Box CIO Paul Chapman opens up about the evolution of IT, working with line of business execs and more

Box CIO Paul Chapman
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By all means, you can try cold-calling Box CIO Paul Chapman or sending him a hopeful e-mail. You can invite him to your event, webinar or roundtable. You could reach out on social media or other channels and see if he’ll download your white paper.

None of these standard marketing tactics, however, will work as well as a suggestion from someone with the same job title, who he already knows and respects.

“All of those other approaches have their place, but nothing beats the trust of your networks and your peers,” Chapman told B2B News Network during an interview amid the recent Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo in Toronto. “What works most often is you’ll hear from (another CIO), ‘You know, you should really check out these guys,’ or if you’re talking about a problem, someone will say, ‘Well, we did this.’”

While Chapman’s comments will come as little surprise to those who have struggled to win over technology decison-makers, he admitted his role as CIO of Box, a provider of cloud-based enterprise storage, partly involves acting as a credible spokesperson for the organization. However his focus is less on trying to persuade other firms to adopt Box’s services, he said, but helping educate the market on the benefits of technologies like the cloud and the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.

“(The cloud) gives you the gift of time,” he said. “What it comes down to is, you’re always on the latest and greatest. In the past, being a CIO often used to mean you were inevitably behind in terms of what the business said it needed. Now we can introduce change a lot faster.”

This accelerated pace is necessary, he added, given the increased demands to offer the right tools and IT environment for the new generation of knowledge workers. This is not just a matter of supplying hardware and applications that boost productivity or introduce efficiency, he said, but positioning companies as industry leaders, which in turn can help them attract and retain the best possible employees. It also means CIOs aren’t perpetually at risk of losing their jobs when things don’t go as planned.

“If you’re in the cloud and operating in a multi-tenant environment and there’s a disruption of any kind, everyone has an impact,” he said. “Who better to bring that service back up and running than the vendor? They have access to the engineers who built the service in the first place.”

Of course, Chapman has worked as a CIO long enough (he joined Box four years ago after working at CIO of HP’s Software division) that he’s well aware many B2B firms have line-of-business executives who turn the ease of adopting SaaS tools as a way to do an end-run around the IT department. He suggested other CIOs take this in stride.

“The CIO doesn’t always have the biggest budget,” he pointed out, “but the CIO has a lot of influence. (LOB execs) can go out and buy a bunch of tech, but CIOs also have an opportunity to help identify the beast technologies based on their needs. It’s no longer a matter of CIOs saying, ‘That’s the way this will work.’”

Within Box, Chapman is obviously freed from having to make a business case for SaaS. Instead, he said he’s focusing on ways to make the best use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies like machine learning. He described the idea of “digital labour,” where the technology can automate things like the red-lining of contracts. In other words, most contracts are fairly standard, but machine learning could be taught to recognize those areas that need to be changed or at least discussed. This frees up in-house lawyer’s time while still offering ways for them to intervene as necessary when there’s an unexpected clause. 

“My rule is, if it takes less than a second for humans to think about it, it should probably be automated,” he said.

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Shane Schick
Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.