Box aims to move workflows out of email with new Box Relay updates

The cloud content management firm is updating its workflow product with a library of templates for different business divisions, as well as other enhancements.

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Box on Tuesday announced a series of updates to the Box Relay workflow engine, making it easier to set up more automated business processes without significant IT support. The goal, Box says, is to encourage enterprises to move content-centric workflows -- such as digital asset reviews, work order submissions, or regulatory reporting approvals -- out of email. It comes at a time when, because of shelter-in-place rules, many organizations are completely digitizing these often paper-heavy business processes.

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Nearly 80% of content review and approval workflows today happen over email, Varun Parmar, GM of enterprise and apps at Box, told ZDNet. 

"Email is one of the world's biggest workflow solutions, believe it or not," Parmar said. "Our goal is standardizing processes, reducing cycle times and introducing strong compliance and governance [so] that Relay can replace a lot of those content-centric email workflows and bring them into a tool... built in a way that supports modern ways of working." 

The enhancements include a library of pre-built templates for specific lines of business like HR and finance, designed to let users create a workflow in less than a minute without any IT support There's also a new integration that with Box's relatively new File Request feature that allows users to securely add content or metadata from external partners and vendors into workflows. Additionally, Box is adding multi-file support to Relay. 

The new, pre-built templates cover 24 common lines of business use cases, including use cases for sales, marketing, HR, legal, and finance. Starting on the welcome page, a user can create a new workflow or select from the library of modifiable templates. For example, a legal team could choose from templates to review and approve customer contracts.

Box launched the revamped version of Box Relay in 2019, making it a key part of its Enterprise Suite. But when customers began implementing remote work policies, "we massively accelerated our roadmap and re-prioritized a couple things," Parmar said. 

Within the first couple of weeks of shelter-in-place orders going into effect, some government agencies and large banking institutions asked Box to spin up workflows and content submission use cases, Parmar said, so they could maintain business continuity. 

"In the past three months or so, remote work has literally pressed the fast forward button on digital transformation," he said. "The urgency couldn't be higher." 

In addition to adding templates, Box is also integrating File Request into Box Relay. Released in May, File Request provides customers with a secure way to get files and metadata from external partners and vendors. Now, Box users can trigger an automated handoff between File Request and Box Relay workflows. It could be used, for instance, to process paperwork for new employee onboarding. In another example, a user in the financial services sector could automatically trigger a more rigorous oversight workflow for loan requests that exceed a certain financial threshold. 

Meanwhile, with multi-file support, Box Relay users can package multiple pieces of content together to move as one entity through a workflow. For example, a Human Resources department might need to process multiple documents, such as a completed application form, a note from a medical provider, and a form of ID for a leave of absence application.

Multi-file support for Manual Start workflows are expected to be generally available at the end of June. The new library of templates and File Request integration is expected to be generally available at the end of July.