The announcement that Box and IBM had formed a partnership was interesting not for the details but for the strategic value to Box. As with the Microsoft partnership this further validated Box as a serious business software company. The Microsoft partnership, which saw Box integrated into Microsoft Office and Office365, signaled that Box had broad support in departmental and SMB computing, Microsoft’s bread and butter. Since Microsoft rules the desktop, Box’s inclusion in that ecosystem validated them in the office.
The IBM partnership is even more important. It validated Box in the large enterprise. The announcement outlined Box integration with Watson, IBM’s content and case management software, IBM Verse and Connections collaboration software, and the Bluemix development tools for enterprise IT. IBM will also be interesting Box with their mobile security and compliance product as well and plans to offer specialized services through IBM Global Services. All of this work is to be able to include content stored in Box into enterprise workflows.
This is the most important aspect of the deal. IBM clearly thinks it will encounter a substantial number of Box users in its mostly medium to large enterprise customers. It’s pretty clear that Box has made significant headway in larger accounts or IBM wouldn’t bother to go to this amount of trouble.
This partnership also raises the question “where is Dropbox?” They have claimed the same enterprise ambitions but have not built enterprise level relationships like Box has. Big company relationships are built on perceived benefits and demand from customers. Does this mean that these large software companies just don’t see Dropbox in their big accounts? Probably. Just looking at the features Box has built and Dropbox hasn’t, such as customer managed encryption keys, the commitment to larger enterprise is more evident at Box.
This new relationship with IBM gives credibility to Box as a real enterprise product. If I had to guess, I would expect to see more of these partnerships with Box in the future. Once Box proves its place in enterprise workflows they will become one of those checklist integrations much like Microsoft SharePoint.