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September 15, 2014

Content is King in Cloud Collaboration

Collaboration in the cloud is undergoing a major transformation. Enterprise File Sync and Share services that dominated the early days of cloud-based collaboration are evolving as focus shifts from storage to content. As established giants like Microsoft, Google, EMC, Citrix and Amazon enter a market initially defined by upstarts such as Box and Dropbox (News - Alert), the competition to be the de facto cloud collaboration leader is heating up on multiple fronts.  Importantly, this competition is driving rapid expansion of the cloud collaboration landscape well beyond simple cloud storage. The future of cloud collaboration belongs to platforms that improve workforce productivity through multi-device content creation and consumption, co-existent collaboration capabilities and strong content management capabilities.

Meeting the Enterprise File Sync and Share Ante

Just a year ago, well-funded upstarts like Box (News - Alert) and Dropbox commanded a leading position in the Cloud Collaboration market with offerings focused on easy-to-use and mobile-friendly cloud storage. But competitive offerings from established players like Google Drive and Amazon Zocalo are quickly leveling the playing field. Microsoft (News - Alert) has surprised many industry watchers in terms of how fast OneDrive for Business, part of it’s Office 365 platform, is gaining adoption since it’s launch earlier this year. The spat of recent attractive pricing announcements by Box, DropBox Google (News - Alert), Amazon and Microsoft’s OneDrive for Business are indicators of how quickly cloud storage has a base line capability offered by many vendors. To differentiate, cloud collaboration platforms must raise the bar by making content – not price of storage – the focus of their offerings.

Enabling Multi-device Creation & Consumption

Simply viewing business documents on smartphones and tablets is no longer enough. Business users now demand the ability to create, edit and share documents on-the-go. The race is now on to appeal to enterprises by making content creation and consumption easy on mobile devices. Box and Dropbox have long lists of specialty content creation apps that integrate with their services. However, the world of business content continues to be dominated by word documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Google and Microsoft have seized on this opportunity by offering native Office apps on multiple device platforms and tightly integrating them with their own file sync and share services.

Enabling End-to-End Collaboration

Today’s business content is developed by teams through collaboration, exchanged over email and shared over enterprise social networks or professional communities. Increasing productivity in such an environment requires greater integration and workflow across systems that support these capabilities. Virtually all cloud collaboration vendors are starting to augment their content platforms with broader and deeper collaboration capabilities. Providers like Box are enhancing their platform by building capabilities for specific verticals like Healthcare. Most enterprises are likely to end up adopting multiple cloud platforms that meet specific needs and will prefer platforms that can co-exist and work together. This reality is driving a lot of investment in making Cloud platforms open and easy to integrate with and focused providers like Box and Dropbox are pursuing coexistence strategies that embrace and build value around incumbent collaboration platforms.

Leveraging Partners for Management of Mission Critical Content

After a recent rash of high-profile security breaches such as the theft of millions of customer records at Target (News - Alert), businesses are seeking higher levels of security as they move their mission critical and sensitive content to cloud-based collaboration platforms. The maturing use of cloud collaboration is also increasing enterprise requirements around compliance, information governance and management of metadata. These maturing requirements are a major opportunity for cloud vendors to create value and differentiation. Of course, these requirements vary greatly by size, industry and geography. One of the most effective ways cloud platforms can meet enterprise requirements is by nurturing powerful partner ecosystems that expand the capabilities of the base platform and help their customers better deploy, operate and protect their content in the cloud. The strength of a platform’s partner ecosystem is becoming a critical consideration for enterprises deploying a cloud collaboration strategy.

In the new cloud collaboration era, the gauntlet has been thrown down around which platforms can best drive the value of business content. The ability to store content in the cloud and access it from mobile devices is no longer differentiating features: they are now baseline capabilities that organizations expect from any platform staking a claim in the enterprise collaboration market. Fierce competition is driving innovation and expansion of capabilities for content creation and collaboration, benefitting enterprises that adopt cloud platforms to increase workforce productivity. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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