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Box unveils Canvas cloud content collaboration tools

Box Canvas, a new set of collaboration tools, takes on the new era of work where some employees are remote and some are in the office -- but they all need to work together.

Many organizations face the logistical issue of fostering collaboration between remote workers and those who choose to return to the office. Box Inc. plans to release a new tool this fall, Box Canvas, that aims to digitally connect fragmented teams.

Box Canvas is a digital whiteboard associated with Box documents on which teams can collaborate in diagrams, wireframes using shapes, and connectors. Collaborators can be tagged with notifications and action items from the whiteboard, and communicate in emojis on the collaboration board.

The most important features of Box Canvas -- that it is free to all subscribers, and it includes Box's security settings to prevent content from being shared with the wrong parties -- might not be top of mind for most users, Deep Analysis founder Alan Pelz-Sharpe said. Because Box Canvas is embedded in the Box cloud, work done on the platform is immediately sharable and doesn't incur additional costs -- something typically seen only from software companies much larger than Box.

Last year, Box added free digital signatures to its business subscription plans, a feature that previously required a subscription to a third party such as Adobe, HelloSign and DocuSign.

"This constant adding of new functionality and not raising the price of the subscription is unusual in the software world," Pelz-Sharpe said. "It is common with Microsoft, common with Google, common with Oracle. Box is a very healthy company, but it's not Oracle, right? Many vendors, when they get to [Box's size], end up with a price list."

The security features of Box, Pelz-Sharpe added, have made the company popular among government users as well as law firms.

Microsoft is in the process of rebuilding its whiteboard capabilities for OneDrive for Business users, while Dropbox doesn't currently have a native whiteboard function. Several vendors such as Miro and Explain Everything have app integrations with those file-sharing clouds; many of them work on a freemium basis.

Box CEO: Hybrid work is messy

Companies are still trying to sort out the best collaboration software for the era of hybrid work that emerged over the past two years. Today, some employees work from home, some have returned to the office, and all are tired of Zoom meetings, Pelz-Sharpe said.

It's messy, said Aaron Levie, founder and CEO of Box.

"It's only going to get messier because we're only in the initial stages of the real hybrid," Levie said. "When we talk to our customers, it's very clear that work is largely going to be hybrid -- and that's going to mean yet an additional new set of behaviors around how we collaborate, how we ideate, how we brainstorm, how we work together -- in person or remote meetings."

Box, Levie said, operates on a set of theories that a lot more digital content collaboration will take place, moving forward. Facilitating that will require an environment where the brainstorming and decision-making takes place and is then shared with people who weren't in attendance.

Screenshot of Box Canvas content collaboration tool
Box Canvas content collaboration can be used in many settings. Here, a marketing team for a doughnut shop plots its next campaign.

While Levie didn't share many details about Box's near-term roadmap, he said collaboration is part of it. Enabling better machine learning search and discoverability of content collaboration will be in the mix, as well as means for republishing the results of content collaboration and the decisions that resulted from a Box user's collaboration session.

"We're really excited because it's a whole new set of scenarios that we have to go build software for," Levie said.

Box Canvas will be previewed Thursday in conjunction with the Box Content Cloud Summit.

Don Fluckinger covers enterprise content management, CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce, customer service and enabling technologies for TechTarget.

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