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Sink and share?

March 31, 2014

It seems like analyst types and talking heads (that’s me) are always looking for whitespace – after all, one way to add value to a domain is to point out places where either practitioners and organizations aren’t paying enough attention or will soon be paying lots of attention. For me, one of the most glaring swaths of whitespace in enterprise content management (ECM) is the integration between sync and share capabilities and behind the firewall ECM platforms.


If you work in ECM, the reasons for this make sense: most Fortune 500 organizations already have ECM platforms in place and over the last three years, their employees have been adopting sync and share tools like crazy, for a number of reasons:

  • IT offers no in house tools for file sharing outside the firewall
  • IT tools for file sharing don’t meet user requirements
  • IT tools for file sharing don’t work with end user devices (mobile/tablet or Macs)
  • Fears about data integrity and IT’s ability to make sure my files don’t go missing

And although there are a bunch of sync and share tools out there, for large organizations, Box has been at the forefront. they’ve got lots of corporate users out there, lots of big organizations have official contracts with them, and they are gearing up for a big IPO. And until recently, there’s been an uneasy coexistence between ECM and Box, with both sides kind of doing their own thing–not really excited to share the stage with the other side, but not doing anything overt to crush them either.

I’ve been telling clients for some time now that this situation is coming to a head and that the Box/ECM coexistence is rushing headlong towards a less than amicable stand off. With the big three ECM platforms developing their own sync and share capabilities and Microsoft going like gangbusters on O365, there’s a rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem to be born…and for my money, it doesn’t bode well for Box and the other independent sync and share platforms.

blake yeats rough beastThis week we got what I think is the opening salvo in the coming conflict between ECM and sync and share: OpenText filing suit against Box for copyright infringements. Now, I don’t want to weigh in on the merits of the case – I know too little about the under the hood technology to say anything intelligent. But I do think that, the merits of the case aside, this is just the first conflict of many that are coming between ECM and sync and share.

And, unless sync and share vendors can develop robust, effective integration between their solutions and their customers’ ECM repositories, I’m afraid that independent sync and share tools are doomed: who would want to create the mess and headache of a behind the firewall repository and a public one with only a homegrown integration (or no integration) between them–especially when your ECM vendor has its own integrated sync and share solution? You guessed it…no one.

So much for what this talking head thinks, what about you all out there? Am I being too chicken little about the future of independent sync and share? Or do you agree that the writing is on the wall for Box and others? Jump in and let’s get the conversation started!




4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2014 12:04 am

    Patents may yet sink the upstarts, it’s true.

    But purely on the basis of speed of adaptation to market needs, I would put the chance of cloud tools taking over the ECM space as higher than the reverse!

    Office365 has a long way to go to match the reliability and simplicity of something like Box.

    • April 1, 2014 6:32 am


      Box is definitely more agile than the Big Three ECM vendors, but I think the lack of compliance tools (ediscovery, records management) and difficulty of integrating with other core enterprise systems (AR, AP, asset management, contract management) will ultimately allow the Big Three to win this one in the next couple of years…at least for the Fortune 500.

      Of course Box could be planning to address these capabilities, but I haven’t seen anything that suggests it. More likely is that ISVs will spring up with solutions to connect Box to whatever other enterprise systems you want. If a strong offering to do this appears on the scene relatively soon, I think it could turn the tide in Box’s favor for larger organizations.

      Thanks for jumping in and getting the conversation started!



  2. April 1, 2014 11:18 am

    Wonder if fears about data integrity and IT’s ability to make sure my files don’t go missing could be addressed with integrated Records Management practices; both in technology & with resources.

    • April 24, 2014 12:52 pm


      I think so–integrated, thoughtful RM practices have wide ranging effects on the organization, including the two you mention, i.e., allaying end user fears about data integrity and improving IT’s ability to deliver the information users need, when they need it.

      Thanks for jumping in!



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