Is Box Writing Enterprise Content Managements Obituary

By now it should be clear that Box doesn’t see itself as a simple Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) service. “We certainly do that,” Whitney Bouck, Box’s SVP of Global Marketing told an audience of the faithful at BoxWorks, the company’s annual user conference earlier this month.

“But that’s not where the value is,” she added. “That’s table stakes.”

So while most EFSS vendors aim to provide the best, most secure, relevant and user-friendly file-sharing experience on the planet, that’s where Box says its journey begins rather than ends.

A Road Less Traveled

The reality, it seems, is that Box isn’t looking to go toe-to-toe with EMC Syncplicity, Dropbox for Business, Office 365, Google Drive for Work, Citrix, Accellion, VMWare’s AirWatch … the list is more than 100 companies long.

 Though it doesn't say it out loud,  is seems like Box is positioning itself as a lighter weight EMC Documentum for the masses, OpenText  reimagined or a Microsoft SharePoint that is more open and likeable.

And when it comes to winning this market Box has already laid out its path, not only in terms of how it plans to create a new category, but also, its strategy for owning the market.

While Box CEO Aaron Levie might have talked about this in a piece meal way in the past, Bouck, in her BoxWorks keynote, spelled it out over and over again.

Box is a hell of a lot more than an EFSS solution.

What's in a Name

Box does something called Enterprise Content Collaboration (ECC), it seems. And while we haven’t seen a category with this label in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant or even Gartner’s emerging markets reports, you can rest assured that Box is doing more than blazing a trail. It’s building a super highway for leveraging content in the Enterprise.

“Content is the currency of today’s businesses,” said Bouck in her presentation.

Box takes content and adds value to it by providing enterprise-grade storage, core collaboration, workflow, advanced security, and governance around it.

When it comes to collaboration, Box provides a workspace where all content goes and from which it can be shared. “It takes the conversation out of e-mail,” said Bouck, insisting that that becomes impossible anytime more than five parties are involved.

Box isn't Just About Sync and Share

“It’s not just about sync and share,” added Bouck. It automates people and content related to workflow, which includes branching, meaning the flow can split off, as in “if this, then that.”

It also offers metadata templates, which groups content according to attributes, inheritance and machine learning. We could go on, but the point is made, we’re not talking about a simple EFSS solution.

Bouck also introduced Information Rights Management capabilities that apply policy for trusted viewing, audit trails, controls over what a second party can and can’t do, and visibility into what happens to content when it’s accessed by external parties.

No Cloud? No Problem

Box may also have a remedy for its “cloud-only’ problem via partnerships with Enterprise Mobility Management  (EMM)vendors  VMWare’s AirWatch, Good Data, MaaS 360 and AT&T, as well as an ability to track activities on documents via integrations with Splunk and HP ArcSight.

Govern This

Bouck also spoke of Box’s Information Governance capabilities around audit, tracking, and revoking access, as well as supporting defensible e-discovery and enforcement and prevention of data loss.

Is Crossing the Chasm Still a Winning Way?

When pre- EMC Documentum made a push to win the ECM market (it was called Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS) at the time) more than two decades ago, it followed a strategy that Geoffrey Moore laid out in his 1991 book, "Crossing the Chasm."

The way it worked was for a tech company to go after one vertical market at a time, using each win as a basis for going after next. The most difficult step in executing is making the transition between winning over visionary clients (early adopters) and pragmatists (early majority). This is the chasm that Moore refers to.

He goes on to argue that if a tech company can create a bandwagon effect in which enough momentum builds, than their product becomes a de facto standard. This worked beautifully for Documentum in pharmaceuticals, energy and finance.

Can Bouck and Team Do It Again?

It now looks like Box trying to do the same by creating industry specific solutions for music and entertainment, life sciences, healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, federal and construction and engineering.

If anyone has the know how to execute on this, it’s Bouck. She was a product manager at Documentum while this was happening. It certainly looks like she’s trying to implement a similar strategy at Box. She has the experience needed to lead the effort. And it looks like she’s doing exactly that.

Where Box is Heading

But is Box really trying to be an ECM player? That depends whose Kool-Aid you’re drinking because some analysts certainly say yes. Bouck, however, at this point, doesn’t seem to think so.

“ECM is a powerful but complex technology,” she said, adding that it’s usually made-up of several content-related areas of capability such as: document management, imaging, records management, business process management, web content management, digital asset management, archiving, search and collaboration.

Title image by geraldbrazell  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.