Dropbox's enterprise strategy: Be as 'ubiquitous' as possible

Summary:As Dropbox moves its business strategy forward (especially towards a possible IPO), it still has a game of catch-up to play.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- With a firm foundation in the consumer market, Dropbox has been playing a fast game of catch-up in the enterprise market over the last few months.

The Bay Area business has been busy making that strategy a reality through a number of new product releases , design overhauls , and even a re-branding of its original Teams subscription offering .

As head of business and mobile products at Dropbox, Ilya Fushman is a good person to talk to if you want to find out what the cloud service could be cooking up next.

Speaking at the private company's headquarters in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood earlier this week, Fushman explained that the focus on the business demographic sprouted after IT departments replied their employees were using Dropbox more and more at work.

But, like many consumer tech products spilling into the business world, these IT managers stipulated that Dropbox services didn't really "conform" to existing infrastructures and rules.

So far, Dropbox has been implemented by more than two million unique businesses and with 95 percent of the Fortune 500.

"IT needs to have an interface to help people," said Fushman. "That's the stuff we're focusing on now -- making products that makes IT happy."

The trick, Fushman suggested, is layering on the functionality without sacrificing the ease and simplicity of the cloud-based storage and collaboration platform.

"The benefit for IT is people already know how to use Dropbox. That's the question around enterprise software," Fushman posited, adding that the barrier of a required learning curve is "pretty much gone."

Thus, Dropbox's development team has been tacking on more security functions, in particular, to further accommodate IT wishes. This includes single sign-on capabilities as well as better auditing of accounts and what is shared.

"IT needs to have an interface to help people," said Fushman. "That's the stuff we're focusing on now -- making products that makes IT happy."

Fushman revealed that Dropbox will eventually be adding more IT management capabilities such as remote data wipes for corporate devices.

That's essentially the short-term strategy: add these core basic features.

But the bigger picture is establishing itself as a full-fledged productivity platform in the cloud through third-party applications that tie in with Dropbox's own services as well as those brought in through acquisitions, like Mailbox .

Fushman cited that these third-party apps run the gamut from on-the-go document editing through CloudOn to product management with Asana and Salesforce's Do.com .

However, Dropbox has a number of obstacles to overcome being that it started in the consumer space and is only really now jumping into the enterprise pool.

For starters, Dropbox has the ability to serve small to midsize enterprises as well as large teams within the enterprise market (thus, the original moniker "Teams" for this arm of the company).

But Fushman clarified that Dropbox isn't ready to operate as a "server replacement" yet, but rather a collaboration platform still.

While he asserted it can scale to a large organization, Fushman pointed out that Dropbox's product scales in parallel to its own operational size, which currently stands at close to 300 employees.

Fushman also acknowledged that the market is already crowded with similar cloud-based collaboration ecosystems, including Google Drive and arguably Dropbox's biggest competitor, Box.

"Ultimately, it's up to the end user and IT on which product to use," Fushman admitted. "Over time, we'll definitely take a stronger focus on specialized verticals. But for now it's enabling the third-party ecosystem."

Without naming names, Fushman responded that "generally the space of business solutions is really big," and that "we're definitely aware of what people are doing in the space and how people innovate."

For Dropbox, Fushman continued, the focus is to be "as ubiquitous as possible."

"Ultimately, it's up to the end user and IT on which product to use," Fushman admitted. "Over time, we'll definitely take a stronger focus on specialized verticals. But for now it's enabling the third-party ecosystem."

Fushman also promised that there will be more product announcements in the near future. That includes some debuts at Dropbox's first DBX developer summit in July, which will court developers for both consumer and enterprise apps.

However, Fushman remained tight-lipped beyond that, offering diplomatic, broad statements about any additional industry partnerships and simply chuckling when asked about IPO rumors .

Image via LinkedIn

Topics: Cloud, Apps, Enterprise 2.0, Storage, Tech Industry

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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