Box and IBM announce new workflow tool Box Relay

This week, IBM and Box have announced Box Relay, a new workflow tool they co-developed as part of a partnership they announced last year.

What’s in the Box?

A workflow capability is basically what separates content management from file management.

All flavors of content management — ECM, DM, WCM, DAM — make workflow a key feature. And almost always, in spite of what vendors claim, configuring a new workflow process isn’t trivial and requires at least some level of IT support. As an alternative, vendors might offer basic task management but it often proves too simplistic for more structured review processes.

Box Relay falls somewhere in between simple task management and formal workflow. It supports ad hoc type workflows, but lacks advanced modelling features and sophisticated workflow capabilities like parallel workflows.

Nevertheless, many enterprises still need to support ad hoc processes that go underserved in today's marketplace.  Box Relay wants to target those business processes, with business users creating workflows quickly.

Box Relay Dashboard

Figure: Relay Dashboard.  Source: Box

Box Relay can include external users as well as external (mostly cloud based) services. Relay itself is a SaaS-based solution, just like Box’s core service, albeit built on IBM’s Bluemix.

Just remember this is Box’s second attempt at building this capability. They announced Box Workflows earlier in 2014 too, but it didn't seem to give customers enough mileage.

IBM's Angle

Box Relay has been developed jointly with IBM. Both IBM and Box will sell it as Box Relay.

IBM is already using Box Relay as well as internally. It also resells Box to its customers.

Recall that IBM already sells numerous tools for ECM and file sharing, including FileNet and IBM Connection Files. Box (and IBM) will probably disagree but the fact is there is considerable overlap between these IBM and Box offerings. You'll want to watch closely how Box Relay finds its way into IBM’s ECM and file sharing offerings and how this specific partnership evolves.  IBM is a complicated company, but what customer wants complications?

What You Should Do

This move ostensibly takes Box one more step away from simple share-and-sync services towards more complex enterprise-level document management. Just remember that Relay is not a full fledged BPM or advanced workflow tool, even it it suits more workaday workflows that often went underappreciated in automation projects.

If you are an existing Box customer, or are evaluating the vendors, note that this feature will only be available next year, along with a new updated Box service. It will also cost over and above what you’ll pay for your Box subscription.

Our ECM & Cloud File Sharing evaluations offer detailed evaluations of Box and several other ECM offerings as they stand today.  Subscribers have access to updates, including a major overhaul underway right now.  Please ping me if you have any questions or input.

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