Box workflow automation software, Box Relay, overhauled

Content management software vendor Box makes over Box Relay, integrating the workflow automation system more fully into the Box platform and boosting workflow self-service.

Box workflow automation got a major overhaul as the content management services vendor revamped Box Relay to orient it toward enterprise end users looking to design custom team content workflows without IT support.

The Redwood City, Calif., vendor originally released Box Relay in 2016 as the product of a joint effort with IBM, but Box said it has nearly entirely rebuilt the system to run natively on the Box platform.

The new version appears to be an attempt to plug a gap in workflow automation that Box and other content services platform vendors target such as contracts, legal documentation and HR files as enterprises increasingly digitize them.

"Historically ... it has been a gap, and [Box is] certainly not unique in that, so I think it is important that they've made this new set of investments to fill the gap," said Cheryl McKinnon, a Forrester analyst.

Box takes on bigger competitors

McKinnon said the Box workflow automation revamp is key if the vendor is to challenge big competitors such as Microsoft, OpenText and Hyland Software that have dominated content management over the last two decades.

"This is really important to keep that momentum going in terms of addressing more complex use cases, more high-volume use cases, and the ability to move content from some of the old on-premises systems into the Box environment," she continued.

This is really important to keep that momentum going in terms of addressing more complex use cases, more high-volume use cases, and the ability to move content from some of the old on-premises systems into the Box environment.
Cheryl McKinnon Analyst, Forrester

The new version of Box Relay, unveiled May 22, has been in beta with several dozen customers and is scheduled to be out in general release next month, Box said.

With Box Relay, Box focuses on high-volume, content-heavy processes such as contract approvals, employee and contractor onboarding and offboarding, and government bidding, Box executives said.

With what it calls "the all-new Box Relay," the vendor enables collaboration on cross-department teams that might include program, project, work group and finance managers -- line executives "who generally tend to own the process," said Varun Parmar, vice president of products at Box.

"Oftentimes today, they run the process very manually, so they have emails that are going back and forth, and that's a big compliance issue," particularly in government bidding in which auditability and tracking are critical, Parmar said.

The audience for the overhauled Box workflow automation system is people on the business side of large enterprises, Parmar said.

"We built a product that will essentially self-service them," he said.

Box Relay content workflow automation shown on screenshot
Box Relay showing triggers for content workflow automation

Rebuilt from ground up

The new version of Box Relay features a completely new workflow engine, simplified user interface and menu of triggers, conditions and outcomes the workflow designers can use to automate content flow, according to Box.

Also included in the updated Box workflow automation suite:

  • a no-code workflow builder;
  • collaboration pathways so business users can assign tasks to customers, vendors or partners outside the firewall;
  • a new dashboard tracking workflow history; and
  • closer integration to Box cloud content management security and compliance features, APIs and user collaboration tools such as mobile push notifications.

Box put a distinct emphasis on mobile with the Box Relay revamp, said Jon Fan, vice president of product management at Box.

"One of the big things we added was the ability to respond to all the tasks that come through these workflows from a mobile device really quickly," Fan said. "Being able to see the content that's associated with it, and quickly making a decision about whether to approve or deny that."

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