“Every study I see says that more than half of all IT projects fail. When you focus on just Information Management projects, the rate of failure is higher. Think about this for a second.
Success is the exception.
If you have a successful project, you are the EXCEPTION! Think on this for a minute. After almost 20 years in this business, we still can’t be successful more than we fail. Why are the cloud vendors gaining so much traction? Because people need something that works for them.”
Cloud vendors, we are reminded, are intent on one thing: Disruption. They are disrupting the big, clunky processes that IT has set up, or tried to set up, and they are providing the user with a solution to their problem. That this solution is not approved, governed, or managed is all the better for the user who wants to work in an ad-hoc and improvisational way. The cloud tool provides them with a cheap and reliable way to access their documents from any location.
This is all fine and good. But it isn’t disruption, at least not in any way that matters. Despite BOX’s claim that it is being used in 92 percent of Fortune 500 companies, I think we are on safe ground assuming that in a majority of these organizations BOX is being used by individuals and, at times, departments, to develop and distribute documents as a part of their work process. I can tell you that I work with banks and insurance companies in the Fortune 500, and none of them are using BOX or a related cloud product in a way that is more or less disruptive to the business than 100 other technology advances have been in the past.
As cultural commentator Michael Barthel writes in “Why ‘Disruption’ is a Dirty Word”:
” ‘[D]isruption’ as a process is hardly new, of course. App-based taxi companies like Uber and Lyft are ‘disrupting’ the paying-people-to-drive-you-places business, but such changes have happened innumerable times in the past. In New York, the whole transportation network was initially run by private companies until the government intervened to take over the mass transit network of buses and subways, while enforcing regulations on taxicabs. That was a ‘disruption,’ too, but not one we’d likely champion today. (‘Disruption’ often seems to mean ‘deregulation’ in practice.) The effect is to enforce a historical blindness that’s entirely too common when we’re thinking about tech. If what we’re seeing now is totally new, there are no historical analogies to apply, no worker protections or regulations from the past that we might want to preserve — it’s all new, after all! And, therefore, all good.”
But users are disobeying and getting their own cloud-based solutions!, you might say.
Give me a break. Users have been doing this on shared drives and in Outlook Shared Folders, and in e-mail, and on jump drives, and CDs, and floppies since the beginning of the world. We never called that disruption. Or if we did, we didn’t freak out about it. We knew it was happening. We thought of ways to police it. But at the end of the day, we knew we couldn’t completely shut it down. Did the CD-ROM disrupt our document management landscape? No. It was another piece of that universe. But we don’t look back and say, “Man, after the CD showed up, we totally lost control of DM.”
If you wanted to, you could block your employees from accessing BOX just like you could turn off PST files or shut down shared drives. That would end the “revolution” pretty quickly. But what’s the point? Right now, if you have a handful of employees or even a couple departments using BOX, it hardly qualifies as an emergency for most IT executives at Fortune 500 companies. For now, most will just have Records and Compliance write up some language about how you shouldn’t use BOX, even though you will, then they will claim that the users acted outside of accordance with company policy.
But no one is really concerned that IT is going to lose all of its power because people have found a new place to squirrel away their Word docs. We aren’t going to wake up in 5 years and realize that IT has become totally redundant because departments can run their own systems on the cloud. Anyone who thinks that has no idea how complicated enterprise processes really are.
There are huge advantages to the cloud. IT shops will eventually embrace it as storage costs continue to sky-rocket and they get over their baseless qualms about security. And many of the “failed” IT projects, ECM included, will move to the cloud. (ViewPoint is already beginning to offer FileNet in the cloud.) But not on BOX or any of its peers. Some will get gobbled up and serve the enterprise as part of a big blue machine. Others will live out their days as a service for consumers. But for now cloud document management is just a replacement for shared drives.
If there is any disruption happening, it is the same old one that’s always been happening. Carry on, everyone. Carry on.
(Actually, the biggest disruption is all of these West Coast CEOs wearing hoodies and Pumas to board meetings. But that’s a different story for another day.)