Yesterday the cloud-based content sharing and collaboration platform company Box (still most commonly referred to by its web address Box.net), announced it's largest enterprise deal to date - an agreement with consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble to deploy Box's file sharing and content collaboration solutions to as many as 18,000 of P&G's 127,000 worldwide employees.
If you are not familiar with Box, (shame on you, the service rocks), it was created in 2005 on a simple idea - that individuals, small businesses, and increasingly, large enterprise customers should have a way to access and share their content and files from anywhere. Box offers a free plan for individuals that provides up to 5GB of storage space, and over the last few years has added an array of features and application integrations (Google Docs, LinkedIn, Salesforce, NetSuite, etc.), that appeal to the enterprise user. As the SaaS deployment model and cloud-based solutions for the enterprise have become more firmly established in the enterprise space, particularly in the HCM arena, organizations like P&G are continuing to explore the benefits and potential of this model in decidedly mundane process areas like simple file storage and sharing.
But for most knowledge workers this simple process - create a file, save it somewhere others can see it, manage access and changes, make sure everyone is up to date on the latest version, and so on - often proves to be a painful, laborious, and altogether productivity-sapping exercise in frustration. So just like the modern era of popular SaaS and cloud-based solutions like Salesforce have shown, Box (and a few others), are proving that there are benefits to be found, even in large traditional enterprises, in the simple file storage/sharing space.
At its core, the Box service is as simple as the network file shares that almost all enterprise users have grown up with. Connect to Box, create a project name or folder, upload your files, and access them from any internet connected device from there. But what Box brings in functionality beyond the tired old file share you are used to is access to the content from iPads, iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerry; advanced (and easy to use), sharing and collaboration capabilities; ways to easily preview files; full content search capability; and more. And all this advanced functionality for enterprise users requiring very little if any involvement from corporate IT departments.
The Box/P&G announcement is likely just one of the first in what are likely to be many such deals announced in the coming months/years. For many enterprise users, the realization that the Cloud is now a fundamental part of the corporate experience won't come from the once or twice a year they access their Talent Management suite provider's cloud-based performance review process. It will be when they save, access, modify, share, embed, link, and otherwise interact with the mundane - Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, Acrobat files - but instead of living on their desktop and in the labyrinthine file system on the departmental shared drive, these files and the actions that are taken upon them will be in the cloud, more visible, more accessible, and ultimately more powerful.
Kind of a dull post for a Friday I know, but I guess that is the point. When even dull processes can be improved and transformed, well I think that is a kind of real progress and benefit to all this cloud talk.
Have a great weekend!