The Content Collaboration Challengers: Google and Box

In January I wrote about the evolution of the content collaboration space, sharing observations and predictions based on my experience working with clients. I focused on three major vendors—Microsoft, Google, and Box—because in my view these three are the most viable choices for most organizations. See Productivity and Collaboration Tools in 2019: Microsoft Office 365 Will Continue to Dominate.

Microsoft, Box and Google all will continue to play to their own collaboration strengths.

This is not an apples-to-apples comparison, of course. Only Microsoft and Google offer a productivity suite, with document editing, presentations, spreadsheet applications, etc. Still, all three vendors offer solutions for sharing and syncing files.

Box is investing in its platform to bring advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other compelling differentiators. For Box, it certainly makes no sense to develop its own set of Microsoft Office- or G Suite-style applications. Box will continue to be great at what makes it different from the others.

Regardless, expect to see Microsoft defend its broad, large-enterprise territory while Google continues its business-focused marketing campaigns. Box likely will shine by demonstrating innovation that isn’t easily accomplished by its “competitors.”

Look for the following changes with Google and Box:

  • Google will fortify information governance and security in Google Drive and the G Suite.
  • Box will leverage its reputation as a sophisticated application development platform.
  • Box will continue its focus on enterprise repository functionality, security, encryption, and location-specific data hosting. We expect to see continuing innovation coming directly from the company’s customers.

To be considered a large-enterprise solution, Google must improve information governance and security.

Google is attempting to grow its customer base in large enterprises, but it remains a better fit for smaller, more modern organizations that are not beholden to legacy systems or to rigid document naming and filing standards. Google Drive is the center of the content ecosystem within G Suite, and is similar to OneDrive in the Microsoft Office 365 world. Google’s office applications—Docs, Sheets, and Slides—are equivalents to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Google is expected to continue its push into larger enterprises by fortifying its security and governance capabilities, which currently are limited to access control and data loss prevention. Google does not offer an information lifecycle governance (ILG) or management solution, which makes it a tough sell in highly regulated industries like banking or insurance, or even in energy. (One of my clients in the financial services industry considered G Suite, but ultimately did not select it.)

Perhaps in response to Google’s push into the enterprise, Microsoft is readying tools to help customers migrate from G Suite to Office 365. These are scheduled to be available by the second quarter of this year.

Box investments include core enterprise repository functions, security, encryption, and location-specific data hosting.

Box has invested greatly in its core enterprise repository functionality, focusing on security, encryption, and location-specific data hosting. The goal is to ensure a multitude of high-quality integration solutions that allow Box to become a serious choice when matched against Microsoft and Google. (Box still is often dismissed by clients who perceive it to be a Dropbox alternative.)

At its annual user conference, BoxWorks 2018, Box affirmed its commitment to expanding its partner network to include more choices for back office capabilities that are essential for regulated industries. The Box platform solution is a popular solution for enterprise application development and is used by companies such as Toyota, State Farm, and the General Electric Co. This is an important consideration for 2019 and beyond, as neither Microsoft nor Google can be used directly as an application platform with the same breadth of capabilities like Box.

In spite of challenges from Google and Box, Microsoft will continue to dominate the collaboration space.

In spite of these efforts, Microsoft will continue to lead as the collaboration platform of choice in large organizations, especially those in regulated industries and those with stringent records management and information lifecycle governance requirements. Microsoft will offer attractive telecom and conferencing options, as well as operations applications that will help cost-justify the investment.

Google will get a small foothold in medium and small organizations. It will continue its expansion in the education and creative sectors, and across small- and medium-size businesses.

The good news for Doculabs customers is that regardless of your technology choice, you can expect to see more integration within a single platform between collaborative functions. And, critical from our point-of-view, is that you can expect better ways to layer information governance best practices on collaboration solutions.

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Rich Medina
Jeff Phillips
I’m a Principal Consultant, specializing in strategies for using ECM tools such as Microsoft Office 365 for information management.