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Box: We Want To Be The Glue For ‘Unavoidable’ Digital Transformation

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Box CEO Aaron Levie discusses its role in digital transformation and how AI can help businesses manage content and become GDPR compliant

Box is positioning its platform as the glue that facilitates digital transformation as it seeks to expand its European business.

Box has long spoke about the virtues of content collaboration and the ability to build applications on top of its platform, but the emphasis of digital transformation is a subtle change in rhetoric and was evident throughout CEO Aaron Levie’s keynote at Box World Tour in London.

He argued that all businesses would have to digitise to stay relevant, even if there wasn’t a disruptive competitor like Uber, Airbnb or Netflix in their industry, because the impact of those services has meant customer expectations are now higher.

Box World Tour 2017-2

Box and digital transformation

But becoming digital, he told the audience, was more than just rolling out a new application. Instead organisations would have to digitise the process that power them and view IT as a revenue driver, not a cost.

“We know it’s not that easy,” he said. “You can’t become a digital company overnight … Netflix is not better than the incumbents because it’s a better application, its better because it’s built on a better business model.

“If you’ve had an IT stack for 10-20 years, you could be held back by something that was once best-in-class in another era.

“Your company has to start operating like a digital business.”

Best of breed

Digital Transformation means many things to many people but the better use of data –whether structured or unstructured – using analytics is generally a common principle.

Box sees its cloud platform as one that works no matter where the data is stored, acting as a common denominator that prevents silos as organisations switch from on-premise infrastructure and suites of software from one provider to a mix and match approach of cloud applications.

This is evident in its partnerships with Google, Slack and Microsoft, most notably with Office 365.

Box Office London (11)

AI future

One aspect of digital transformation that is expected to become prominent in the near future is artificial intelligence. Some AI features are already in the Office 365 roadmap and Levie sees scope for much more.

“AI is going to have a huge impact on the enterprise,” he predicted. “A lot of the software we use is dumb. It can’t do anything you don’t tell it to do … We know computers can connect the dots between information silos.”

When asked by Silicon how AI could benefit Box specifically, Levie replied that machine learning had the ability to present content much more efficiently and even suggest files, users and subjects based on previous use cases.

“We can help customers understand what they have and then [provide intelligence],” he said. “We’re thinking of Google Photos-style search in the enterprise.”

Levie was referring to Google’s photo recognition technology, something which has been opened up as the ‘Google Vision API’. Despite Box’s enthusiasm for open APIs, especially with regards to machine learning, Levie confirmed the company has a dedicated machine learning team working on ‘narrow AI’ uses.

Box’ head of EMEA David Benjamin expressed his hope that Box would lead the way with GDPR compliance before it arrives in 2018 and data retention is used as a specific example of where AI can play a role.

“Long term I think this is where machine learning is going to be incredibly valuable,” he said.

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