April 10, 2013
When I was in San Francisco last week I took the opportunity to swing by the Dropbox office and meet the team responsible for giving Dropbox enterprise credibility. They actually have a pretty interesting job, despite Dropbox being extremely pervasive, both with the consumer space and enterprise, there is a vast difference between pervasiveness and acceptance and Dropbox has a lot of work to do to give enterprise faith that they’re serious about this new business focus. As I said when I was at the office – part of the problem is a lack of functionality that enterprise needs, but part of the problem is also a compelling narrative that gives enterprise IT departments faith that DropBox is taking their concerns seriously. Today’s announcement should help with both of these problems as Dropbox announces the roll out of Single Sign On, backed with a host of partners.
Dropbox is partnering with Ping Identity, Okta, OneLogin, Centrify, and Symplified to roll out SSO to their customers next month. The SSO roll out has been built on top of SAML so it’s supporting the latest approaches towards SSO. The Dropbox SSO offering rests on the back of the new administration console that the company rolled out a couple of months ago. As I noted at the time, the new console is designed as a central location to gain visibility and control over their organizational use of Dropbox. As I said about that release, and reiterate about this release:
This is a big deal – at last Dropbox is putting some of the monstrous quantities of cash it has raised to good use and is really thinking hard about what it means to be an enterprise company. With that refocus however comes difficulties, and the obvious disconnect between bottom up and top down approaches to IT. Dropbox has always been about bottom up end users adoption, they now have to start thinking a top down story.
ALongside the announcement of SSO and the partners, Dropbox is renaming its Teams product as Dropbox for business. It’s better than teams, but it still feels, to me at least, like a baby step on the progression path to a full enterprise product offering.
As I said before, there are several sides to this story. The first side is about building out the sort of security and control features that enterprises demand. The roll out of the new admin panel and today’s SSO story shows that Dropbox has a commitment to building out the technology piece. The second part is building a vibrant ecosystem of enterprise players who will support the product, whether it’s because Dropbox’s massive customer base is just to appealing to miss, or whether they truly believe in Dropbox’s enterprise abolitions, Dropbox has amassed a who’s who of the cloud SSO space to come on board for this announcement That will give enterprises a High degree of comfort. The third and final part of the story is articulating an ongoing vision and commitment to the enterprise. When I visited the Dropbox offices I was impressed by the language I hear but I will say that it’s just too early to know how this is going. While I sense a commitment today, and the company is obviously committing resources and mindshare to the business product, there’s nothing to say that they’ll not pivot away from that should the rewards prove to not be forthcoming.
I’m actually hopeful that these latest announcements, the willingness to engage with enterprise pundits, and the commitment within the organization to enterprise signals a turning point for Dropbox. They’ve got a long way to go till people know longer use “Dropbox in the enterprise” as a metaphor for rogue IT. It’s a gradual process, and Dropbox needs to make sure they do the right thing at every turn. The financial rewards of getting the enterprise thing right are totally worth it.