Last week I went to the Gartner Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit in Los Angeles, and I have to say this was a standout year for this show. I'm not sure if it was because the conference kicked off on the same day as the Lady Gaga concert next door at Staples, but there was an incredible energy and renewed enthusiasm from the audience on tackling the age-old problem of managing content and collaboration.
Here are a few themes that stood out:
Cloud computing is mainstream: This is my fifth year at Gartner PCC. This year, there was a major shift towards acceptance of cloud computing as a part of IT's landscape. The discussion this year was not about "if" IT would consider cloud but "when" IT will incorporate cloud into its existing infrastructure. The big buzz word was "hybrid", with people talking about using content architectures to figure out what types of content and collaboration modes fit a cloud solution, and which would fit a more fully featured on-premise solution. Many people think that mixed environments will be the norm.
Increased focus on user experience: Demographic trends for the next generation of workers are putting big pressure on enterprise software vendors to improve the user experience. It's about time. Anyone who has worked for a large corporation can understand the frustration of using software that's built without the end-user in mind. It shouldn't take so many clicks to send an expense report online or submit PTO hours, and software shouldn't force you to fill out endless lines of metadata before you can store documents in your ECM systems. But many workers do that everyday as a matter of course. Enterprise software should be as easy to use and intuitive as the tools we use in our personal lives. Luckily for workers, companies are starting to understand this.
Mobile: In the past, mobile support has been a huge weakness for established ECM and collaboration vendors. Interest in enabling content and collaboration in a mobile context was one of the major themes of the conference this year. The iPad has really become a status symbol of knowledge workers - especially considering how many were using them at the conference (I was envious since mine is on back order). Companies in the ECM space are taking mobile very seriously, especially since consumer applications have made mobile access an integral part of a user's experience.
Social and guided collaboration: Although I feel the term "social" is a bit overused right now, I can understand why so many people want to jump on the social bandwagon. At the end of the day, social technologies can potentially accelerate how you collaborate, go to market, speed up transactions or improve your perception in the marketplace. All of which can make a huge impact to your top or bottom line. Still, it's sometimes hard to understand how to use these tools to best fit your business needs. Gartner believes social and collaboration are key to speeding up the pace of innovation and I have to agree.
Box customers are innovators: At the conference, one of our customers talked about why they went with Box when they could have gone with a variety of other solutions - both in the cloud and on-premise. Box provided the best of the both worlds -- an easy to use, intuitive tool that users loved to use with enough security, manageability that IT was looking for. They even built a custom iPad app on top of Box platform for their sales team that pulled together all the information they needed to close the deal (like pictures and videos of previous events, proposals, and even contracts). This company is representative of the innovative, fast-moving players that are Box's customers. They can't wait for months of planning or implementation, and Box provides time-to-market advantage and flexibility to scale up and down as they need as their business requirements change.
If you want to talk about industry trends or need more information on Box, please feel free to reach out directly to me at Joely@Box.net.