by Matt Kapko

Box CEO: It’s the ‘best time in history to be CIO’

Dec 20, 2016
CIOCloud StorageCollaboration Software

The CIO role is in flux today, but IT execs shouldn't despair over the role they'll play in future technology decisions and oversight, according to Box CEO Aaron Levie. Here's why.

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Box CEO Aaron Levie has a message of hope for CIOs as they approach 2017: “I think it’s the best time in history to be a CIO, because you have so many great companies working on your behalf to enable you to have way better technology in your organization,” he says.

Levie’s positive outlook runs counter to many IT trends and common perceptions. CIOs’ grip on technology and budgetary oversight has been challenged for years as marketing executives and others throughout their organizations gain influence and power of the purse. For example, a November Gartner report concluded that marketing technology budgets will exceed the amount of money CIOs spend on tech in 2017. 

aaronlevie box Box

Box CEO Aaron Levie

However, Levie sees signs of a collective turnaround for CIOs. The burden of responsibility that IT leaders carry in the enterprise, coupled with the modernization of business tools and IT infrastructure, puts CIOs in a greater position of strength as organizations transform, he says. “Ten years ago we had an environment where innovation was very scarce and there weren’t a lot of great tools that people could use,” Levie says. “Now I would say we’re in the opposite environment. We are in an era of IT abundance where we’ve got amazing applications and services, and have the opposite problem, which is sort of, ‘which ones do I choose?'”

IT modernization an opportunity for CIOs

Companies of all sizes recognize that the future is in the cloud, and there is a huge push to modernize the traditional IT stack, according to Levie. “We are going to see a dramatic change in how enterprise software is designed and how enterprise software takes advantage of all the data that’s in our platforms to produce way better outcomes for customers,” he says. “It’s a great time to be in enterprise software if you are driving innovation, and it’s a great time to be in enterprise IT because so many great players are working to make your life and job easier.” 

[ Related: Future of collaboration software all about integration, not consolidation ]

Most companies are trying to improve work processes using tech and that transition requires leadership from IT, according to Levie. “The future of work is going to look very different than the past and if these companies want to modernize their business models, they want to modernize their products and services, they can’t do that by just investing in software and just investing in digital experiences,” he says. 

The collaboration space, which has generated tremendous interest thanks in part to new entrants including Facebook’s Workplace and Microsoft’s Teams, is poised to get even more exciting, according to Levie. As more companies jockey for position, all of the players are forced to up their games with more competitive features and services, Levie says, and that benefits all customers, including the IT professionals who manage those services. 

Box goes beyond file-sharing

Box wants to make IT professionals’ jobs easier by reducing their workload as more cloud-based services flourish throughout the enterprise. “Our strategy is relatively straightforward, but very hard to operationalize,” Levie says. “We work with some of the most regulated, security conscious and largest companies on the planet. Our job is to provide them with a set of capabilities that dramatically simplifies the way that people in their organizations can share and collaborate and get work done.”

[ Related: Making sense of Microsoft’s messy collaboration strategy ]

Box positions itself as the best platform to manage and secure content across all of today’s modern IT systems. “All of that is getting insanely complex for IT organizations,” Levie says. “At the same time, employees are just trying to get their work done. They just want to collaborate, they want to share with one another.” 

The majority of companies today think of enterprise content management in the cloud as a feature of one broader suite that handles its own data, but Box focuses on connecting many disparate data sources in a single platform, according to Levie. “We’re building out a platform that helps enterprises store, manage, share, govern and organize all of the information in their business and then connect it to all the applications that they’re using,” Levie says.

File-sharing is also no longer the primary use case of Box, he says. “What we’re building is much more robust and I think substantive than just being a file-sharing tool that’s obviously going to be commoditized over time.”