Why It Took So Long For Box to Seal Its Huge Deal With GE

"Big companies can only move so fast," a Box executive said.

May 12, 2014 at 3:00PM

This story originally written by Nancy Gohring at CITEworld. Sign up for our free newsletter here.

Yesterday Box announced that General Electric's (NYSE:GE) 300,000 employees will start using the service, most by the end of the year.

It's the biggest deal yet for Box, which said that it took two years of discussions before GE made its decision to go with Box.

We wondered what took so long, given that Box should be a fairly straightforward service, at least compared to complex enterprise software systems like ERP, CRM, or BI.

Don't miss: Box IPO delay could mark a pendulum swing toward systems of record.

"Box is a much simpler product than say SAP or a big complex platform like CRM," said Whitney Bouck, general manager for enterprise at Box. "But what we've discovered over the course of the last few years or so is that the selling cycle is not that different, even though the product or services are simpler."

At large company like GE, the number of people involved in a decision to adopt a corporatewide technology doesn't change whether the business is choosing a CRM system or Box, she said.

"Big companies can only move so fast," she said.

For instance, when working with a large company like GE, Box works with central IT as well as many business units to help the company figure out if Box is a good option for the many different use cases across the company, she said.

Still, now that GE has chosen Box, it will take the rest of this year to roll it out to most employees. "It really has to do with changing behavior and content migration," she said. Since GE's business is so varied, each division will have to work out their own use case. "It's much more about training than it is about technology," she said.

In addition, she said that GE was very interested in being able to integrate Box with other enterprise systems that it uses, although she couldn't name specific examples. That process takes some time too.

GE did not reply to a request for comment about the process leading up to its decision to choose Box.

In what Bouck said is an unusual scenario, Box's professional services team has been involved with GE since long before the deal closed. "It's a presale engagement," she said. Box has been helping GE think through use cases and content management, she said.

Bouck also said that GE is one of the most security conscious customers that Box has ever worked with. "They wanted to investigate ways to have even more control over the content they put in Box," she said.

One capability that GE is particularly interested in is being able to control its own encryption keys. Box has been talking about working on this capability since last year. The company wouldn't say when it would become available.

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