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AI, machine learning ahead for Box content management platform

There's more to your content than you might think: AI, sentiment analysis and other tools will yield more insight than ever before, and APIs will help you deliver it.

Content management spans enterprise content management, web content management, cloud, on premises and all the...

combinations thereof. What used to be a well-defined, vendor-versus-vendor competition is now spread across multiple categories, platforms and hosting sites.

Box content management is more of an enterprise than web content tool, competing with Documentum, SharePoint and OpenText more than Drupal and WordPress. It is all cloud, and it has become an API-driven collaboration platform, as well. We caught up with Jeetu Patel, Box's chief product officer, to discuss his company's roadmap for competing in this changing market.

How does Box content management and its 57 million users fit into the overall enterprise content management (ECM) market right now?

Jeetu Patel: There's a convergence of multiple different markets, because what's happened, unfortunately, in this industry, people have taken a market-centric view, rather than a customer- and user-centric view. When you think about what people want to do, they might start with a piece of content that's unstructured -- like yourself, with this article -- and [share and collaborate with people inside and outside of the organization and eventually] publish it to the masses.

Jeetu Patel, chief product officer, BoxJeetu Patel

During that entire lifecycle, it's pretty important your organization is maintaining intellectual property, governance and security around it. You might even have a custom mobile app, and you might want to make sure how the content is coming from the same content infrastructure. Look at all the people served in this lifecycle; eventually, that content might get archived and disposed. Typically, there's like 17 different systems that piece of content might go through to have all these things done with it. This seemed like a counterproductive way to work.

Our thinking from the beginning was, 'Shouldn't there be a single source of truth where a set of policies can be applied to content, a place where you could collaborate and work on content, but if you have other applications that you're using, you should still be able to integrate them into the content and share with people inside and outside the organization?' That's what we think this market should evolve into ... and we call that cloud content management.

Smart search, AI, those things are on other vendors' product roadmaps. What's ahead for Box content management?

Patel: The three personas we serve are the end users, like you writing this article; enterprise IT admins and the enterprise security professionals; and the developer who's building an application, but doesn't want to rebuild content management infrastructure every time they serve up a piece of content, [but instead use API calls such as Box's high-fidelity viewer for videos].

When we think about the roadmap, we have to be thinking at scale, for millions of users across hundreds of petabytes of data, and make it frictionless so that people who aren't computer jockeys -- just average people -- use our system. One of our key philosophies is identifying megatrends and making them tailwinds for our business.

Looking back 13 years ago when we started, some of the big trends that have happened were cloud and mobile. We used those to propel our business forward. Now, it's artificial intelligence and machine learning. In the next five years, content management is going to look completely different than it has the last 25.

In the next five years, content management is going to look completely different than it has the last 25.
Jeetu Patelchief product officer at Box

Content's going to get meaningfully more intelligent. Machine learning algorithms should, for example, detect all the elements in an image, OCR [optical character recognition] the text and automatically populate the metadata without doing any manual data entry. Self-describing. [Sentiment analysis] when you're recording every single call at a call center. Over time, the ultimate nirvana is that you'll never have to search for and open up an unstructured piece of content -- you just get an answer. We want to make sure we take advantage of all those innovations and bring them to Box.

How does Box content management compete with SharePoint, which is ingrained in many organizations and must be a formidable competitor, considering the always-expanding popularity of SharePoint Online?

Patel: Microsoft is an interesting company. They are one of our biggest competitors, with SharePoint and OneDrive, and one of our biggest partners, with Azure. We partner with them very closely for Azure and the Office 365 side of the house. And we think, [with Box migrations,] there's an area where there's an opportunity for customers to [reduce] fragmented [SharePoint] infrastructure and have a single platform to make it easy for user, administrator and developer to work end to end ... and modernizing their business processes, as well.

Modernize their business processes?

Patel: Once you migrate the content over to Box, there's a few things that happen you weren't able to do in the past. For example, you can now make sure users can access content anywhere on any device, which you couldn't do in the past without going through a lot of hoops. Try sharing a piece of content with someone outside of your organization that you started in OneDrive and moved over to SharePoint. They actually have a troubleshooting page for it. It's not just SharePoint; it's any legacy ECM system that has this problem. We want to make sure we solve that.

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