Aaron Levy takes Box into its third era focused on workflow automation and AI.

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Box began life nearly 20 years ago in a USC dorm room when Aaron Levy envisioned an online file storage and sharing system. A few years later, Levy’s original idea was becoming a commodity, and he shifted gears to manage enterprise content in the cloud. This was a radical concept at the time in an industry dominated by on-prem giants like Microsoft, EMC, IBM and OpenText.

Traditional enterprise content management, whether on-prem or in the cloud, involves storing, managing, securing and governing unstructured content. Databases have always been more difficult to manage than data sitting in neat columns and rows.

Today, the industry is changing once again, and Box is once again working to position itself at the forefront of this shift. Levy has always had a knack for seeing where the puck is going, and his company is embracing the software shift toward AI and workflow automation.

Last year, Box bought Crooze, a small company specializing in workflow automation and metadata management with integration into Box, making it a logical acquisition target. Being able to manage metadata is central to much automation in content management because it gives software a way to identify and understand content types when no other structure exists. It can help move different types of content — whether documents, video, images or audio — through automated workflows and reduce many of the monotonous tasks that were previously handled by bored and disgruntled humans. .

But what Box is doing with Cruise and generative AI could be part of a larger content management industry, one that could be as important as the move from on-prem to cloud led by Box helped 15 years ago.

Putting the material to work

Levy is genuinely excited about the possibilities that cruise technology can bring to the platform. “This is huge. The way to think about it is that for the first time out of the box, you’ll be able to build no-code applications that will let you render your content for any business process. Whatever you want,” Levie told TechCrunch. In other words, users can create custom applications that reflect business processes and make content more useful.

He admits that a folder structure can only get you so far, especially when dealing with large amounts of unstructured content like contracts, for example. Never mind the more detailed pieces of the contract when rummaging through virtual folders and finding a contract becomes difficult very quickly.

“But with a no-code application development environment, you can build a real dashboard that shows all your contracts, all the data in those contracts and helps you automate the workflow around those contracts. It is,” he said. This may include amendments, approvals, electronic signatures, etc.

Generative AI plays a role here as well, allowing users to better understand content in folders or find specific pieces in a way that traditional enterprise search isn’t able to. Summarization capabilities provide users with a summary of a large body of content without having to read every line. In terms of workflow, generative AI’s coding capabilities can help automatically create custom workflows based on specific needs.

William Blair analyst Jason Eder, who watches the box, says it feels like the box is entering a new phase. “Now I think we’re looking at Box 3.0, where it’s moving into that AI and workflow realm and really into the core of a lot of workflows in these industry verticals. It’s clearly document-heavy. The kinds of industries connected to contracts and digital assets are where AI clearly has a huge role to play because it can automate that work,” Eder said.

In fact, the way consumers view content is changing. They don’t want to manage it anymore, they want to make it work in the same way that data platforms like Snowflake and Databricks have moved beyond pure data management to building applications. Simply having content in storage repositories is no longer enough, and AI is pushing to automate workflows and create actionable business productivity results.

“At the end of the day, enterprises want to leverage this content — not just store it — to drive automation and improve business outcomes,” said Alan Pilz-Sharp, founder and principal analyst at DeepAnalysis. Piles-Sharp said. “And that’s why acquisitions like Cruise always provide easy tools to develop those results. Cruise is probably the most important acquisition box ever.

The evolution of the content management industry

Box is hardly alone in this push, but as creative AI advances the ability to generate content and query content stores, we’re starting to see content management and knowledge management (business memory) merge together. have been. What’s more, the ability to generate code can allow companies to create customized workflows based on needs and content types.

Cheryl MacKinnon, a Forrester analyst who has covered content for management for two decades, says she sees the content management industry as a whole moving in the same direction as Box, and They believe that this is a natural progression. “I see it just going up the maturity curve, and that shift to workflow and AI is exactly where the market is going,” McKinnon said. “It’s kind of a turning point where it’s no longer just about storing files and folders, but can we put this stuff to work? Can we think about content, not just storage. perspective, but in the context of the entire business activity?”

Pelz-Sharp says this is a big moment for the entire industry. “The ECM sector as a whole (including Box) now has the biggest window of opportunity they’ve had in 20 years, big and small, to take advantage of AI,” he said. Organizations are interested and open to them.”

He believes that ECM firms in particular are well-positioned to take advantage of AI because they are already ensuring that unstructured data is accurate, relevant, secure and timely. This is a key piece that AI models need that is often missing, he said. But the question is: Can Box and these other companies capitalize on this moment?

“It’s important to note that while this window of opportunity is real, there’s no guarantee that ECM firms will be pivoted to embrace it,” said Pelz-Sharpe. Firms like Salesforce, for example, are realizing the importance of managing unstructured data, as is Oracle. [and other industry giants]”

“Where Box and its ilk currently have an advantage, is that they have specific platforms to do this work, and just as importantly, deep talent and experience to bring to the table.”

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