Box announced at the end of last week that it was acquiring workflow platform Progressly, bringing Progressly’s ‘operations cloud’ into the Box fold to enable much deeper and richer integrations between cloud content in Box and business operations across a range of systems from the likes of Oracle, JD Edwards, SAP, and IBM.
Box’s first foray into the workflow world came with Box Relay (co-developed with IBM as the first major fruit of the Box / IBM partnership in 2016, and made generally available last November). As an add-on to Box, it offers easy-to-setup and use, template-driven workflows for Box content that maps onto many common content-centric processes.
Box Relay’s focus is on usability, empowerment, and time to value. It facilitates what we often call ‘long tail’ workflow automation – the automation of relatively simple workflows often still conducted manually – typically because they’re deemed not critical enough to warrant the investment of expert team resource needed to code the task into whatever more heavyweight Process Application Platform would have been available for more ‘core’ business processes. It aims to enable customers make their Box content work harder for them across a range of use cases typically found in contract negotiations and approval, customer / employee onboarding, invoice approval, content lifecycle management for campaigns, code reviews and QA testing, and so on.
However, Box Relay was always limited to making Box content work harder in Box content workflow environments – i.e. far richer than core Box task management functionality, but never really designed to extend the reach of Box content into the enterprise applications common in wider business workflows (ERP, CRM, etc.). For that, customers would have to build their own customer applications and connectors with Box APIs, or bring in Box partners like Nintex for document lifecycle, contract lifecycle, and field service management (integrating Box with Salesforce, SharePoint, and others).
For Box, the acquisition of Progressly is a natural next step – lessening reliance on partners like IBM and Nintex to provide a ready means by which to integrate Box-managed content with business critical systems beyond the cloud; and extending its easy-workflow credentials into common enterprise applications. It signals that Box is keen to be able to offer itself to help customers do even more with their content in Box (and do so by plugging into critical business applications they may already have – whether in the cloud or on premise). And Progressly finds a home for its process operations platform, too – nestling in amongst Box’s functional platform.
In time, Progressly’s insight capabilities might also come to offer some process intelligence to complement Box Feed’s content intelligence (Box Feed is a beta application based on Box Graph that makes recommendations as to what content a user should be interested in, based on a their activity and their relationships). It’s too early for roadmaps right now, but perhaps Progressly’s tech could eventually help provide workflow recommendations as to what to do with that content too – such as advising as to what content works best in which campaigns and how to get the best out of it.
What does this all mean?
Box’s process partners may start to find themselves edged out if newly Box-branded capabilities start to emerge that cover much the same process orchestration and integration footprint, but from an in-house add-on.
That last part depends on coverage, of course. Until Box + Progressly can lay claim to being able to integrate Box content-centric workflow with enterprise applications across the board, and do so in a seamless way, then the door remains at least ajar for partners that can extend that coverage (or leverage specialist knowledge to extend into industry niches that Box isn’t interested in going).
If you’re currently a Box customer, then expect add-ons designed to help you leverage Box content more easily across your workflows. If you’re a Progressly customer and a Box customer, then things should get easier from the perspective of both the content and process management pieces of your technology stack. If you’re a Progressly customer heavily invested in another cloud content platform… then things might start looking less technology agnostic soon – as the two technologies inevitably become designed to work ‘better together’.