Box is developing a workflow engine for its cloud storage and file sharing service that will automate the routing of documents and files, as well as the actions that people need to take on them.
Box Workflow, slated for availability next year, is yet another attempt by the company to extend the functionality and value of its core cloud service beyond storage and file sync and share for the workplace, an area where the 10-year old company has been a pioneer.
However, Box finds itself facing strong competitors like Google and Microsoft, which are trying to capitalize on businesses' enthusiasm for this type of service and which have a broader stack of complementary collaboration and productivity applications to go with their respective cloud storage products. As competition heats up, the price of cloud storage has plummeted and become a commodity.
As a result, Box for the past several years has been actively branching out and extending the features of its service, which, according to the company, is currently in use at 240,000 businesses by 27 million employees.
With Box Workflow, IT administrators will be able to set up rules within the system that will be triggered automatically for specific types of files, documents, folders and data. For example, they'll be able to configure rules for contract approvals or invoice reviews that will steer the documents involved through a set of predetermined steps and actions.
Box Workflow will also tap into machine learning algorithms that will give users recommendations for other relevant content to review, as well as automatically classify documents based on similarities to others. The engine will also have open APIs so that it can be integrated with third-party software and systems.
"Box Workflow is rules based, intelligent and built on an open and extensible platform," said Annie Pearl, a senior product manager at Box, during a keynote at the company's BoxWorks conference in San Francisco.
At first, Box Workflow will support rules based on value, time and logic elements, but the company plans to expand those options. "We're reimagining business processes in the cloud," said Aaron Levie, Box's CEO and co-founder, during the keynote, which was webcast.
Another way in which Box is attempting to boost its standing as an independent vendor among giant rivals is with the launch of Box for Industries, a new program aimed at tailoring its products for the specific, vertical-sector needs of its customers.
Box has identified a dozen vertical industries it plans to target, but will start with retail, health care and media and entertainment, three sectors where it has many customers. In fact, Levie was joined on stage at different points by Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and by IT executives from Barneys New York and from Stanford Health Care.
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