"Who is doing what and when?" It's a question asked constantly during many ad hoc projects in departments across the enterprise that typically don't rely on standard tools or systems to make sure they're managed effectively. Box aims to change that.
At its annual BoxWorks conference, which kicks off Sept. 6, Box is slated to preview Box Relay, a workflow software as a service (SaaS) designed to help groups better track and manage projects from start to finish.
"Workflow automation has typically been deployed by IT for high-value processes that require spending six figures on consultants for an inflexible system that doesn't address the needs of users," Rand Wacker, vice president of enterprise products at Box, told eWEEK. "We've been focused on a much simpler way to track work that's easy to use and doesn't require IT. Anyone in the organization can create a Relay workflow and kick it off."
In addition, users can reuse Relay workflows that previously were created as a template, which also can be further customized.
Box Relay is set to be available immediately as a public beta, with the official commercial version due out in the first half of 2017. Wacker said the beta is good enough that he expects many companies will put it to use right away.
The new service was co-developed with IBM, which has an established partnership with Box.
"IBM is the leader in enterprise content management and case management, powering large banks and insurance companies. We brought the idea of democratizing workflow because we realized it's critical these processes have to be tracked and audited," said Wacker. He offered the example of an airline developing new operating procedures. "You have to make sure the process is recorded, and Relay is incredibly easy to use and deploy with all the traceability and record-keeping you'd want."
Today, such workflows typically are handled by shared documents or email attachments that are much more difficult to track or keep a record of.
Integration With Office 365, Adobe, Salesforce
Content in Box Relay workflows can be edited and saved automatically to other software platforms with which Box already integrates, including Office 365, Adobe and Salesforce. Relay includes the same Box content protection features such as granular permissions and password protection, as well as access stats. Workflows created with Relay can extend securely between both internal and external teams, the company noted. Also, customers, vendors or partners can be assigned tasks, so the process does not break down when content flows across or between organizations.
Relay offers a dashboard designed to offer real-time visibility and email notifications that alert users when items are assigned and overdue, and an audit trail that provides transparency on every action taken. The idea is to free users from having to worry about missed deadlines, updating people on the status of projects or reporting and tracking.
Box Relay is the first of several announcements the company plans to make in the year ahead that are part of the next generation of the cloud-based content management system. "The overall story is not just that we're bringing out a new version of all of our main tools, but that we're helping people change the way they work and bringing into one place a way to tackle the problems they have in a modern way," said Wacker.
Box CEO Aaron Levie and other company officials are expected to provide more detail on where Box is headed in 2017 at the BoxWorks conference. Inhi Cho Suh, general manager of collaborative solutions at IBM, is also scheduled to speak, along with executives from Amazon and Microsoft. Back in April Box and IBM announced Expert Seller MobileFirst for iOS, an app designed to improve sales engagements for marketers and sellers using an iPhone or iPad.
Pricing for Relay (separate from whatever companies pay for the Box content management system) has not been announced.
"The viral adoption of content collaboration at work uncovered huge demand for more streamlined coordination of repeatable processes between enterprise end users, their partners and customers. This created the need for a new type of workflow automation," said IDC analyst Maureen Fleming in a statement. "Enterprises are actively looking for workflow solutions that provide the right level of simplicity and capability at the right price so they can improve the productivity and efficiency inside their business and across their business networks."