Enterprise file sync and sharing (EFSS) has been around for years. Many vendors have built their business around it and some, like San Francisco-based Box, have grown their products from storage and file sharing into something that is closer to a well-developed content services offering.

In the same way enterprise content management (ECM) evolved to such a point that Gartner declared it dead in 2017 and changed its definitions and parameters to content services in its research reports, EFSS also evolved in 2016, in this case into ‘Content Collaboration’ and the platforms that enable it.

CCPs In Digital Workplace

As defined by Gartner, the content collaboration platform (CCP) market covers a range of products and services that enable content productivity and collaboration. CCPs are aimed at individuals and teams, inside or outside an organization. CCP, or the earlier EFSS, has now become a core part of the digital workplace and enables businesses to provide more open access to enterprise content. Current technologies and file sharing offerings now use cloud technology to improve file-centric business workflows and workplace productivity. File repositories can be located in the cloud, on premises or a hybrid of both.

With workers relying more and more on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, a content collaboration platform with EFSS at its heart can not only eliminate obstacles to online collaboration, but it can also help ensure security and governance over an organization's immediate and extended assets.

In last year’s Magic Quadrant for Content Collaboration Platforms (subscription required), Gartner noted a new trend emerging in the CCP space. The report notes that in pursuit of broader digital workplace and digital transformation initiatives, organizations want to promote new work styles, approaches and paradigms — and increasingly optimize business processes. The result, “...a significant overlap in [the content services] space is between CCP and CSP (content services), which has been reflected by the harmonization of critical capability assessment across both markets.” 

“CCPs connect and empower people, enabling new productivity, collaboration and efficiency. Also, thanks to easy deployments and adoption, CCPs enable data infrastructure modernization. CCPs can drive change in people’s work styles and processes, help meet business priorities and grant security and compliance,” the research adds.

According to the data, the technology is particularly useful in:

  • Digital workplaces - Initiatives that change employee’s day-to-day working environment and increase the digital dexterity of the employees using collaboration-focused tools.
  • Digital businesses -  Initiatives that change the way business operations are undertaken. Usually a heavy emphasis on process, rules and effective records keeping, but also enabling new interactions directly with customers.

Related Article: Stop Worrying About ECM Vendors: It's All About Your Approach

Usability And CCPs

Jim Crook is director of marketing at New York City-based file services provider CTERA. He pointed out that EFSS and content collaboration tools today are blending consumer-simple usability with military-grade data privacy. “The first part of that equation is really paramount, because without a productive user experience, you can’t drive users to adopt enterprise IT services in today’s market where people are continually influenced by consumer apps and wicked-simple IT products,” he said.

Digital workplaces need a solution that enables anytime, anywhere file access and collaboration without the threat of data exposure to or breaches by third parties. Private deployments, end-to-end encryption, and advanced user authentication services have become must-have requirements for enterprises. “There is acute demand for these types of solutions in the public sector and in financial services industries, for example, where you have incredibly stringent security requirements on one hand, but on the other you have the interests of every enterprise employee who just want to get their jobs done and be productive,” he added. The EFSS solutions that blend both interests are the ones shaping the future of the digital workplace.

Unchained From Physical Workplaces

In the past 20 years, technology enhancements have enabled small and large enterprises to expand their global footprint resulting in the need for a distributed workplace. Workplaces are no longer constrained by physical location, rather a digital workplace spanning across cities, countries and continents is now the new norm. However, Preethy Padman, VP of marketing at Campbell, Calif.-based Panzura said, without the foundational technology elements including enterprise file sharing systems in place, a digital workplace becomes difficult for customers to maintain and drive business success. Customers need file sharing systems that allow seamless collaboration, transfer and uninterrupted access to files.

In this respect, she cites the example of engineering and architectural firm, Mead & Hunt, which faced severe challenges when expanding to new locations due to limitations in file sharing and file locking capabilities when users collaborated across sites. In response, the company implemented a cloud file system with global read/write protection which ensures that multiple users can safely work on files within the same project without fear of stepping on each other.

Related Article: Gartner Rates 4 ECM Vendors Leaders, Drops 3 Others to Challengers

Learning Opportunities

Enabling Workplace Data Access

In the age of digital transformation, organizations are dealing with petabytes of data, much of which is unstructured data and needs to be accessed by globally dispersed workforces, and requires collaboration on distributed workloads. Trends are converging in a way that is stretching the limits of what EFSS can deliver, Julie O'Grady marketing director at San Francisco-based LucidLink, said. 

Compute can now be run nearly anywhere, scaled on-demand, and containerized, which has helped fuel the growth storage which has proven to be an excellent data destination, as it is highly durable, cost-effective and elastic.

Cloud resources are increasingly adopted and workloads are run in a distributed manner from the edge, data center, and cloud locations, demanding instant access to data in more places than ever before. This combination has compounded the demands customers require from storage and file services.

“Today, data needs to be instantly available in more places than ever before, which is challenging because unlike applications, which can be moved-at-will and run nearly anywhere, data has gravity,” she said.

She cites the example of Netflix. If you first had to find the movie you wanted to watch, then click and download it before viewing it, the experience would be terrible. Netflix works because the movies are instantly available and streamed on-demand.

Enabling Productivity Gains

Driving the adoption of CCP and CSPs and with them EFSS, is the productivity gains that should come from collaboration. Strategically an organization needs to take a hard look at how they value collaboration's role in improving productivity.

If it is a core tenet they believe in, then they need to explore how they can create more transparency and break down data, knowledge and information silos across their organization. This needs to be championed from the top with input and feedback from all levels of the organization. With the right tools in place and input from those who will actually use the tools, adoption can be swift and productivity optimized.

From a technological perspective enterprise leaders need to do an assessment of the tools they have and whether any of them can be leveraged for this new mission. Occasionally some of the existing tools in place possess the capabilities but the application has been one dimensional and not very flexible. They should explore tools that integrate with other third-party tools, platforms, and knowledge repositories to fully unlock the potential of collaboration and maximize productivity.