What The Product Managers At Box Are Going To Have To Do To Survive

by drjim on January 5, 2015

The product managers at Box are going to have to make their product unique

The product managers at Box are going to have to make their product unique
Image Credit: Indiana University

How great would it be to be a product manager who was in charge of a product that was showing up in the newspapers every day? Box, a company that offers online storage, is preparing to have an Initial Public Offering (IPO) where they will sell stock in the company for the first time. It turns out that this is all great, but the Box product managers are facing some serious competition and it’s not 100% clear what they are going to do in order to deal with it…

The Need To Be Different

One of the biggest challenges that the Box product managers are facing is the simple fact that their potential customers are currently running their businesses without using Box. This means that the product managers need to find a way to update their product development definition in order to convince companies to stop using legacy software storage solutions like Microsoft’s Sharepoint.

Box has roughly US$108M in the bank. This may seem like a lot of money, but it’s not enough for them to be able to ride out an extended price war. They are competing in the online storage market with the likes of Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon. All of these companies have much deeper pockets.

One of the big challenges that Box is currently facing is the simple fact that storage is quickly becoming a commodity. Google recently slashed the price of their online storage offering to US$2 for 100G per month. Box currently offers the same service for US$5 per month.

How To Hold On To The Customers That You Have

Box has a very interesting business model. Most of their customers don’t pay them anything. Of the 225,000 businesses that currently subscribe to the Box service, only about 15% of them pay for the extra features that they offer.

What this means for Box is that they need to find ways to get more of their users to decide to become paying customers. An example of the features that paying customers get is a Box feature that can detect if a document that has been stored on the system contains a social security number. If it does, then Box will isolate the file and flag it as being a potential privacy violation. Adding features like this to your product is something that can go onto a product manager resume.

Box is going to have to do more in order to stand out from the rest of the crowd. What the Box product managers have started to do is to try to position the service that Box offers as being a sort of dashboard for a lot of different business software. This means that they need to start to introduce new types of services such as tools that allow multiple users to work on the same document at the same time as well as security services that delete documents after a certain amount of time.

What All Of This Means For You

The product managers at Box are working in a market that is currently getting a lot of attention and press. However, if you take a close look at their business, it quickly becomes clear that they are part of an expensive, money-losing business model that has been built on top of a commodity product. Something has got to change here – how to fix this was never a part of the Box product manager job description.

The product managers at Box are facing a number of different challenges. The service that their company offers, online storage, has a number of very big competitors including Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon. They are going to have to find ways to make their commodity product unique. In order to hold on to customers once they get them, the Box product managers are going to have to focus on things like accessibility and security.

The good news for box is that with over 225,000 existing businesses using their product, they clearly have a popular service. The real challenge is going to be to find ways to keep evolving their product so that they both attract and retain customers. Let’s hope that the Box product managers have stored up a solution that they can use to be successful going forward!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: If you were a Box product manager, which competitor would you spend the most time worrying about?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you’ve had a chance to see just about any magazine associated with your industry lately, I’m sure that you’ve stumbled across an article that was talking about “big data”. There are a lot of different definitions for just exactly what Big Data is, but in a nutshell it’s taking very large data sets and processing them using sophisticated analytical tools in order to try to uncover just exactly what your customers are really thinking. Is it possible that this approach is all wrong?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Vieira January 14, 2015 at 6:11 pm

Well said, “They are going to have to find ways to make their commodity product unique. ”

Offering features like Advanced Search, Collaboration tools like Annotation, E-Sign and Auto-Redaction capabilities, along with DRM, would go a long way towards differentiation.

Paul

Reply

drjim January 16, 2015 at 9:02 am

Paul: Very good points. You’d think that everyone else would be considering the same feature options. This may be a race to get the features first. I wonder if integrating the product into another product (Microsoft Office) would be another strategy that might work…

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Mike January 14, 2015 at 9:20 pm

Interesting article and I certainly empathize with our Box compatriots, but is this essentially not the same problem every product manager faces? Every product I have worked on has faced extreme challenges and has required innovative solutions, some of which work, others, not! Some business models are fundamentally flawed, markets may not exist, government regulations change, management priorities, power struggles, hell, fuel prices, all go to making our jobs incredibly frustrating, but uniquely challenging, and keep us coming back for more…

Reply

drjim January 16, 2015 at 9:03 am

Mike: Good observation. You are correct that we all face the very same challenges. What makes the Box situation just a little bit different is that because they just went public, there are a lot of people watching them. Now their product managers have to be successful in the public eye!

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