Schneider Electric sees Box take off, hit 25,000 users virally

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When Schneider Electric, a company with more than 100,000 employees spread out across 100 countries, wanted to find an online collaboration tool to replace unauthorized tools its employees had been using, they chose Box, and bought a 50,000-seat license.

Many companies are dealing with the same issues that Schneider was facing. They were launching a Bring Your Own Device program and found people were using consumer file sharing and collaboration apps they located on their own. Schneider very much wanted to bring that under control and they went looking for a tool that had what Schneider CIO Hervé Coureil called a consumer look and feel, but enterprise chops.

In spite of the substantial investment Schneider was making with 50,000 seats, it wasn't as big a gamble as it might seem. That's because Coureil told me he ran a rather substantial 3,200-person pilot before making the purchase decision, and saw it go viral before it went live without any push from IT whatsoever.

He reported that during the pilot, they simply couldn't contain deployment because people were inviting colleagues and it just spread very quickly. In fact, they officially launched on May 29, but already have 25,000 users. That's because they have been growing at a rate of roughly 1,000 users every 1.5 weeks since they launched the pilot in February, and that's with  almost no corporate communications until the recent launch. That's serious viral growth.

When they went looking for a file sharing and collaboration tool, a main goal was to give users an enterprise alternative to whatever they were using on their own. Coureil didn't choose to share the tools people have been using, or the ones he looked at other than Box, but he told me the tool he chose needed to satisfy several criteria most companies in this situation would find familiar.

"We found out that users without asking were using all sorts of file sharing tools from the consumer world," he told me. He added, "One of the things that was important was to regain control of that with an enterprise solution."

He seemed to recognize that if whatever they chose wasn't as easy to use as the consumer alternatives people had been using on their own, they couldn't get the traction and wouldn't achieve their goals. That's why they weighted the user interface so heavily when judging products. "What we wanted was to put into the enterprise world, a very friendly user interface," Coureil told me, adding " We wanted to look at something that would be credible [to users]."

The other criteria was that the product needed to be available on mobile and it had to work across a variety of platforms to accommodate its BYOD philosophy and the knowledge that users were going to bring multiple devices to the table. Their BYOD program started with iOS devices, but it's expanding to Android.

It's worth noting, they haven't shut down access to the consumer alternatives just yet, but Coureil says as Box spreads far and wide enough, that is definitely the intent.

He said as far as sharing content in the cloud, there was some hesitation from some quarters, but as he told me, this wasn't the first large scale cloud solution they had launched. They were using Salesforce for CRM and Tibbr for social networking, so the education around the cloud aspect of it to a large extent had already been done.

He took somewhat of a risk by testing Box mostly in his own IT department with a set of extremely tech savvy users. To mitigate that somewhat, he also invited some folks from internal communications and between the two groups, it really took off on its own.

The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive. The only issues have been some glitches related to single sign-on.  He said one of the things he didn't expect, but has been a happy outcome was that bringing in Box has helped encourage the transition to mobile devices. 

Ultimately he sees this is as a good decision and the numbers are bearing him out. "If you're communicating and thousands of people are [using the tool], at end of day, that's a sign that people like it and are productive," Coureil said. And that's a goal, every CIO should be able to relate to.

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