Box' Mark Levie thinks enterprise software isn't sexy yet. Steven Lang begs to differ.
I dropped by a party space in Manhattan’s Flatiron district the other night to catch Box’s traveling road show. CEO and co-founder Mark Levie was the main event. Pacing back and forth, he reminded me a little of Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, telling the crowd that they ain’t seen nothing yet: that files-in-the-cloud services were going to become social. That those who chose to would share these files with others, who could then comment on them. Work would be a group-grope think tank of global proportions.
“Enterprise software just isn’t sexy yet,” he told the crowd.
But it wasn’t the super-smart, hopped-up CEO with eight million global users I had come to see. It was his opening acts: Road-vet IDC analyst Mike Fauscette, who specializes in enterprise software apps and Six Flags’ Sean Andersen, its director of interactive services. These two guys are out there in the techno-battlefield witnessing first-hand the tablet’s transition to the workplace.
First up to speak, Fauscette, whose worthwhile observations can be read at his blog, was saying that he was seeing a shift from process to ad hoc deployments in the enterprise. “Employees in the enterprise are feeling empowered and they’re refusing to use their own devices with an employer’s aging infrastructure. But [employers] just can’t rip out the infrastructure,” he said, discussing a dilemma that is playing out now across many enterprises globally.
It was Sean Andersen’s read on the zeitgeist I was most eager to sample. That’s because the guy’s an end-user. Unlike most everyone else I come across—integrators, app developers, manufacturers—he doesn’t have anything to sell. His vibe is unvarnished by commerce. He just wants his team to use the best stuff.
And for Andersen, that means iPad. You have to understand that, for this director, Jobs is the man. Anderson told me he’d seen the guy speak a bunch of times in the same reverent cadence that music fans use when they talk about the number of Radiohead concerts they’ve attended.
Provisioning is much better,” he enthused. “And termination is so much easier. If an executive loses an iPad, we can send a remote wipe and it turns it into garbage in a second.”
Andersen is starting small. In a scenario that’s being played out in executive suites across the world, it was Six Flag’s COO—who Andersen called a recovering crackberry addict—who first got iPad fever. So earlier this year, as a first step, he stocked the 24-person Six Flags board with some secure iPads. Right now they’re in content-receiving-only mode. “We have some Power Point jockeys [creating the content],” he explained. He also has six execs BYOTing iPads, to whom he’s pushing security manually.
But in 2012, he’s going to open up the throttle, enterprise-wide and bring in another 30 tablets. Right now he’s testing both iPads and the Motorola Xoom tablets to see which fits his company’s needs better. I think I might be able to guess which one he picks.