Whitney Bouck, SVP of Global Marketing and GM, Enterprise for Box discussed how Box balances usability with security and the importance of getting IT involved early.
Jason Redlus: So what are some of the more interesting things you’re hearing about how people are using Box?
Whitney Bouck: One of the areas of the business that I’ve led for Box is thinking very strategically about which industries are the fastest-growing, have a lot of content to manage, have a lot of people that need access to that information, and tend to work in a highly collaborative environment. Not surprisingly, those types of industries have very unique challenges and are demanding specific features and capabilities, so we put additional effort and investment around them. For instance, healthcare is one of the industries that has been the most vocal in the last year for secure cloud-based content and collaboration tools. The healthcare industry is in a huge state of flux and is really looking at how to leverage today’s technology to modernize the way patient record information and patient care is managed and shared.
At Box, we’ve been very focused on delivering value to the healthcare industry, and have had a number of large organizations and hospitals sign on with Box, such as the MD Anderson Cancer Center and Beaumont Hospital, driven by their need to improve collaboration between doctors and patients. In most instances, doctors don’t hand over a copy of your medical records. By leveraging Box, they now have a safe and secure channel to exchange information online and address patient questions, while always protecting patient data and privacy throughout the process. So, whether it’s doctor-to-patient or doctor-to-doctor collaboration, or even bridging the communication divide between departments in hospitals and providers, we are seeing some pretty interesting developments in the healthcare space that revolve around content and sharing.
We can also point to the media and entertainment industry as another perfect example. Whether it is music companies, film studios or content providers like Netflix (a Box customer), we don’t usually manage their original content like the actual film or television program, but we manage everything around it. For example, if you had a movie studio that was creating a new film, we would manage the resumes and video submissions of potential cast members. They can also use Box to manage all of the scripts, the budget, the filming schedule, the distribution of the dailies for review, and ultimately, the marketing assets around that film. Box is really helpful for getting their products to market more quickly.
As a final example, we also do quite a lot of work in the retail industry with large retailers like the Gap, who use Box in several different ways, from sample creation and early design, all the way through to branding and merchandising at brick-and-mortar stores. So, you’ll see Box leveraged in clothing, fast food and beverage distribution.
The core use case of Box is securely managing corporate information that helps run the business and collaboration, but the problems Box is solving are quite different from industry to industry.
“We’re in a radically different era where technology is now pervasive in our personal lives, and the ability to interact with information and each other online is just the norm, and clearly all of us – not just the millennials – bring that expectation to the workplace.”
I imagine it varies by enterprise, but who tends to actually be the biggest buyer inside the enterprise?
In the entertainment space, buying decisions are led by both the creative side of the business with IT involvement, but in almost every other industry, IT is really the common denominator across the different verticals that we sell into. If they’re not the buyers themselves, then they’re likely the ones that are vetting and approving the technologies for business use.
Is there any guidance you can give – such as whose budget it will come out of, how much political capital will be expended – in regards to implementing this?
What we typically see in our customers is a business group of some kind trying to solve their content challenges, such as R&D at a pharmaceutical or sales/marketing at a retail company, who will sign-up for the free version of Box and start using it in an initially unsanctioned way. As they try out Box, they quickly realize that it works far better than the current system they are using, such as an FTP client or shared drive. Eventually, Box becomes a viral product that takes a life of its own as more people in the group and the larger organization begin to adopt it to share and view files. As it grows rapidly, there becomes a point where enough smart people recognize its business value and decide to get IT involved. Or, the IT team has heard about it as well. We can then run reports that say you’ve got a pretty broad set of usage in your organization — is this something that you want to talk about sanctioning from a corporate perspective?
You have this bird’s-eye view into how hundreds of thousands of companies are using it along with millions of users, so you can probably notice certain themes that are on the minds of executives these days. It seems that mobile, the whole consumerization around IT, the cloud and security are some of the things keeping executives up all night. Would you agree?
I think that grassroots adoption is a reaction on the part of the users not having the tools that they want and and need to work easily and productively in the workplace. We come from an era of IT essentially trying to solve business problems, finding technology and building a technology stack and then saying, “Well I guess we’ll figure out how to train the users.” We’re in a radically different era where technology is now pervasive in our personal lives, and the ability to interact with information and each other online is just the norm, and clearly all of us – not just the millennials – bring that expectation to the workplace.
I think that if users are forced to use something they hate or which doesn’t really address their needs or are mobile, they will find a way to do it. Now, it may not be malicious in intent at all, but they will find technologies that work for them. I think that that whole BYOD movement is really an outgrowth of the predominance of mobile technology and the ease with which the applications today make it simple to work with each other, which is what is really propelling technology like Box. You look at some of the legacy technologies like SharePoint and the architecture is very heavy and cumbersome from a feature prospective. You can’t just grab an on-premise solution and just put it in the cloud. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t work very long because they were designed before the era of mobile computing. When you look at the requirements of today’s user, they want to be fast and efficient in their job and do it with a tool that’s nice and easy and pretty to look at. Users want to work seamlessly between their laptops and other mobile devices, while at work or on the road. Box empowers them to do that.
But if you flip it then it segues into your other conversations around cloud and security, which speak much more to the IT community. Users don’t really care frankly whether it’s cloud or not, they just want to do what they want to do. But I think that IT cares a lot, and frankly most of the time they want to make their users happy, but it’s really hard to do that with traditional enterprise software, and most of their concern is about protecting corporate data because that’s their mandate. So the challenge is for them to deliver tools that are more modern, interesting and easy to use for their users, while also protecting information security. There is a tension between security and consumer-ease. Those two things usually don’t usually go hand-in-hand, so the fact that Box does both of these extremely well makes us very popular with those IT and user communities. If it is secure enough to manage corporate data and give users an easy way to work, that’s a win-win.
The cloud piece is a bit of a parallel consideration. I think you might be able to theoretically achieve close to the same mission whether cloud was in the picture or not. The exception is when mobile comes into play, because the facilitator of easy mobile apps or at least the same kind of access and sharing that you can do on a laptop has to be in the cloud. There’s just no other way to really facilitate the ease of delivery and secure tracking of information to a mobile device, unless you’ve got cloud in that mix somewhere. But there are so many other benefits that come along with the cloud that are so appealing to IT. And regarding the cloud-first mentality that’s starting to emerge, which I think is still pretty advanced for most companies but growing, it’s cheaper and more agile, and can scale it up and down. Before investing anything, businesses can try a free trial with no hardware needed. Why wouldn’t I look at that as an option?
So I think that we are starting to see cloud-first evaluations, which brings this perfect storm of three things: the easy-to-use experience that users want; agility and cost-effectiveness and the lower risk associated with the cloud; coupled with a constant mandate for security. When you can answer the call of all three of those things, you’ve got a real winning solution, and that’s exactly where Box is today.
Before we conclude is there anything else you’d like to add?
I want to quickly touch on the topic of security again. Marketing is typically the largest possessor of non-people-related budgets other than maybe equipment, if you’re a data center-heavy kind of company. But given the discretionary dollars marketing has, they certainly have the buying power to go with solutions that work for them. Yet, given the freedom that today’s technologies offer in sharing information broadly, it’s easier than ever to accidentally make a mistake and share information that shouldn’t be shared, or to send it externally. Technology vendors vary greatly in the amount of investment they put into security and protection. A consumer-technology company is not going to have the same security considerations for businesses that an enterprise-focused company would have, which is natural. It’s incumbent upon marketing leaders to involve their IT organizations proactively to help them select solutions that meet the marketing requirements, but with the kind of security traceability, visibility controls and so forth that help make sure that corporate information is safe, while not inhibiting worker productivity.
As a piece of advice, you should engage your IT organization early in the process, not because they’re naysayers, but because they can actually be enablers to help make sure that you pick the best solution. We’re seeing that more and more, and I think that’s a really good indicator of the improving relationship between the CIO and the CMO, which is such a big topic of conversation right now in the market.
When it comes to the adoption curve, are there any industries that you would point to as being the early adopters?
The biggest early adopter of cloud computing is high-tech. The people that live and breathe technology everyday are much more open and adventurous than companies at the other end of the spectrum, who often operate in highly regulated markets or find it challenging to rip and replace their current system. It’s a real challenge for them to upgrade technology. That said, I can tell you we’re working with financial institutions, healthcare organizations, pharmaceutical companies and government entities, who are actively adopting Box and in large seat deployments. We’re at a point where we’re past the early-adopter curve in a lot of this stuff, and we’re starting to see a pretty substantive shift and maturity of understanding of the cloud. It’s a now a viable technology for the enterprise, and it should be thought of as a reliable migration strategy away from labor intensive and expensive legacy solutions.
It’s an exciting trend, but regarding your earlier question about productivity, I’m fond of using the phrase “adoption is the new ROI.” It’s all about enabling a knowledge worker to get stuff done.
This dynamic Silicon Valley veteran drives enterprise growth across sales, marketing and product. Prior to Box, Whitney spent 15 years with Documentum (then EMC, via acquisition). She held several key positions: Worldwide VP of Product Marketing, GM of two of the organization’s most important product lines and CMO of EMC’s Information Intelligence Group. Whitney earned her BA from Claremont McKenna College.