AI for the Enterprise

Making mom proud with collaboration solutions

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In this episode of thinkPod, we are joined by Michael McCabe, Vice President of WW IBM Go to Market at Box. Michael and Amanda talk about how companies are leveraging collaboration tools to drive insights and outcomes, the evolution of content, and the future of AI in managing unstructured data.

In this episode we find out:

  • Michael McCabe’s background and his role at Box.
  • What trends Michael is seeing in the types of content that are being uploaded into Box?
  • How Michael is seeing his clients changing their relationship with their content.
  • About Box Skills and how companies are using it.

Meet Michael McCabe

Michael McCabe is Vice President of Go-to-market for the IBM partnership at Box. Michael drives the global relationship with IBM across sales, enablement, marketing and customer success leading a team across these disciplines at Box.  He is an accomplished professional with over 20 years of success for high-growth, very large and start-up organizations including VMware and IBM.  In his time at Box, Michael ran National Partner Sales in North America before becoming the sales alliance manager for the IBM partnership.


“There’s a massive need for bringing intelligence to their content and their data.”

“Any type of content that you think of that you work with daily as a knowledge worker is really unstructured content.”

“As people have breaches, they really have to have control in a real strong stance on how they control the growth of their unstructured content. Manage it, secure it, make it easy to collaborate and integrate it with business process. And if they don’t do that, they expose themselves to not only not pivoting to become a digital business, but to security risk.”

“I think early days people perceived Box as a cloud storage solution and really nothing could be further from the truth.”

“We have to innovate and continue to drive value because if we don’t, we no longer are part of that best of breed portfolio.”

Full Transcript

Amanda:  Hi everybody. This is Amanda Thurston from IBM. Welcome to thinkpod. We are here at Think, our signature conference in San Francisco, and we’re talking to Michael Mccabe, who’s the vice president of IBM go to market at Box. We discussed how companies are leveraging collaboration tools to drive insights and outcomes, the evolution of content and the future of AI in managing unstructured data.

Amanda: So can we start off with a little bit about your background and what you do at Box?

Michael: Currently at Box. I manage our go to market with IBM globally, which includes sales and marketing, but also customer success services and enablement.

Amanda: And we’re so grateful for that.

Michael: Yeah, so I’ve been on the partnership since its inception back in 2015, so we’re almost four years in. I’ve been at Box about six and a half years. And before that I was at VMware and one of the partners I managed at VMware was IBM.

Amanda: You are deep state IBM. [laughs]

Michael: I’ve been doing this awhile. I was actually an IBMer a long time ago.

Amanda: Oh there you go. What is it that you do at Box and how do you manage that relationship?

Michael: Yeah, so we have a really interesting partnership with IBM who is not only our most strategic partner, but also our largest customer. And from a partnership perspective, we’re building solutions together with Watson and we’re delivering outcomes for clients, right? There’s a massive need for bringing intelligence to their content and their data. You know, the partnership has really pivoted over the last several months to really be focused on Watson. And we’ve done that intentionally because we need you. And frankly, I think you need us. It’s been great.

Amanda: Can we talk about…you brought up the word content, and I think that what content means has changed a lot, particularly in the corporate setting where we’re just seeing volumes of information and a lot of that you’re hosting. What kind of trends do you see in the types of content that are being uploaded into Box?

Michael: Any type of content that you think of that you work with daily as a knowledge worker is really unstructured content. So video files, audio files, that’ll obviously a part of this podcast, but also all the word documents and powerpoints that we spend hours working on.

Amanda: Yeah.

Michael: Excel spreadsheets, x-rays in the healthcare industry. I mean, there’s just a very large amount of unstructured content at our customers. And it serves as a great repository for deriving insights and improving business process. So we’ve seen, you know, from a best of breed perspective, most enterprises have selected an HR, I asked product like Workday. They’ve selected an IT service management product like Service Now. They’ve also selected obviously CRM solutions like Salesforce. And we see the next big selection. And replatforming is really around content and Box wants to be that content layer for our customers and our clients. The need is significant, right? Because it’s growing at about 800%.

Amanda: That’s insane.

Michael: By 2020 says Gartner. So it’s almost an overlooked need at the client. I think security has raised awareness. As people have breaches, they really have to have control in a real strong stance on how they control the growth of their unstructured content. Manage it, secure it, make it easy to collaborate and integrate it with business process. And if they don’t do that, they expose themselves to not only not pivoting to become a digital business, but to security risk. So we’re here to help IBM, and Box really did deliver that for our clients.

Amanda: How are you seeing your clients changing their relationship with that content? Or what are the things that they can do with that unstructured information, if they’re able to harness it and harvest.

Michael: I think early days people perceived Box as a cloud storage solution and really nothing could be further from the truth. If you want to just store your content, we’re not the best solution. But if you want to leverage that content and add intelligence to it and integrate it with business process, then we’re the right solution. So, you know, we’ve seen this pivot at some of our customers. We have 90,000 enterprise customers, so they’re on this journey with us and they’re seeing that the value of having a cloud content management platform really changes the way that they create new solutions. How they interact with their clients and their partners and their employees. And it also allows them to open up new markets.

Amanda: So you are powering 69% of the Fortune 500 at this point. What differentiates you in, not just a storage space, but in the market in totality? That information space. What is it about Box that is so different from your competitor set?

Michael: We really created the enterprise file sync and share market. And it became relatively quickly a pretty busy space. A lot of our major competitors joined us in that. But what we’ve realized as we’ve worked with customers, is they want so much more than a file sync and share tool. They want solutions that can really fix business problems that they have and help accelerate their ability to deliver not only a digital workplace, where users can collaborate on mobile devices internally, externally, with whomever they need, but do it very securely, but also become a digital business where they’re automating business process, where they’re adding intelligence to their extended enterprise. And that’s what’s really differentiating us. We started to make that pivot with a number of our customers, but the market opportunity is massive to go capture that together with IBM.

Amanda: So one of the features that we’ve been working on together With Watson and the Box integration is the custom document insights. And that’s using our natural language understanding. We’ve created this product called Box Skills, right? Can we talk about what Box Skills is and how companies are using it? With our enterprise customers, we really do stay close to their needs. And over the last couple of years we’ve identified a desperate need for them to add intelligence to their content. As you would imagine, as they add more and more content to Box, it makes it harder to find the most relevant content as quickly as they came.

Amanda: I live that. [Laughs]

Michael: Yeah, you do, I’m sure. By creating a product called Box Skills, which is really just a framework to open up the Box content to the AI or ML provider of choice. We give our customers the ability to now leverage intelligence and bring that to the content and the data that they have in Box.

Amanda: So what’s a good example of how companies are using that?

Michael: So we actually released the product in December of 2018. So Box Skills is still relatively new, but already we’ve helped the client jointly between IBM and Box to deliver a solution for new client onboarding. And this firm is a very large tax preparation firm. And none of us like to do our taxes, but their goal is to make it a much easier process, more intuitive. So essentially what we’ve done now is we’ve taken a very manual difficult process and we’ve automated that with this client and with IBM so that they upload the content, which essentially is they’re old tax returns. IBM’s Watson services can now detect different values and information from those forms and start to build out the ability for the client to automate their next tax filing. So we’re realizing relatively quickly that the combination of visual recognition for object detection, natural language, understanding these services from Watson allow us to detect entities in the text and take a very complex set of content and add intelligence to it, attach metadata to it. So that the client can now make it easier for that new customer to leverage their service and to become a loyal customer. And now we’re working with that client to extend to other use cases with different Watson services and with the Box platform in Box Skills.

Amanda: That’s really cool. Outside of those client use cases, there are so many pieces of information that we upload and we’ll work collaboratively and over time they evolve. Like if you’re working on a pitch deck as a seller, you’re probably gonna make hundreds of the same deck but in different iterations over time and the flow across teams and how people collaborate on those, can be so challenging as you’re just sort of continuing on in in normal state of business. And it would be interesting to hear from your perspective how not only it changes the value proposition of your clients and what they’re doing for their industry, but also within their own workflows and how their teams are collaborating and working.

Michael: It’s a platform that I think allows people to get as creative as they want. So we’ve taken out a lot of the complexity and some of the security risks. So now people can work in whole new ways, right? So the ability to quickly iterate on a PowerPoint deck and make changes as a group is easier than ever before. Keeping track of who’s made what changes and what version is the current version. I mean, if I go back to the days prior to Box, we never knew what was the current version. We never knew who did what to the documents.

Amanda: V-372 [Laughs]

Michael: Yeah, so we can have a master version now that we’re all working off of and we can see, you know, you can do simple things like lock that documents and nobody can make changes while they’re in there. We can look at access stats to see who’s been in there and what changes they’ve made. And that’s a great way, not only to, to collaborate internally or with partners, but also with customers. So if you think of the ability to see when a customer has access to file that you sent them. Again, go back to days prior to Box. I never knew if they actually looked at that proposal, but now I know. And that’s valuable not only for me but for them. I’m not bugging them and asking them, “Hey, did you look at that proposal?” I actually know and we can have a better, more thoughtful exchange of communication.

Amanda: You can see who downloaded it. So you brought up collaboration and I think Box has an interesting story in that, I mean you started as a small company here in San Francisco and you’ve grown to be a pretty big organization with 2000 people around the world working for you at this point. How are you thinking about collaboration and teaming and how does that culture sustained as you’ve grown?

Michael: Yes, so I think Erin and Dylan and the rest of our founders did a great job of laying a good foundation when it was just four of them.

Amanda: Yeah.

Michael: Right. And I think it extends now to nearly 2000 people where we’re very focused on a core set of values to get shit done, quickly. Whether that’s a small team or a big team. And to really do it in a thoughtful way, make Mom proud is something that we’re pretty focused on as well. And I think those core values, whether they were 2000 people or if we become, you know, 15 or 20 at someday, I think they’re embedded into the fabric of the company. And it changes how we interact internally with our partners and certainly with our customers. So, you know, a collaboration solution becomes most powerful when the whole organization is on it. If it’s just the marketing group or just the R&D group, it’s not nearly as valuable as when the whole organization on it. And as IBM knows, right, you guys are a very large customer all on the Box platform. So it makes it easier for you to collaborate with people internally, and we see the real power of the solution when a company goes all the way wide.

Amanda: All the way in.

Michael: Yeah. And becomes a truly a digital workplace where they’re integrating not only Box to their business process but also with other key applications they have, like Salesforce and some of the others that we’ve mentioned that are really critical to their go-to-market activities.

Amanda: One of the things that keeps coming up here at Think is around open architecture and being a tech industry that is collaborative. Not just within our own organizations and using products like Box that help us collaborate, but that we’re looking out across the industry and we’re striking these types of partnerships like we have together and we’re seeing more and more of. I thought that Jenny’s perspective on that in her keynote was really interesting.

Michael: It was, I got a lot out of it yesterday. You know, to deliver AI, you need an information architecture.

Amanda: Yes.

Michael: It really resonates with us, right? We want to be that platform for helping people collect and control the content they have and then collaborate around it. So we see the change at the customer is dramatic, right? In the past they were locked into a single vendor or a single stack. Now they’ve got all kinds of choice. Everything’s interoperable. It’s one of the reasons we partnered with you guys cause you’re an open platform.

Amanda: Yeah.

Michael: And it really gives our customers the opportunity to keep all the vendors that they work with, all their partners on their toes. Right. We have to innovate and continue to drive value because if we don’t, we no longer are part of that best of breed portfolio. They go pick somebody else. So that’s the dynamics I think at the customer have switched pretty dramatically. And I think that’s good for us as the technology providers but also obviously great for them.

Amanda: Speaking of innovation, what’s next? What’s the next big thing?

Michael: Yeah, it’s been really exciting time in the industry, right? We’ve been having a lot of those conversations recently, so we’re early days in our partnership With Watson and we’re seeing great initial results. But I think the time to be creative and a bit more aggressive has arrived, right? I think we need to push our ability to deliver solutions a lot harder through the folks at IBM, the folks at Box and our ecosystem of partners. Cause clients, and as we heard yesterday from a number of them, they’re looking for solutions to things that are really holding them back. And I think the opportunity now is to just accelerate the growth in their push to the cloud, to drive digital. And weave AI and intelligence into everything they do, not just the content they have, but business process, all the different things they do around security. There’s just a massive amount of opportunity for clients to leverage these types of technologies to deliver solutions in new ways.

Amanda: Yeah, amazing. Well, thank you so much for joining us.

Michael: Yeah, my pleasure, Amanda. It’s been great.

Amanda: Enjoy Think.

Amanda: Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode of thinkpod. We will have more content coming your way out of our Think conference, so stay tuned.

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