Box lays out its workplace of the future vision – and security is at the heart of it

Cloud file storage giant Box wants to continue giving customers the change they want to see, whilst keeping its 14-year vision for the future firmly in its sights

boxworks
Boxworks 2019

The CEO of Box, Aaron Levie, is certain of one thing: documents will never die. Addressing journalists in San Francisco this week during the ninth annual Boxworks conference, he is clear that Box’s reason for being won’t be going anywhere.

“Documents will never die,” he says. “You will always need a canvas that gives you the ability to normalise information sharing across multiple parties. If I need to be able to send you a thing that has information in it, it needs to be an open canvas, because that content can’t be predicted.”

The cloud content management provider celebrated its 14th birthday this year and while Levie talks at length about how the organisation has been rethinking how it delivers its offerings; he is clear that the fundamental vision of the company remains the same.  

“Our core vision hasn’t changed,” he explains. “The old ways of accessing information don’t work anymore but our vision for the quality of delivery remains the same.”

Levie says that if you’d told him and his three co-founders they’d one day be working with life science companies, government departments and media publications, they wouldn’t have believed it. Furthermore, the processes Box now have in place and the products it’s now building for its customers are “totally different to what we thought we’d be doing when we started.”

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Eliminating the content management security gap

One of the biggest changes to Box’s most recent offering is the added emphasis on security. The launch of Box Shield at the end of October illustrates the organisation’s renewed commitment to protecting how companies work.

While Levie was purposefully vague about the details surrounding personnel, he said that the development of Box Shield saw the company hire an entirely new engineering team to facilitate its birth.

“[The team that worked on Box Shield is] one of the biggest engineering teams in the company now,” he says, refusing to put an exact figure on just how many people are in the team. “It’s a massive engineering effort and we have a lot of machine learning experts on the team. It’s the single biggest way that Box is leveraging machine learning at the moment.”

A demonstration of the product within the opening keynote highlighted two of the offering’s machine learning functionalities: stopping a user from sharing an internal document with someone’s Gmail account instead of their corporate account, and using geo-location data to flag that a document is being accessed via compromised credentials from a location that the user is not from.

During the press pre-briefing, Levie explains that this new emphasis from Box around content security is borne out of both customer demand and the constant flow of headlines announcing large-scale security breaches.

“Issues around security have become more complex. Breaches and human sharing errors mean there’s now a clear case for us to be building in the functionality that advances the protection of content. We’re making such a big bet on Box Shield. It’s not just a way to protect your content in Box, it’s a way to protect your business processes.”

It’s a message that he doubles down on in his opening keynote speech, where he tells the audience that organisations “need uncompromising security that doesn’t slow down the business.”

He explains that you can’t just roll out network security or application security and assume your organisation is secure.

“Content security is one of the biggest uncracked problems within data security. Industries are figuring out bigger and better ways to protect applications and networks but one spreadsheet that could have all the same data as a database is not protected in the same way.

“The problem is, we can’t just put a block on information that is moving in and out of the business. We had to come up with a way to keep enterprise as secure as possible whilst still allowing employees to collaborate effectively.”

Levie says it might just be his US-centric view of the world but he’s seen a shift in the way people now care about data privacy in their daily lives; constantly asking if the applications they use are secure or if it is safe to offer up their personal information to social media companies.

“Privacy and security started out in our personal lives but have now bled into the digital footprint of enterprises. Users are now asking: ‘am I protecting that spread of data and do I have the right solutions in place to protect that?’ We’ve also found that our end users always select the most secure solutions, as long as the added security doesn’t impact on usability.”

The future of work

At the opening keynote of Boxwork’s 2019, Levie is backlit by the phrase: ‘Our mission is to power how the world works together.’

“Work is fundamentally changing,” he tells the crowd. “The way we work today looks so different to how it did five or 10 years ago.”

Box is a product that has made the workplace its home for the past 14 years, meaning the organisation is well placed to see how the world of work has transformed during that period and where it might be going in the future.

Levie says that Box has a shared vision on what future of work looks like and are aligned with rivals Dropbox, Google and Microsoft on what that could ultimately look like.

“We’ve believed in that vision for 14 years,” he says. “However, where we differentiate from those companies is on what we deliver.”

One key tenet of this strategy is integration. Levie claims that a number of the large enterprises Box works with regularly have anywhere between 50 to 200 SaaS applications running at any one time. Employees now expect to be provided with intuitive, cloud-based tools that work together and allow them to do their jobs in the easiest and most efficient way possible.

Furthermore, the growth in organisational preference for building a ‘best of breed’ software stack means employees now have a greater choice than ever before over which software they want to use.

“There are now so many more pockets of innovation that we need to bring into our organisation,” Levie explains. With Box now boasting integrations with more than 1,400 applications, the chief product officer at Box, Jeetu Patel, describes this vision as an “open system, open API, open mindset.”

Levie says that for Box, it’s “so obvious” that this new, integrated way of working is the future. He says that it was clear to the company founders all those years ago that the way people were working wasn’t going to be sustainable long-term and this strategy of integration, collaboration and end-user driven software is one that the company has been pushing from the start – even when it was alone in doing so.

While it appears to be the new normal amongst some of Box’s customers, he believes that it won’t be sustainable in the future for organisations to try and manage 200 plus applications at any one time. However, he also believes that cutting that number down to single digits isn’t the answer either, claiming we’re “well past the days of companies having Microsoft, Oracle and just two other vendors.”

Read next: Is unified billing the elephant in the room when it comes to SaaS?

For Box, while the products it offers might be shinier and the industries it services might be more diverse, the question the organisation is ultimately asking itself remains unchanged: How does Box enable modern ways of delivering a collaborative digital workplace?

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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