Why we are integrating with Box; Part 3: Considering Alternatives

(The third in a series of blog posts on why we are adding integration with Box, as an alternative to our old integration with Google Drive.)

Adding an alternative to Google Drive was never going to be easy; Kerika has a deep integration with Google:

  • Our registration and sign-in process was built entirely to work with Google IDs.; originally implemented using OAuth 1.0, and then upgraded to OAuth 2.0.
  • The product is available on the Chrome Web Store and the Google Apps Marketplace, so enterprise users can sign up and manage users using their Google Dashboard.
  • When users add desktop files to their cards and canvases on Kerika project boards, these get shared using their own Google Drives.
  • Originally, we had an integration with Google Contacts as well, although we dropped that some months ago since it added to the privacy baggage of working with Google.
  • And, until Google killed this service, we used Google Checkout to handle online payment.

Adding another platform would be a ton of work, and it would delay an exciting product roadmap of new features.

Ultimately, the strategic decision for Kerika came down to: should we add more features to our product, while staying within the Google space, or broaden the appeal of the existing product by adding another platform?

We concluded that the core Kerika product, as it exists today, was already very usable: we could see how it had helped users in a variety of industries and organizations, of all sizes, across sectors, and around the world. And, we could reach even more users if we added a cloud storage platform that didn’t have the privacy baggage that was hampering Google Drive.

Having decided on a broad strategy for the company, the next critical question became: which cloud platform would make more sense for our users?

We considered three alternatives:

  • Dropbox
  • OneDrive/SkyDrive
  • Box

We were initially attracted to Dropbox because of its wide popularity, which far outstrips that of Box or OneDrive.  We figured that if we were going to go through all the trouble of adding another cloud platform, we might as well go for the one with the largest user base.

But, first, we needed a plan of attack…

We started our process by first documenting all the functions of Google Drive that Kerika’s user experience relies upon.

These turned out to be a fairly large set, so we whittled it down to a core must-have set, and a larger nice-to-have set.  This gave us rational technical requirements that we could use to evaluate Dropbox, OneDrive and Box.

The most essential requirement we had was that the Kerika application should be able to manage permissions on folders, not just individual files.  Here’s why it’s essential for the Kerika user experience:

A bunch of our competitors offer a superficial level of integration with cloud platforms, generally at the “file picker” level only.

This means they have a button on their UI somewhere that allows users to pick a file from their Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. and add it to a card on a project board.

But this superficial integration offers no real benefit in a team environment: if you add a file to a card using just a file picker, other folks on the project team don’t automatically get access to that file.

Instead, when they try to open files attached to cards, on a board where they are part of the team, they must ask the file owner for permission — each and every time!

Kerika’s user experience is much better: when you add a file to a card or canvas, the software makes sure that every member of the project team gets instant access to that file, and that access is automatically adjusted to reflect their current role: Team Members get read+write access; Visitors get read-only access.

And the critical requirement was that the Kerika app could manage permissions on entire folders, not just individual files.

A typical Kerika board can easily include a hundred or more cards; in fact, some of our users have boards that run to over a thousand cards. Each of these cards could have several files attached to them.

So, if we are going to manage thousands of files for a single project, we really need to be able to create folders — and ideally sub-folders as well — so that we didn’t just spray these thousands of files all over each users’ cloud storage.

We also started informally polling our current users and future prospects about how they would view a Kerika+Dropbox vs. Kerika+OneDrive vs. Kerika+Box solution.  (The feedback we got was surprising…)

And, finally, we tried to get a sense for how transparent each of these companies would be — how easy it would be build a partnership arrangement, to have a dialog with their platform teams.

The full series: