Box Gets Into The Digital Signature Game With SignRequest Acquisition

By Patrick Moorhead - February 18, 2021
Box Sign in action 

With the major acceleration of the work from home trend currently underway, never before has it been so crucial for businesses to conduct their operations securely, through the cloud. One of the more exciting players in this realm is Box, Inc. (not to be confused with competitor DropBox). I attended the company’s BoxWorks conference last year for the first time, where I caught wind of the big moves the company has been making to grow the platform (see my coverage here). I’ve been following with great interest since then. 

Though Box got its start as an online storage and file sharing platform, over the last several years, it has morphed stealthily into a provider of a wide range of content management services within the cloud—Cloud Content Management, or CCM, as the company coined it. CCM, essentially, is a combination of the preexisting Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) markets. The older ECM vendors’ services are robust but lack in the user experience and ease-of-use department. Many are familiar with the EFSS vendors, including OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive. As anyone who has used these services can attest, they nailed the user experience—as a result, EFSS offerings have become a favorite for digital collaboration of all kinds. Where these products are lacking, however, is in the complex governance, security and workflow abilities necessary for specific industries and use cases. This is where Box has carved out a niche, and to impressive success—according to Box’s Chief Product Officer, around 70% of Fortune 500 companies are currently using the company’s platform. These include market leaders such as General Electric, Airbnb, Uber, Amazon—even Pfizer and Astra Zeneca, who we’ve heard a lot about in the news for their efforts to develop safe, effective Covid-19 vaccines. 

On that note, this week, Box announced its intended acquisition of SignRequest, a company that specializes in enabling cloud-based electronic signatures (e-signatures)—a crucial part of ensuring security and governance in the brave new world we’re living in. Let’s take a look at the acquisition and how Box intends to leverage it. 

Introducing Box Sign

Enterprises across the spectrum were already undergoing a substantial digital transformation of their operations before the pandemic. As we’ve seen, Covid-19 turbocharged these trends—at this point, most businesses with the ability to function with a remote workforce have migrated some or all of its employees out of the office. For a while now, we’ve had technology such as Teams, Workspaces, Webex, Zoom, etc., that enable remote collaboration through video conferencing and chat. Additionally, though, organizations need a new, digital way to complete the wide variety of digital transactions, deals, and contracts in the business world. E-signature technology solves this problem and the slowdown (and risk) of having to go to a physical location to authorize in person. To bring these capabilities to Box’s platform, the company announced it plans to leverage SignRequest’s e-signature technology inside a new feature called Box Sign. 

This move makes total sense to me—Box, as it already exists, can host the various content and files that almost always come part and parcel with such transactions. In addition to hosting the content, the company will be able to finalize these various transactions via e-signature within the platform itself. Box’s Chief Product Officer, Varun Parmar, sees e-signatures as a considerable growth opportunity. As of now, according to him, not even one-third of enterprises utilize digital authorization, in part because of cost barriers and in part because of compatibility issues with legacy software. Having e-signature technology bundled into one modern, reasonably priced software platform could be the silver bullet that cracks entry barriers for the other two-thirds of enterprises. One can see why Box was eager to get its hands on SignRequest. 

Box emphasized Box Sign’s potential utility in multiple different fields. For example, legal teams will be able to use Box to draft, co-edit, close and retain agreements—the entire process, within one platform. In HR, departments can leverage Box to initiate and finalize job offer letters, which should move the hiring and onboarding process along more quickly. As the economy recovers, this will be much appreciated by those laid off during the pandemic and trying to get back to work as soon as possible. Box also boasts integration with Salesforce, in which it serves as a secure content layer. Now sales teams will be able to initiate and finalize sales agreements directly through Box. Additionally, compliance teams can utilize Box to keep and protect executed agreements. 

Box projects that Box Sign will become generally available as a part of its business and enterprise plans this coming summer. Existing SignRequest customers will be able to continue using the company’s services. 

Wrapping up

It shouldn’t be too hard for anyone to imagine a scenario in their profession that could benefit from Box Sign. Signatures, contracts and authorizations are just a standard part of doing business and all aspects of the business world are digitizing at unprecedented rates. By combining the robust functionality and security of ECMs with the user-friendliness of EFSS vendors, Box has developed a unique content management platform to address this. I see Box Sign as the final puzzle piece enabling a truly all-in-one experience for managing enterprise content. Enterprises, take heed—don’t sleep on Box. 

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article. 

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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.