I’m a firm believer in serendipity. I get dozens of emails every day from vendors wishing to showcase their wares to me and, unlike other blogs, I respect the effort that has gone into the communication and try to reply every time. Often I don’t end up reviewing the offering, but sometimes something in the dialogue speaks to me and I’m sufficiently intrigued to take a look.
Recently I spent time talking to Jen Grant and Sean Lindo from box.net. Box.net is a place to “Share ideas, create content and collaborate in an online workspace” – or in other words handle the management of your digital assets – whether they be cad files, word documents or embarrassing pictures from the staff Christmas party.
Box.net has both a consumer offering and a business one that runs to USD15 per user per month. This give the user the following limits;
- Unlimited collaboration folders
- 15 GB of storage
- 1 GB file uploads
- Version history
- Custom branding
Box.net centres itself around individual files, and allows conversations and collaboration around those files. Users can thus invite other people to view or collaborate on a file, and set expiration of that invitation to provide for limited term collaboration projects – unlike other online office productivity suites however box.net is type agnostic meaning that any files – pdfs, word docs, cad files, images or links to online files can be “assets” within box.net.
Box.net then does some smart stuff around searching within those documents to really give a leg up to the discovery process. This is really important as organisation are drowning in a sea of data – it’s accessing that data that is the hard part. Box.net also allows tagging of documents providing for yet another aid to searchability.
Box.net also introduces some social features to document management – allowing for profiles to be set, individuals document use to be tracked an chat to occur within box.net itself all as part of the collaborative aspect. Box.net also has what they call “web docs” which are essentially wiki pages which get created within the application and yet again allow for another level of document creation, management and collaboration.
Box.net is integrated with salesforce.com, providing a tab and a widget within salesforce for users to see their box.net documents and discussions. They’re also integrated with LinkedIn but personally I don’t see a huge amount of value from that particular combination – but that’s looking at it through my own personal lens of course.
I really like the box.net offering but see so many more opportunities for it. Off the top of my head, the ideas that I came up with to really leverage what they’re doing included;
- The ability to integrate the box.net chat within other chat clients and have those chats aggregated back into box.net. This would recognise different users differing working preferences and create a more passive uptake of the service
- In my quest for the widgetisation of everything, I’d love to see a simple embeddable box.net widget that would allow me to see and use the box net functionality where and how I wanted to
- The killer feature for me would be integration with accounting applications. While some accounting applications have rudimentary document management, none of them have it to the level of what box.net does. Imagine being able to collaboratively create a customer price list (for example) within your favourite accounting application, all enabled by the box.net service – sweet