Becoming the verb for enterprise collaboration

Cloud-based collaboration is solving a new set of challenges for enterprises. Is there a verb for it?
Written by Phil Wainewright, Contributor on

"Box is becoming a verb in Schneider," said Hervé Coureil, chief information officer at Schneider Electric, speaking in London today about the company's pilot implementation of the Box collaboration platform. People have started saying, "Oh, I'll Box it for you" when they plan to share a file with colleagues. The 140,000-employee energy management company is to rollout Box to up to 50,000 users after completing a 4,200-seat pilot, and represents a significant coup in the vendor's quest to establish its enterprise credentials. It must have been even more gratifying today to hear its name being used as a verb.

Box is not alone in its quest to become the verb of choice for enterprise collaboration. Many of the players in my review last month of the enterprise cloud collaboration sector have names that lend themselves to being used as a verb — an extra advantage for all of them over Microsoft SharePoint. So there's a battle for hearts and minds to be won and, despite its early success at Schneider, Box is nowhere near claiming victory yet. But its ability to show off impressive customer names in Europe, such as Anglo American, EMI Music, Telefonica, and Deutsche Telekom, demonstrates a growing presence in the global enterprise market.

For Schneider, the problem that Box solves is a new one born of the ease with which its employees can informally disseminate and share files in the era of cheap thumb drives, bring-your-own-devices, and easy sign-up to on-demand services such as Dropbox. IT had no oversight or governance of these informal file sharing platforms, said Coureil. The company needed to offer employees an equally easy-to-use and convenient alternative that could be managed by IT. Box fitted the bill.

"It is a federation layer that allows us to share all the content across the different teams within Schneider, but without being heavy," said Coureil. Having a good mobile app, and the ability to extend and connect it into other applications that the company is using, such as Salesforce.com and tibbr, were also important, he said.

"It solves a new problem for us," he added. This is not an upgrade or replacement of an existing enterprise-wide system, although there may be some decommissioning of local file-sharing servers at individual sites. The ability to share and collaborate on files between locations or business units will be an all-new capability, he said.

The pilot took place in two departments: IT and internal communications. One of the key objectives of the pilot, now entering its second month, was to design a training strategy and materials for the platform that will be used in the wider rollout — one employee has been dedicated to this job full-time. Making sure that there's a process in place to encourage adoption and take-up had been a lesson learned from earlier implementations of Salesforce.com, Coureil said. Once employees understood that they could record version histories and discussions around documents, they saw the value of Box, he explained. It was important to give them enough support getting started to make sure they reach that tipping point.

In layering Box over the top of existing on-premise applications and document management systems, Schneider Electric is following a pattern that will be familiar to many other enterprise cloud adopters. The cloud excels at connecting across boundaries both within and outside the enterprise, while giving IT a single point of control instead of the complexity of managing many diverse platforms and technology stacks. But it's the ease with which users can take advantage of cloud functionality that allows cloud applications to become verbs in their everyday working vocabulary.

After publishing last month's overview — All together now: cloud collaboration, social and docs — several vendors got in touch to add their names, so here is a quick call-out to those who did so:

  • Samepage.io, which aims to combine social business, project management, and file sharing

  • Bitrix24.com, which offers similar capabilities for free for up to 12 users

  • TeamDrive, which bills itself as a European alternative to Dropbox

  • MangoApps, a modular collaboration suite built around an enterprise-grade messaging and presence tool.

I also heard from various IBMers, who gave me some heat for not mentioning IBM SmartCloud for Social Business, citing its selection as a category leader in a recent Forrester report. I still have my reservations about product lines that have their roots on-premise, but have not yet had chance to give SmartCloud a proper review. Therefore, I'll reserve judgement, even if the name doesn't roll off the tongue easily enough to serve duty as a verb.

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