3 Takeaways From Box's Chief Product Officer Jeetu Patel on AI at Work

March, 7 2019

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Written By
Alyssa Verzino
AI at Work

LessonslearnedCloud content management and file sharing giant Box is invested in helping organizations fundamentally change the way they work with content, helping clients go through a digital transformation

On Episode 31 of AI at Work, Jeetu Patel, Chief Product Officer at Box, outlines the steps companies can take to succeed when embracing new technologies, shares insights on when to outsource AI and when to keep it in-house, and tells us about the latest AI innovations at Box.Embracing new technology trends: the formula for success

“When you see a major megatrend in a market, you’ve got to make sure that you’re riding that wave and using it as a tailwind,” says Jeetu. That’s the key of how companies can typically get to hypergrowth and scale.

The three megatrends that Box rode to success were the advent of the cloud, the shift to mobile technologies, and now AI. The key, Jeetu points out, is to avoid building technology just for technology’s sake. “You have to have a deep understanding of how that market shift is going to help your customers solve some very meaningful problems,” he says.

The wrong way to go about it is to start with a technology in search of a problem. To start off right, Jeetu recommends first identifying important problems that are going to be central to defining yourself as a unique provider of value. Next, he emphasizes validating those problems to determine if they are something people are willing to part with their money for, regardless of the industry that you’re in.

The last step is to work backwards from the validated problem, setting parameters for the solution to work effectively at scale. “The only time that people are going to move over to you is when the solution is ten times better than the solution that currently exists. They don’t move over when you have a 20% better solution,” adds Jeetu. The goal is to “build painkillers, not vitamins”. 

The new economy of ‘ecosystem interoperation’

“Every seven to eight years you see that a business model completely resets within a company,” Jeetu describes, “as a result, every seven to eight years, you as a company have a choice of disrupting yourself and moving to the next wave or being disrupted and being an irrelevant company.”

The half-life of products is going down even faster, where now within 18 months a product gets dated. The question becomes “what do we as a company need to do to make sure that we can succeed at the velocity that the market is moving at?” Jeetu explains. The answer lies in being very disciplined about what you pursue versus what you pursue partnerships for.

Jeetu says, “that actually is just a different way to operate in this new economy, compared to the way that it used to be, which is you have a vendor or a company deciding that they want to go out and build out the entire stack from top to bottom. That's just not how the world is going to work in the future.”

So, how do you know when to keep something in-house and when to partner? “The framework that we typically use is anything that is meaningfully core to your business, where you would differentiate your offering based on that capability, you would want to make sure that you're building yourself and you maintain that IP and that process,” Jeetu outlines. For anything that’s an essential component but not core to your differentiation, “go to someone whose core business it is to do that thing and partner with them,” he says.

As a financial services company, for instance, you would not think about building a content management system. You would partner with someone like Box for that piece of it and then focus on doing what you do best, which is serve your customer, issue a loan, have an insurance policy, whatever it might be. You should focus on your core and partner for the rest, as Jeetu sums up. Ultimately, this encourages specialization and interoperability within different ecosystems.

AI Innovation at Box

“The way we think about this is any piece of content that's in Box should be infinitely more valuable than that same piece of content if it were outside of Box,” says Jeetu outlining Box’s vision. “And the way that you create and compound more value is by adding intelligence to the content, and then having it embedded into a business process. And the way you add intelligence to the content is by applying a machine learning skill to the contents so that you can automatically process that content at scale,” he explains

Three novel AI-driven innovations at Box include Box Skills, Box Graph, and Box Shield. Box Skills leverages machine learning algorithms to automatically add metadata and extract insight from content. Box Graph draws insights from inter-relationships between various permutations of people and content, and Box Shield employs AI to monitor activity and alert administrators about potentially malicious anomalies in user behavior.

Reflecting on the future of AI, Jeetu shares some parting thoughts. He believes that moving forward, tech companies will need to assume greater responsibility for people’s privacy. He also says, “I think what we're going to need to do with AI is actually start to foresee what the societal implications might be and to make sure that you're addressing that ahead of time.” This includes the ethical responsibility of retraining the displaced workforce and anticipating safeguards for people who will be in vulnerable positions as a result of automation. With all new technologies, the wise approach is to evaluate both the positive and negative potential impacts rather than simply rushing forward propelled only by the positive.

Tune in to this episode of AI at Work to learn more. And, be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play and share with your friends.

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