And given the current size of the platform, that means a lot of updates.

According to Rand Wacker, vice president of Enterprise Products at Box, the upgrades and announcements will address two general areas: modern enterprise content management and real-time collaboration.

Wacker spoke with CMSWire about Relay, the joint project between IBM and Box being released in beta this fall, which give users a fully functional workflow development tool.

IBM-Box Partnership Bears Fruit

This is the first co—developed product coming out of the IBM and Box partnership announced last year.

At the time, executives at both companies said the move would integrate Box’s cloud content collaboration platform with IBM Analytics and social solutions, IBM Security technologies and the global footprint of the IBM Cloud.

IBM, the companies said, would enable builders and developers to integrate Box APIs into enterprise apps and web services.

Fixing ‘Broken’ Workflows

With Relay, the promise of that partnership becomes a reality. 

Workflow in the enterprise is broken, Wacker told us, and the companies designed Relay to set things right.

The product highlights IBM's existing strength in workflows, through its Lotus Workflow tool — one of the few successful tools in the workflow market.

“This [Lotus Workflow] is one of the few tools in the market that has really delivered a user-driven workflow system. We have joint customers that have thousands and thousands of workflows in Lotus. These customers are extremely interested in something like Relay and bringing it all together in Box,” Wacker said.

“It turns out that we are moving into a space where traditional content management has been broken for a long time: crippled by poor user experiences, low adoption, very very expensive to maintain, while not keeping up with the cloud and mobile world that we have now,” Wacker said.

He also argued that traditional enterprise content management tools (ECM) are too complex for most workers.

“Take workflow as an example. In traditional ECM tools workflow is a component, but they are not well suited to broad use throughout the enterprise. The OpenText, the Documentum, the SharePoint tools always require IT to set something up. The users don’t find them very useful or attractive and only use them if they have to.”

Introducing the Relay Solution

Relay will tackle this by providing something the companies promise is easier to use.

As a key part of what is being described as the "all new Box" — a concept which the company promises will be fleshed out on Wednesday — Relay enables businesses to create a simpler digital workflow across different functions to help reduce the time spent managing projects and boost team productivity.

“Box Relay delivers on this vision by providing anyone with an easy way to create, track and manage routine processes without ever having to leave Box. Box Relay is enterprise workflow made simple,” Inhi Cho Suh, general manager of collaboration solutions of IBM said in a statement.

Developed on Bluemix, IBM’s cloud platform, Relay aims to simplify the automation of processes including employee onboarding and training, streamlining budgeting and approving assets and contracts.

Workflows can also be created for the "extended enterprise," allowing secure and seamless task flows between internal and external teams that avoid the traditional hiccups that can occur when leaving organizational boundaries.

Breaking Down Content Silos

Ultimately this is about breaking down the tyranny of repositories and enabling workers to bring content into workflows from any location.

“Over time, we have seen our customers struggle with the problem of all this content stored in siloes. Salesforce for example, is famously an island unto itself with content difficult to pull into workflows,” Wacker said.

“You also have other enterprise applications for both on premises and the cloud that aren’t talking to each other, that aren’t sharing. So we have customers [who want to] use Box to create a more unified place for people to have access to ... [when they] need to get their work done.”

Relay is the resulting product. Its workflow tool eliminates the need to switch between the systems already in use, while maintaining sensitive content.

The tool offers integrations with Office 365, Adobe and Salesforce which allows users to edit content and automatically save it in Box. It inherits the existing security features Box already offers including granular permissions, password protected content and access stats, and the Box Governance functionality.

Box Relay will be available for an additional fee to Box business users. It is scheduled to be released in beta during the fourth quarter of this year, with general availability expected in the first half of 2017.