The announcement itself is really less important than what it represents as the company has tried to transform content management from a monolithic and often obtuse on-premises system into a cloud-based digital tool. The goal and challenge for Box has always been to drive simplicity on the front end while providing tools serious enterprise customers demand at the back.
As I wrote in a post the night before Box’s IPO in January, Box’s goal has always been to reshape content management as we know it:
From the earliest days in its transition from a consumer to enterprise company in the 2009/2010 timeframe, Box telegraphed who it was targeting, and it wasn’t on-premises storage vendors like HP, EMC and NetApp. It was Enterprise Content Management brands like SharePoint, EMC Documentum, OpenText, Oracle and IBM.
The Long And Winding Road
Today’s announcement is part of that long journey. There has always been a gap between what Box has offered and the offerings from more mature content management vendors. This gap has allowed these companies to stave off Box to some degree, but now with governance and retention in the fold, it becomes harder for these companies to differentiate themselves.
The significance didn’t escape company CEO Aaron Levie. “We are the first content management system in the cloud to offer real end-to-end lifecycle management of your data,” he said.
This doesn’t just separate him from traditional on-premises rivals, but creates more space between his company and fellow-cloud company Dropbox, which has been attempting to play catch-up as it tries to make in-roads into the enterprise.
Specifically, today’s announcement includes FINRA compliance, the set of regulations that govern financial services institutions along with the ability to set and maintain retention schedules, a huge step for financial institutions in particular, which are required under law to retain certain documents for up to seven years. Box’s ability to set that retention schedule means these companies can use Box to handle the types of tasks they would have turned to the more traditional content management vendors or third-party plug-ins in the past.
In addition, the company is offering the ability to prevent certain types of information such as credit card and social numbers from being shared.
Finally, Box is offering eDiscovery capabilities, which means customers can identify and preserve documents and critical metadata, while also preventing users from deleting information to comply with discovery requests.
Customers can set policies at the folder level and any document added to the folder inherits the policy, even if it gets copied, shared or moved. Box is also including event-based triggers, which means when a certain event happens, a policy is put into effect. For instance, a bank could create an event that when a customers closes an account, the retention schedule kicks in automatically and the file will not be deleted until the law allows (typically six years).
Looking For Separation
When you combine today’s announcement with last week’s deep integration with Microsoft Office 365, the the Box Enterprise Key Management product it introduced earlier this year and the vertical market package approach it announced last Fall; you can begin to see the makings of a much broader and deeper enterprise strategy.
Levie says the partnerships and announcements are part of a plan to bring the promise of the cloud to fruition. He knows there is a waiting market for his company if he can deliver the goods.
It would be naive to think that these tools offer the same level of service as more mature tools in these categories, and certainly some companies will continue to use the more established tools in these categories, but it’s the beginnings of providing a more complete content management solution with the level of service large companies and regulated industries require.
Levie suggested this was just the start and it would provide additional governance services to the Box Governance category over time as it continues its march to maturity.
“Missing features have prevented law firms, financial services and other heavily regulated organizations from moving to the cloud. This is an important update, because we can deliver [these services] to the cloud to transform the way [regulated industries] work that haven’t been well served to this point,” he said.
If he’s right, it’s another avenue to keep his company growing, something that’s absolutely essential as it fights its way to profitability.
“Well, I would say profitability is a by-product to all this growth. We will continue to focus on growing as fast as we can because the opportunity is so massive,” he said.