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In a presentation at a Box user conference in San Francisco, Paul Schauer, personal computing solution manager for Procter & Gamble, explained some of the complexities of the campaign he is waging to market secure cloud file sharing internally in an organization that operates in 80 countries. He works as part of a shared services organization that supports 130,000 employees and leads what P&G has dubbed the Your Files Anywhere program ("because we brand everything").
The Box service is designed for sharing within a company, across company boundaries, or between desktop computers and mobile devices, through either a Web interface or desktop folder synchronization. Schauer wants to use it to replace the use of File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers, a common method of sharing artwork and other digital assets with advertising agencies and business partners, and to provide a more secure file-access solution for iPad and iPhone users.
Box also offers Android and HTML 5 support, but Apple's iOS is the P&G corporate standard.
[ Can Box really compete with Microsoft? Read Box Ups Ante To Challenge SharePoint ]
Despite Box's positioning as the anti-SharePoint, Schauer said he is not on a mission to displace the Microsoft content management server. Box doesn't do Web content management, so there are many applications where it has zero chance of displacing SharePoint, he said, and even where SharePoint is used for intranet file sharing, that's not really where Box is most needed.
Introducing Box has allowed P&G to retire some FTP servers, but in general it's not replacing anything, Schauer said.
That's typical of large enterprises, which rarely "rip out anything except FTP servers" when they adopt Box, said Whitney Tidmarsh Bouck, the Box enterprise general manager. Instead, what Box captures are "a lot of go-forward opportunities," she said.
The Box service makes the most sense for sharing content outside the company firewall, Schauer said. In order to win approval for it, he first had to convince company leaders that was a good idea--or, at least, that it was happening anyway and they needed to assert control over it.
"It took us a long time to get our legal and compliance people to come around," Schauer said. Their bias was to think that cloud computing was "scary and bad," so it was better to keep all data locked inside a corporate data center. "When they realized there are a lot of scarier things out there, that's when they started to come around," he said.
In the absence of a corporate answer to sharing files with mobile devices, iPad users would often turn to consumer cloud services that lack Box's emphasis on security, Schauer said. Existing file-sharing practices such as allowing anonymous FTP connections were also less secure than the cloud alternative, he said.
As an international company, P&G also had to address some strict privacy regulations that carried their own biases against cloud computing. Every P&G employee who requests access to Box must sign an agreement stating that they will not store "personally identifiable information" on the service. "That allowed us to move forward in the EU and Switzerland," Schauer said.
The requirement for that signed agreement slowed the viral adoption of Box within P&G, placing an obstacle in the way of employees who might otherwise have signed up for the service more casually, after hearing about it from a friend or coworker, Schauer said. However, he is working with Box to add a customized signup process that would prompt P&G employees to agree to those restrictions as part of signing up for an account.
Meanwhile, he is waging an internal marketing campaign to convince users of the value of Box. The service is available to any employee, with the approval of their manager, and across functions within the company. The service is being promoted in conjunction with upgrades to Windows 7, replacement of desktop and laptop computers, and the provisioning of iPhones and iPads.
Users tend to understand the value of Box differently, depending on the function within the organization and the systems they use. He compared it to the parable of the blind men and the elephant, where the man who felt the elephant's leg thought it was a tree and the one who felt its trunk thought it was a snake. For some, it looks like an alternative to FTP; for others, an alternative to SharePoint or an alternative way of backing up files.
Users don't always understand the value of Box Sync because many of them haven't used another file synchronization tool at work. The exceptions are the iPad users, said Schauer. "Most of them have already tried something else before they get to me." And that's exactly why he needs to show them a better way.
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