Box announced a major update to its metadata feature today, a move that is part of a broader strategy to attract and keep larger customers.
The update includes three major pieces: first of all it provides the ability for administrators to create and distribute metadata templates via the Box Admin console. Next, it provides APIs for attaching metadata information to applications built using Box. Finally, it provides the ability to import or export existing metadata templates from content management tools like EMC Documentum or Microsoft Sharepoint with help from Box partner SkySync.
The devil is always in the details with these matters, but on its face the company appears to be offering sophisticated metadata capabilities that cross systems and make it easier for developers and IT administrators to build metadata into the content they are managing in Box.
When Box announced it was adding metadata functionality at its BoxWorks user conference last fall, it was filling in a major gap between its offering and those of more traditional content management vendors like OpenText, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.
Metadata is basically information about the content. For example, a photo might include the type of camera used to take the picture, the aperture setting, the date the photo was taken, photographer and copyright information. All of this information can travel with the content wherever it goes and can help move content through an automated workflow and improve search.
This is important for Box because metadata simplifies integration across systems, Chris Yeh, SVP of product and platform at Box explained. When Box works with larger companies, CIOs are typically interested in Box’s ability to move content through workflows and across systems, he said.
“Linkage between systems is so important and wouldn’t be possible without metadata,” he said.
This also smooths the process of working with partners. Box recently announced a couple of high profile partnerships with IBM and Microsoft and the metadata piece helps Box move content across systems with these partners.
This news also ties into several other announcements that hints at a much broader strategy than an individual feature update might suggest. Box announced Box for Industries last fall, an attempt to attract different market niches such as finance, retail and healthcare by putting together a package of tools from Box and third-party developers and partners geared toward the needs of these specific market segments.
This also connects to the wider Box platform play where developers are building applications on top of Box or building something and embedding Box services like metadata and key management with Box Developer Edition.
You also cannot separate this announcement from the Box Governance announcement in June or the Box Enterprise Key Management announcement earlier this year. All of these capabilities are part of an attempt to move Box into larger and more profitable customers.
“We are [shifting] from a company focused on user productivity around files and content and moving into business process and working with bigger companies,” Yeh said.