Box Relay Is Box’s Secret Weapon In Enterprise Digital Transformation


As an analyst, I have seen many incredible and disruptive technologies that help move companies to a full digital transformation. One of those companies, Box Inc., is one of the more exciting players in this digital transformation space. Not to be confused with its competitor Dropbox, Box is a Cloud Content Management (CCM) solution. With content at the center, Box is the Content Cloud. You can read more on my analyst opinion of Box from its BoxWorks conference last year here, but I want to focus on one game-changing product in the Content Cloud, Box Relay. Box Relay is a core product of the Box platform that automates content centric workflows for admins, users, and developers. —Automation of workflows is a unique element of digital transformation initiatives that I think is often times overlooked. Let’s take a look at why I think Box Relay is the hidden gem of the Box Content Cloud as well as a quick peek into some recently rolled out capabilities for users, admins and developers.

What problem it solves

One of the beautiful aspects of digital transformation is that it is changing every line of business (LOB), not just the IT department. All things business are thrown onto the digitally-transformed fridge, and we see that very few things don’t stick. At the same time, the rapid acceleration of the digitally transformed enterprise, especially the push we have seen from COVID, can cause us to miss out and not see the disruptive changes that can or will make our lives easier. 

Part of this digital vertigo has to do with our unfamiliarity with the tools we have digitally in the cloud and those tools or processes we are familiar with and know as our workflow. There are aspects of remote workflows that go against the grain of business processes because they are still manually done. Rather than doing the process automatically, it is done manually. Box puts these manual processes into two use case categories, review and approvals and onboarding/offboarding. These categories include many of the content a business user manually puts into an email, like sending out an assignment or sharing a contact file.

A Box Relay review/approval workflow for secure external sharing. BOX

Even in the brink of realizing that a business user’s daily processes can be automated, existing workflow tools are either too complex and rigid, locked behind IT, or both. Existing workflow tools take on these unappealing properties because their audience is not the business user. Companies implementing workflows with existing tools also fall short by confining workflows to their  environment, instead of their extended enterprise.

Who it targets and how it’s different

The problem with existing workflows is understanding who the target audience is for automated workflows in an ever-increasing digital world. Automated workflows are for the business user, not the IT guy. Box Relay is designed for the business user to automate redundant processes, eliminate circumvention of business rules, reduce rework, and allow business users and IT to focus on value-added projects.

The ingenious way that Box Relay does this is by automating content-centric business processes, right where the content lives on Box. Box Relay’s focus on content-centric workflows makes it easier for business users to automate tasks that would otherwise be manual and time consuming. Box Relay uses a simple no-code builder of “if this then that” statements. The “if this then that” statements use an extensive list of fillers for triggers, conditions, and outcomes that collectively make up the desired automated process. Box even has pre-built workflow templates available, spanning every LOB— Marketing, Sales, HR, Legal, Finance and Operations. 

Although Box Relay does not require intervention from IT, it empowers IT to equip business users with the right technology to drive efficiencies in the business processes. Business users understand their LOB better than IT does. For this reason, Relay’s design is for business users to partner with IT to create automated processes for their LOB rather than putting the automation solely in the hands of IT. Relay is the simplest and most friendly automation tool without compromising the broad use cases of workflow automation.

A very different Box

Box has not stopped improving Relay either. Within the past six months, Relay has added scheduled workflow triggers, workflow ownership transfer as well as the ability to trigger a Relay workflow from external systems via an API call. Scheduled workflows trigger an automation process in a point in time rather than a trigger that starts with a file or folder event. It has an option to give a window of time with a start and end date and the option to make the repetitive automation daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. I think these incremental improvements to the service continue to build on end user adoption. It is hard for a user, in this case, a business user, to see the service as more than what is right in front of them. Small incremental changes in Box like these encourage more users to create workflows.

Box Relay has premade Workflow Templates that are categorized by different departments. BOX

Box Relay now includes new features that I think hammer this point in well. Box includes workflow trigger APIs so that third-party apps can trigger automated processes from external systems or applications. I think this feature is a game-changer, especially for LOBs that have a significant amount of client interactions. Workflow trigger APIs will make it easier to automate processes with client interactions that don’t inherently involve the Box platform. 

Box also includes workflow ownership transfer that transfers workflows from one user to another.  The workflow transfer feature is useful for adapting quickly and efficiently to organizational changes in the enterprise such as job/role changes. Those who take over are exposed to the features of Box Relay. I think this enterprise-wide feature  will also be useful for transitioning workflows from IT to LOBs.

Wrapping up

I am already impressed with Box’s Content Cloud, which it says is used by almost 70% of companies in the Fortune 500. Box Relay is not a small player when it comes to a digitally transformed workplace. It makes it easier for various LOBs to automate mundane and redundant tasks where time is better spent elsewhere. Box Relay is natively built-in and focuses on automating a process regarding content stored in Box. It has a simple setup with custom templates and useful features made for business users. Automation of workflows is one of the most useful tools of the digitally transformed business world, and I don’t think Box Relay should be a sleeper feature.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.