Aaron Levie launched Boxfrom his dorm room in 2005 and changed the way people work and communicate. The Box product shifts local data storage to the cloud, making it far easier to access and share information from anywhere in the world. Box, along with companies like Salesforce.com and Workday, disrupted the traditional client/server software market. But now, emerging mobile and social companies are threatening to disrupt these early purveyors of cloud-based software. I spoke with Levie about the patterns of disruption and innovation that can both foster new businesses and destroy them.
Here are his seven suggestions.
1. View integration as an opportunity
The previous era of enterprise technology and software dealt with how to put together and manage onsite systems, something that is now provided by cloud vendors. "If the last decade was defined by mass collaboration, then the next decade will be defined by mass integration," says Levie. Companies will need to deliver a new layer of value geared toward integrating services and extracting the most value out of enterprise information. It is about taking the best-of-breed technologies, moving them to the cloud, and orchestrating them across the business in a way that was not possible with on-premises software.
2. If you’re not the simplest solution, you’re the target of one that is
Make your technology and processes simpler. Complex software solutions are disappearing because it has become much easier to write software and distribute it to mobile devices. You have to provide a smooth and simple end-user experience. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has said “My competitor’s margin is my opportunity.” Levie suggests this should now be, “My competitor’s complexity is my opportunity.”
3. Move to where the puck is going
As Wayne Gretzky says, it matters less where the puck has been or even where it is now. For Box this has meant looking beyond the disruption that they caused and forecasting what will happen next to their own business. They spend time with their customers, industry partners, CIOs, and IT buyers to learn which vendors are becoming more and less relevant.
4. Take on the role of service and information enabler
Instead of managing servers, systems, and storage back ends, which are all going away, look at services, integrating services, and adding value around services. The workforce is now technology-literate and accustomed to consuming technology on demand over the Internet. The role of IT is to make sure that all individuals can get the most out of the available information and services. IT needs to orchestrate the integration of the services to insure that everyone has access to information and that the business is as effective and productive as possible.
5. Act at the right time
Levie believes the biggest challenge in software and technology is that you often have to act before all of the data is available. If you wait to respond until all the data is revealed, it will be too late; but if you respond too early you also won’t be successful. The third book in Clayton Christensen‘s Innovator’s Dilemma trilogy, Seeing What’s Next, provides insight on this issue.
6. Be open, default to “yes”
Resist the urge to block access and collaboration to protect security. IT leaders must be willing to provide openness to encourage users to take full advantage of the software tools. Openness leads to more analytics and more visibility, which can actually enable better control and security.
The old myth was that if you lock down all your information, the business will be more secure. But Levie points out how tighter lock-down actually leads to worse security as people go around the system, bringing their own thumb drives, using ftp and putting data on their own cloud storage services. The choice is either be more open and provide sanctioned tools to keep data secure, or be closed and face the use of unsanctioned tools that you can’t keep track of.
7. Instill a collaborative relationship between IT and the lines of business
Create a bi-directional relationship between the IT organization and executive teams. In deciding what types of tools to adopt, communicate with business executives and Line of Business (LOB) leaders to understand their business problems, determine which products in the market can solve them, and then collaborate on implementation.
Watch the full interview with Aaron Levie.