Box extends into workflow automation, potentially ServiceNow

Box launched Relay, a workflow automation platform built with IBM. The system expands Box's market and mission and may wind up competing with ServiceNow.

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The game plan for Box is to automate repeatable work and leverage collaboration, security, and compliance knowhow.

Box has launched a workflow automation system that is designed to broaden the company's market and usher in a new look and strategy.

The company's latest effort, Box Relay, rhymes with what ServiceNow is doing. ServiceNow aims to manage tickets and service requests across a business' structured work. Box is targeting document approval and content surrounding data as well as unstructured workflows.

The game plan for Box is to automate repeatable work and leverage collaboration, security, and compliance knowhow. Box Relay has the potential to broaden the company's market beyond its content and collaboration management platform.

At Box's BoxWorks conference, the company will outline its new mantra as a company that gives you one place to work with your content, collaboration with teams, and simple workflows. "There was a great opportunity to build new ways to work," said Chris Yeh, senior vice president of product at Box.

Also: Box beats market expectations for Q2 | Box expands Box Zones, sees strong demand

What's also notable is that Box Relay was developed along with IBM. Box Relay enables line of business executives and decision makers to build, track, and manage workflows that are either prebuilt or custom. Box and IBM will sell Relay as an add-on offering.

Yeh said there were two product managers representing Box and IBM who developed Relay, which would compete with everything from Microsoft SharePoint to ServiceNow and EMC's Documentum in areas. "Overall though we felt there was a big gap in the market," said Yeh, who noted that IBM and Box worked on Relay for about a year.

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Box Relay will be in beta in the fourth quarter and generally available in the first half of 2017.

Box had automation tools, but not to the extent of Box Relay. Box will see more use cases in addition to its content management platform. "We want customers to work more within Box," said Yeh.

In Box's second quarter, the company added 4,000 new customers. Box reported second quarter sales of $95.7 million, up 30 percent from a year ago, with an operating loss of $37.9 million. Box projected fiscal 2017 revenue of $394 million to $396 million.

Here's what Box Relay does:

  • Allows users to create custom workflows or a catalog of samples. Processes can be automated without the IT department.
  • Workflows extend to partners, vendors, and customers.
  • Cuts down management time with dashboards, email notification, and an audit trail to track deadlines.
  • Integrates with Box's content natively as well as Salesforce, Microsoft's Office 365, and Adobe.

Box Relay will be in beta in the fourth quarter and generally available in the first half of 2017. There will be an additional fee.

The game plan for Box is to become a central point to manage information. Yeh said that Box spent a lot of time looking at what ServiceNow does and said Relay is focused on broader usage and being extensible to everyone.

Nevertheless, the end points for Box Relay and ServiceNow may be about the same. The idea is to manage and automate workflows across every part of an enterprise; IT, sales, marketing, finance, HR -- to name a few.

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Image: Box

It's unlikely that Box and ServiceNow would compete directly, however. There are plenty of scenarios where both companies would be in an enterprise managing and automating work.

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