Box World Tour :: Big Customers, Big Lessons

Herve Coureil, the CIO of Schneider Electric, was on the main stage at the Box World tour last week.

Most of the discussion was a pretty standard testimonial for a customer conference but Herve represents something of an extraordinary customer for Box.

He bought 50,000 seats.

He spoke about Mobility and the Consumerization of IT as the drivers for the technology choice but he hit his stride when talking about the unique characteristics of a cloud rollout versus a normal IT project. The big two he identified were the network and adoption.

It’s the Network, Baby

A cloud rollout can change the mix on your network substantially.

Most organisations have extremely fast internal networks on a hub and spoke model but significantly less points to access the wider world. Often, this makes sense from a security perspective as there are less access points to secure.

But, cloud applications sit in the wide world and document-centric applications (like Box) will be uploading and downloading constantly. User acceptance and perception of success will be heavily coloured by how easily and seamlessly documents can be added and downloaded for collaboration.

Buying a product with a richer feature set but not having enough bandwidth to use it properly will kill user perception and acceptance of the deployment as quickly as buying the wrong product.

Winning their Hearts

A normal IT project has a long arc towards deployment

Requirements are gathered, technology selected and procured, systems are installed and then customised before it gets into the hands of end-users.

The nature of this model often drives larger and more centralised projects – a project needs to deliver sufficient return to justify that level of investment.

The cloud changes the game.

With a system like Box or Salesforce, users can be working on the system almost immediately with little IT assistance. In office of the CIO, this fact often drives concerns around Shadow IT – business users disintermediating the IT function and just buying technology.

But, Herve correctly points out that the cloud also brings opportunities for a forward-thinking CIO who introduce the cloud as well. You have different choices about how to scale the implementation. Here are some ideas from Herve’s approach:

  • Rollout will be driven by use cases — people will be brought onto the system as its used to solve a business problem. This approach should help match the effort invested to value received and hopefully show the technology in its best light (as a way to get things done easier).
  • Viral rollout will not be prohibited — Although the ‘official’ rollout will be driven by use cases, users of the system will not be restricted from introducing new users to the system, allowing employee evangelists to organically develop the platform.
  • Adoption should be tracked and driven.
  • Local and regional considerations need to be considered. For example, certain types of data will not be suitable for Box under German law. The rollout and adoption plan as well as the technical implementation needs to be mindful of these considerations.

In the end, a system is only as successful as its users make it but the cloud might change the game on how you get there.

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