BoxWorks 2023 – Our Thoughts

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Box Analyst Review

BoxWorks 2023 – Our Thoughts

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However, last week's online Q&A session with Box executives provided some insight into where Box may be headed in the coming year, though ultimately, the session left me with more questions than it answered.

Over the past decade, Box has stood out as an important success story in our industry. Successful as it has now surpassed the $1B revenue mark and claims 68% of the Fortune 500 as customers. Important, in that post-Microsoft SharePoint 2010, there have been few success stories to count. Not that it’s been a time of failure, but rather that (except Box) very little in the document management industry has changed over the past ten years.

The first Box conference I attended was around a decade ago in San Francisco at the Hotel Niko, moving to the much larger Moscone Center in the city in the following years. This year, though, the company is one of the few to remain online post-pandemic. Therefore, unlike other recent conferences we have covered in our research (see links below), I can do little more than report that Box told us at their online conference, as by default, there is no possibility of spending time in person at the event with Box customers or partners. However, last week’s online Q&A session with Box executives provided some insight into where Box may be headed in the coming year, though ultimately, the session left me with more questions than it answered.

In summary, with no prizes for guessing, BoxWorks focused on AI, particularly Generative AI. Secondly, IDC’s latest stat that 90% of data is unstructured (up from a previous 80%) was extensively discussed. It’s a statistic we have serious doubts about, but there is no doubt that any savvy marketer in the industry will want to leverage it. More importantly, over the past year, there have been updates across the Box portfolio, for example, the addition of Box Canvas (whiteboarding) and an ‘Ethical Walls’ feature within Box Shield. There have also been updates to Box for Salesforce and Google Workspace, along with the launch of Box Hubs. All in all, good stuff.

Box is, at heart, though, all about a unified modern repository platform for developers to build upon. It is often described as a modern cloud-based replacement for legacy ECM systems. Indeed, one of the most frequently quoted reasons for adopting Box is its outstanding architecture, compliance, and security features. That may not sound as cool as GenAI desktop features and functions. Still, as enterprises adopt AI on scale over the coming decade, scalable and secure repositories full of clean, accurate, and well-curated data will be an essential platform requirement. Ironically, few organizations have such a thing today. Instead, they have a large and increasing number of poorly managed data dumps. CEO Aaron Levie described the current market to me as “Fragmented” regarding the competitive landscape and customer data sources/silos.

That’s a massive opportunity for Box, but it will likely require it to return to its roots. The error implicit in the original ECM and document management systems was assuming buyers would use them responsibly. Think of them like a beautifully designed California Closet with all the household clothes thrown on the floor. This time, if enterprises are to leverage AI and control costs, they need not just a repository platform and its associated tools; they need the skills and support to use them effectively. In theory, at least, Box is a compelling alternative (to Microsoft) for consultants, SI’s, MSPs, and BPOs. To date, though, the partner ecosystem has not been Box’s strong point (we have spoken to many existing and potential partners who attest to this). In our analysis, at least, that could be the focus for Box over the coming few years, providing massively scalable boots-on-the-ground style support to the customer, not just through the platform implementation but throughout the platform’s lifecycle and its applications. Platforms like Box are not an end in and of themselves but a foundation and a potential springboard for others to utilize. Rewinding the clock a decade or so to the Hotel Niko, the big surprise at the event was not that it was surprisingly well attended but instead that developers dominated the proceedings. Subsequent Box conferences highlighted the extensive work partners had undertaken to extend the platform in wildly divergent ways. Moving forward, those messy, complex situations that Box has typically punted on may be precisely where they want to target. The reason for targeting those situations is that legion cases contain multiple long-expired document management systems accompanied by millions of paper records. Their goal is to digitize, and funds are available; it’s basic work, but it’s work at scale, and Box, with the right partners, stands an excellent chance of winning those engagements in the process of onboarding long-term customers who can then leverage those newfound digital assets (using Box tools) effectively.

Box is a success story, and Aaron is now one of the valley’s best-known, liked, and respected CEOs. Surpassing $1B in revenue and continuing to generate profitable growth in a tough economy is truly impressive. For productive growth in 2024 and beyond, though, it may be a case of back to the future for Aaron and his team. 

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Work Intelligence Market Analysis 2024-2029