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Box Relay brings workflow automation to EFSS

IBM and Box expand their partnership to build Box Relay, an add-on service to Box that puts the power to automate workflows directly into user's hands.

Box's new content management tool will help users automate everyday tasks to get edits, reviews and approvals done faster.  

Box Relay, an add-on to Box's core enterprise file sync-and-share (EFSS) service, will help IT departments overcome the limits of email-based collaboration and access control, experts and customers said. Its automated workflows aim to help businesses better organize documents that require multiple editors, while still allowing IT to control who accesses what.

"An automated work routine and retrieval process does simplify people's lives," said Dominic Namnath, CIO at Tri-Counties Regional Center, a nonprofit healthcare provider and Box customer in Santa Barbara, Calif. "It saves people a lot of time."

Box expanded its partnership with IBM to build the new tool, which the company announced during its BoxWorks conference this week in San Francisco.

With Box Relay, users create a workflow, or an automated digital process, that a team of people -- including colleagues and people outside of their organization -- can use to collaborate on documents. Users can send a document for reviews, edits and approvals to team members through the service and then receive email alerts or push notifications when it requires their attention. They can track where the document is in the process in real time and, if approved, make changes to workflow documents from inside a restricted dashboard.

An automated work routine and retrieval process simplifies people's lives.
Dominic NamnathCIO, Tri-Counties Regional Center

That kind of review and approval workflow is not ideal for email, which makes it difficult to track where documents are in the process. Users have to manually check emails to determine who has a given document and open attachments to see if there are any changes. IT departments can't easily track and govern which users access what documents, either.

"It's a real problem," said Melissa Webster, analyst at research firm IDC in Framingham, Mass. "That's why there is a real upside with this."

With Box Relay, for example, sales workers who need to generate quotes can send the estimates to clients, receive signed contracts back from them and share approval forms with legal, finance or management teams before finalizing offers.

This type of review scenario exists in different departments across all industries, so there is a wide use case for the Box add-on, Webster said.

"This is a really big deal," she said. "It's more than necessary for Box in terms of moving past file sync and share. This will create a much bigger divide between Box and its competitors who don't have workflow."

This is not Box's first time delving into the automated workflow arena. In 2014, the company released Workflow, which allows IT departments to set up workflows for users. Competing products, such as Microsoft SharePoint, also require IT to get involved to set up workflows.

In addition, Box Relay provides IT with an audit trail that shows what users do with their documents, and it comes with the same security and compliance features as the main EFSS platform.

IBM helped build Box Relay using its workflow technology, and its massive sales teams will sell the tool to existing Box customers. IBM's sales teams currently sell Box's EFSS platform as well.

Box plans to release a beta of Relay in the fourth quarter of this year, with general availability coming in the first half of 2017. The company did not disclose pricing details.

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