At the end of August I was able to attend the BoxWorks conference in San Francisco, subtitled “The Future of Work”. I have to admit, I went there with only a little pre-knowledge and with the history (baggage?) of being a long-time Documentum consultant.
Let me start with a quick summary of the highlights:
Box Feed (available as Beta)
Box feeds allow you to get a stream of activities happening in the shared folders which the user can access. This is a nice collaboration function as are you are seeing the content of your coworkers directly in the stream. This has been missing for a while and Box is now delivering a first iteration with the possibility for you to comment on the documents.
Activity Streams and Recommended apps (2019)
With this feature Box is now tracking the way the content is flowing within other cloud systems, so that co-workers can follow all the steps that have happened with the document along the way. For example, if you add a box document to a certain account in Salesforce and afterwards sign it with DocuSign, box users will see these actions as activities with the possibility of directly accessing the content or associated activity within these applications. Integrations with custom applications are possible here as well.
Box Automation (2019)
Box automation is a workflow/rules engine which will allow business users to automate content processes directly within the Box platform. There are a lot of possibilities with this new functionality from simple workflow approvals to slightly more complex processes. There are certain events available which can trigger the flow of your content, and the possibility of selecting from a number of possible actions. There are currently some mockups available but no beta version yet.
Box for GSuite (available as Beta)
Box is one of the first cloud providers to allow integration into the three big content creation/editing platforms. It now has deep integration into Microsoft Office 365, into Apple IWork and with this latest edition now with GSuite as well, allowing users to pick their favorite tool for content editing.
Box Skills / Box Custom Skills
Box Skills allows you to analyze and process content files. It consists of a UI part to display metadata and it also allows service providers to create custom skills. Custom Skills can extract information from audio, image and video files. There will be an SDK made available by the end of the year which will allow to extract and pull in any additional information as skill data which can be used for metadata and content retrieval.
Box Shield (later in 2018)
Box improves the security platform even more with the new Box Shield. For example, it allows you to prevent downloads of content with a certain classification, so that you can configure that only a set of users can access the document. It can also detect downloads of a large amount of folders and documents at once and will generate an alarm. Or it will detect a login attempt from another country.
Other Product enhancements
Box has integrated the ability to activate 2FA for external users. This is very important for larger companies to ensure enhanced security.
These are all great services and enhancements and create a global collaboration and work platform, inter-connecting activities and systems of daily importance to the users.
But how does that fit into core Life Sciences processes?
At the conference there was a separate track with several Life Sciences sessions offered which helped to catch a good glimpse of the current situation.
One of the big items was the GxP Validation package for Box that was announced beginning of the year (Box GxP Validation).
This service package turns any Box instance into a validated platform which can host validated content management applications. Whereas non-regulated processes have been supported before, this now additionally allows for the coverage of regulated processes.
More specifically, this package covers the following aspects:
- Audit – Quality Management System: Box QMS Documentation and SOPs built on GAMP5 and ISO9001 standards
- Validate – Validation Accelerator Pack (VAP): Validation lifecycle documentation and tools to make the Box instance GxP-compliant
- Maintain – Always-on Testing: Daily automated testing reports on nearly 150 tests of Box functionality at the API layer; creates daily reports and artifacts for customers and audits
This definitely provides a good starting point for the deeper use of the platform in the Life Sciences industry, but will only be of value in combination with the robust regulated document management functionalities. In this regard, the message by Box is clear: Box does provide a hosted Core platform, industry use-cases and how to add additional business value through extended functionality and applications is in the hands of the customer and Box technology partners.
In comparison with OpenText Documentum Content Management capabilities there are still some gaps such as the management of document renditions (specifically PDF formats) or the management of virtual documents and relationships. But with API and Web Services the spectrum of possible implementations (and maybe “workarounds” as needed) is large and highly extensible.
Additional benefits on smaller effort scale can be achieved by just adding-on Box to the Core platforms; whether it is used as a publishing platform for Effective documents, as Collaboration platform for In-Progress documents internally but also with external partners (taking advantage of integrations with core business applications), or whether it is to take advantage of the Skills framework to allow the classification of documents before processing them within your Content Management platform (and by that relieving your business users of some of these classification tasks). Several of the vendors at the conference who are involved with the Life Sciences industry have discussed and demoed these kind of integrations to increase the value of their already existing applications.
Overall, Box offers a great set of functionality and is creating a widely integrated work environment for users – a foundation for the “Future of Work”. It does not replace a feature-rich regulated Content Management platform such as OpenText Documentum at this point, but does offer a great platform for integrating business applications.
We are excited to be able to support our clients who are leveraging this platform. Our first focus area is on content migrations and we are happy to announce that an extension of our Box Importer for migration-center will be available in Q4, with newly added key functionalities such as custom metadata, versioning and security support.