IBM has forged multiple alliances during the past three years with the goal of inspiring a new cloud-centric and mobile business software applications. Among the most notable: its cloud-inspired partnership with SAP and its groundbreaking pact with Apple, with which it has developed more than 100 mobile applications.
So you could be forgiven for wondering whether IBM’s relationship with Box, a much younger cloud software company, would rate the same attention.
Apparently, the answer is “yes”—based not just on Box’s second-quarter financial results but on a product introduction the two companies will discuss this week during the cloud software upstart’s annual customer conference, BoxWorks.
As part of their 15-month-old sales and technical alliance first trumpeted in June 2015, IBM (IBM) and Box (BOX) promised to co-develop entirely new software for managing corporate documents—everything from marketing materials to legal documents. On Tuesday, Box plans to introduce the first app birthed from scratch by the two companies.
It’s a workflow system called Box Relay that is scheduled to ship before the end of Box’s fourth quarter (which ends in January 2017). Both IBM and Box will sell the product, Box CEO Aaron Levie told Fortune. He declined to disclose pricing.
Relay is a workflow system that will streamline certain business processes that require approvals by various team members before they can be advanced throughout an organization such as sales contracts or accounting verifications or reviews of marketing collateral.
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The app includes a dashboard where employees can check the status of certain assignments, plus the system will notify team members about progress, predominantly through email. It doesn’t really matter where a particular document “lives” on the corporate network. Relay will be able to use data associated other cloud apps, including Microsoft Office 365, the Adobe Document Cloud, and Salesforce. “We’re building something that I don’t think exists anywhere in the market today,” Levie said.
Relay will be available for what Levie called the “All New Box,” a forthcoming extensive overhaul of Box’s core cloud service. (There’s no official release date yet; more details should emerge during Levie’s keynote presentation Wednesday at BoxWorks.) The goal of that upgrade is to establish Box as a service capable of centralizing document and content management across the “sprawl” of a typical organization’s data storage resources, he said.
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Cheryl McKinnon, principal analyst for Forrester Research, said the workflow software category is ripe for disruption and Box Relay represents a significant improvement in “usability” because it is relatively simple to create and manage projects or tasks.
“Companies don’t want to use email to push documents out to people anymore,” she said. “This is one of the few tools I’ve seen that includes workflow and task management that also includes the extended enterprise, remote workers that could be stakeholders in process.”
That’s particularly important for Box’s largest accounts like General Electric (GE) and Procter & Gamble (PG), according to Levie. As of July 31, the company has 66,000 customers. Its deal sizes are growing: 45 contracts signed during the second quarter were worth more than $100,000, compared with 31 last year. Another five carried a value of at least $500,000.