How are file-sharing apps disrupting the ECM market?

File-sharing applications like Box and Dropbox are challenging traditional ECM vendors by making their cloud-based offerings more enterprise-friendly.

Above all, file-sharing applications offer simplicity and ease of use. They give us access to our files on any device, anywhere, anytime. Saving, sharing and accessing files in these tools is easy.

Now compare that with big, clunky enterprise software that tries to do everything under the sun. People have been creating ways to work around those enterprise systems for years, getting their files out of the office by email, thumb drives and so forth. File-sharing tools make it simpler, especially with smartphones and tablets. It's become an essential service for people.

To be fair, the big vendors are catching up and offering similar tools, but they have a hard time competing with tools that are born in the cloud. That's especially true as applications like Box and Dropbox become more enterprise-friendly.

Companies like Box and Dropbox know they can't do it all. Enterprise-grade companies need a level of sophistication that these tools can't offer. The way they bridge that gap is to let application program interfaces (APIs) do a lot of the heavy lifting. That enables them to connect to best-of-breed tools for security, business process management, governance, and so on, and companies actually find this approach attractive because they aren't forced to buy everything under the sun from one vendor -- because everyone knows that it's impossible for one vendor to do everything well.

Box and Dropbox both recently made announcements playing to this idea that you can't do everything well. Dropbox announced APIs and agreements with a number of companies, including IBM, Microsoft and Dell, and Box announced agreements with several security vendors. Up until this point these applications have been trying to appeal to the end user, but these kinds of agreements court IT and give them ways to connect file-sharing apps with other enterprise tools on the back end. They're trying to address companies' concerns about security and connectivity, and by choosing a best-of-breed approach, they offer the ability to connect with vendors and make sure the tools play nicely together.

Traditional companies will continue to build their products by adding capabilities like sync-and-share, but they have to keep checking boxes to justify their high price and keep selling to their base of customers.

There's room for both types of companies in the market, but as we move forward, each set of companies, traditional and cloud, takes a step toward the other. They both recognize that large enterprise companies have certain needs. On the one side you have agility, and on the other you have stability. It's interesting to watch vendors and enterprises try to balance these competing needs.

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