Box Banks on New Product With IBM to Gain Business Customers

Box Banks on New Product With IBM to Gain Business Customers

Box Inc., trying to expand revenue amid slower billings growth, will unveil new software developed with IBM to help companies set up and manage document-heavy workflows like recruiting, budgeting, sales and customer management.

Called Box Relay, the product lets customers build processes and invite workers and outside partners to participate. They can review, edit, upload and reject needed documents and receive alerts to keep up to date on progress. It relies on workflow software from Box partner International Business Machines Corp. 

Currently companies use a variety of programs for this kind of collaborative effort, from older, complex products like Microsoft Corp.'s SharePoint and EMC Corp.'s Documentum to spreadsheets and e-mails that aren't meant for managing workflow. Box wants to create a more general-purpose tool that can handle processes that require lots of documents that are often stored in dozens of applications. The cloud file-sharing and synchronization company is trying to add paying customers to reach profitability after going public in January 2015. 

Box is trying to fend off competition for business customers from rivals like Dropbox Inc. and Microsoft. Dropbox has been adding more features for this market and grew more quickly in the segment in 2015, according to analyst firm IDC. In 2015, Dropbox had 25 percent of that market to Box's 17 percent (and Microsoft's 21 percent), with Dropbox growing 84 percent in business sales to Box's 42 percent growth, IDC said. Still, Box reported a narrower than estimated fiscal second-quarter loss last week and boosted its forecast for the year.

"The workflow market is pretty broken -- you have traditional enterprise technology that's quite cumbersome, very complicated, not designed in the modern way for the cloud," said Box Chief Executive Officer Aaron Levie, in an interview. The company's new product is "all about making sure you have a very simple but powerful workflow tool that's accessible to everyone and works inside and outside your organization."

Once a workflow process is set up, say a way to handle a new candidate for a job, it can be saved and reused for all future candidates. A test version of Relay will be released in the fourth quarter with general availability in the first half of next year, Box said Tuesday in a statement.

The company hasn't decided on pricing for Relay yet, but it will be sold via subscription, Levie said. Box will hold its annual BoxWorks conference starting Wednesday in San Francisco. 

"About 150 percent of our customers" have told Box they need this sort of software, Levie said.

At the conference, the company will also unveil a new way of working with files in its main Box sharing product, as well as a updates to its features for team collaboration, Levie said. 

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