by Robert Palmer | 9/10/14
During its annual BoxWorks conference held last week, Box announced several solutions designed to streamline the way businesses work with information. Box Workflow combines the core content/collaboration features of Box with new automation and metadata features so that businesses can automate processes and create customized content workflows.
There are three key elements of Box Workflow. First is the ability to leverage rules-based programming to automate processes. This allows administrators to perform specific tasks and actions to content stored in Box based on a set of pre-defined rules. For example, businesses could create customized workflows to generate contract signatures, route invoices through pre-defined steps for review and approval, assign tasks to certain individuals once a document is uploaded, and automatically move content to the appropriate destination folder once pre-determined actions are performed for records management.
Box Workflow also leverages intelligent metadata to help businesses work with information more efficiently and effectively. The firm says that Box has built-in learning algorithms to intelligently classify and recommend related documents with little to no manual intervention. Businesses will be able to manage the entire digital asset lifecycle on Box by leveraging metadata search capabilities, collaboration tools, and automated workflows.
Because it is based on open architecture, businesses and third-party developers will have direct access to content, collaboration, and metadata events through the Box V2 API to create custom applications. This will also allow Box Workflow to be integrated with ECM tools such as Microsoft SharePoint, SAP, and many others.
Box for Industries
Box also announced a set of industry-specific solutions and initiatives to accelerate business transformation, which it calls Box for Industries. Leveraging the Box Workflow platform, Box says it will combine tailored solutions leveraging metadata, workflow, compliance, and platform capabilities into industry-specific applications from third-party developers, partners, and key system integrators.
The firm is developing expertise for every major industry, but Box is initially launching solutions for three major verticals: Box for Retail, Box for Healthcare, and Box for Media & Entertainment. Box has numerous high-profile clients in each of these verticals, including Barneys New York, Sephora and Aeropostale for retail; Stanford Health Care, MD Anderson Center, and St Joseph Health for healthcare; and Comcast, Fox, Legendary Pictures, and Dolby for media and entertainment.
To accelerate development and adoption of the Box for Industries solutions, Box announced that it has partnered with Accenture, one of the leading global systems integrators. Box and Accenture already share thousands of customers, and Box says that Accenture will be building out a practice based on the Box platform. Box says that it will be rolling out Box Workflow and Box for Industries solutions over the next year.
Box has been developing its own set of business-oriented content management tools for quite some time. For the most part, its business solutions are focused on information collaboration and sharing. It makes perfect sense that the firm would look to leverage its expertise in content management to expand into workflow automation and process improvement. Box claims that more than 27 million people and 240,000 companies currently use Box to manage and share their content. That is a massive end user base, most of which is likely using the software simply as a rudimentary solution for storing and accessing content in the cloud.
Pursuing both horizontal and vertical solutions is also a wise approach. Organizations understand the need to streamline access to information and drive efficiencies into existing business processes in order to produce better outcomes. Many are looking to off-the-shelf applications that can provide a level of customization and flexibility to support changes to existing workflow. Others, however, require industry-specific solutions to deal with the complexities associated with inherent processes that often prove difficult to optimize, let alone completely revamp.
Of course, workforce mobility and remote access to content continue to be at the forefront when it comes to business transformation, which is where Box has a distinct advantage. The firm has developed a broad and proven ecosystem of cloud-based solutions, as well as a very loyal customer base. Box is in a strong position to help businesses not only organize and share content effectively and securely, but it is also developing solutions that address issues such as workflow automation, cross-functional collaboration, digital asset management, and regulatory compliance. It will be interesting to see how businesses react to the new Box solutions as they become available in 2015.