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When I read a passage that starts off with, "I hate to say I told you so but," you know the writer isn’t really unhappy to bring up the point and wants to emphasize that he or she was ahead of the game. When I wrote last year that the upstarts in content management and search were displacing the old guard, we received a lot of feedback indicating that the readers were thinking the same thing. Well, barely a year later, we have some tangible evidence that the shift is occurring. I hate to say… never mind.

Over the summer, I attended a networking event held in New York's Grand Central Station at the Campbell Apartment. The invite came from my IBM rep, and it was about a launch announcement for Box. "Strange," I thought, but since I commute out of Grand Central, I thought it was a chance to meet some industry contacts and have a drink in the process. Unfortunately, it was a 100-degree day, and Mr. Campbell did not believe in air conditioning. The event was packed and very difficult to navigate the room, but I was there long enough to hear that Box was opening a New York City sales office. I spoke to a few representatives from major realty companies, financial institutions and a large insurance company. I could not get near the Box team, as they were mobbed, and I could not locate my IBM rep scanning the crowd. After a few handshakes and corresponding merlots, I decided to hit the rails and follow up with my rep in more climate-controlled conditions.

A subsequent discussion with my IBM rep revealed why IBM was involved. He told me that IBM had partnered with Box on cloud content management strategy. This was interesting, but it brought up some questions. My first was, "What about Content Manager OnDemand (CMOD) and FileNet P8?" These are the mainstays of IBM’s content management offerings.

“Look for the upstarts and the established elders to pair in the near future for the same reasons—access and presence.

He said they still play in the on-premise scenario, but IBM was unable to get traction for CMOD in the cloud. They were shooting themselves in the foot with its pricing tiers trying to make these cloud offerings. The result was no traction. Box, which originated out west, was a new-age company, and the Silicon Valley hipsters developing mobile apps will likely avoid IBM proprietary technology pricing like they avoid a Windows phone.

The legacy technologies also did not adapt well to the needs of the cloud. Box was built for that purpose. I mentioned that the last user group meeting I attended touted the unified front end to all the disparate back ends. IBM is keeping Navigator and expanding that front end to integrate with Box. So, IBM is porting Navigator to Box, opening up the developer tools, application programming interfaces (APIs) and the entire portfolio of analytics, where Box did not have a strong offering. On the surface, this looks like a classic win-win. Box gets entree into Big Blue's corporate accounts and instant credibility with the pinstripe-suit crowd. They get a ready-made developer network and a rich content toolset for analyzing the wealth of data that’s under the hood.

IBM overcomes the drag it felt trying to pivot its legacy suite into a player in the cloud. This is a real play in cloud content management that the aforementioned hipsters can get on board with. IBM gets access to Box accounts, which allows them to leverage their entire portfolio of applications and services. Box had two data center hosting locations, while IBM, I believe, has 24.

The future is wide open and can take a number of turns. We’ve seen these arrangements flourish and perish. Success is not guaranteed, and the competition is not standing by idly. Amazon Web Services and Google have a big head start. Our friends at Microsoft look like they are finally focused and will be significant players leveraging Office365 alone. EMC, Oracle, HP and Dell are all in various stages of big pivots and are running hard. This is a strategy we have not seen the last of, so look for the upstarts and the established elders to pair in the near future for the same reasons—access and presence.

Gerald Edwards is director of IT for a large New York City-based health insurer. He has over 30 years of experience as a consultant and employee across numerous industries. He sits on the advisory board of the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum and has served in this position since 2010. For more information, visit

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