A week later, Aaron Levie, the CEO and cofounder of Box.net, was interviewed on Fierce Content Management. Here he espoused a solid vision for Box’s hosted version of Content Management, though that term was heavily featured, again.
During all this, a very surprising thing thing happened, Aaron contacted me and asked if we could setup a time to chat so that I might better understand their vision. I accepted his offer. Our scheduled meshed today and I thought I would share.
Kudos to Box
I just want to send Kudos to Aaron for reaching out. I wasn’t kind to their term, and to reach out like that, knowing that a second post would likely follow, takes a certain amount of gumption. For it not to be someone in marketing and be the CEO himself, even more. The only pre-determination was if the conversation was public or private. He choose public.
That said, character will only get you so far. You have to deliver and have a direction. They have a good vision. They are trying to achieve Omnipresent Content Management now. They are starting down that road towards realization of that vision.
Oh, they have some rather large hurdles in front of them. Identity Management is a big massive humongous one, but they, at best, can only be part of the solution as the world at-large needs to have a solution. They are trying to have the content live in the right places, so that is a start.
Okay, funny part. I think I sold him on CMIS more than he sold me on Box.net. My biggest, and probably only, real issue entering the conversation was their marketing term. Like many, they hadn’t fully grasped the potential of CMIS and how it could actually drive business for them. The fact that he seemed to “get it” will help them in the future.
Taking it to the Business
It is one thing to enable the populace to share documents with each other. They’ve already passed Google Docs on that front in my opinion. It is another thing to support business. Let’s face it, that is where the real money needed to create a true platform is long-term.
They are trying to establish trust. They aren’t hiding behind pay-to-play for individual users. They are also being audited for SAS 70 statement. That takes a little faith, and a commitment to achieve sound operating standards. Maintaining that over time, and not letting it be a one-time thing, is important.
Aaron told me that they are seeing solid traction in smaller to medium sized businesses (SMBs), which is think is their current core market. From experience, non-profits would also benefit. He also said that they are seeing departmental use in larger organizations. I suspect that some of those efforts are born out of frustration from trying to get things done in a bureaucracy (which is itself a solid market niche that can lead to larger footprints).
Is Box.net ready to tackle ECM solutions head-on? No. Are they on the path to get there? Yes. Will people go with them now because it is simple? Yes.
I wrote a basic ECM checklist back in December. They are well on their way overall and have basic routing already. While they are seeking to be broader than ECM and move beyond the Enterprise, and corporate firewalls, they still need to provide the same core technology to serve the broader audience.
That Pesky Term
I did concede one thing to Aaron. I said that I understood why they used the offending term and why it is a good marketing term. They are a cloud-based application residing in the SaaS layer. There is no denying that or the current fashionable use of the word cloud. They provide Content Management functionality. I’ll give them that, though it is more Document Management at this point (I think CMS Watch might agree) than Content Management.
I can only hope that the winds of change will force the evolution to a new term in the next couple of years so we can all be spared. If the term sticks, I will have to get out of Information Management.
Besides, CCM already means Component Content Management. OCM is cool, but as I said, nobody is ready to offer that yet.
The correct term will be obvious one day. It just isn’t now.
Just so it is crystal clear, to you and the FTC, Box.net has given and promised me nothing aside from time. Aaron did say that he was considering what it will take for me to type or utter their marketing term outside of my nightmares, but that hasn’t happened and it was in jest.
Besides, EMC is a partner of my company and their reps will buy me the occasional beverage. It doesn’t stop me from issuing a regular dose of brutal honesty to them.