The fast-growing EV market is ChargePoint's for the taking — but only if it scales more quickly than its many competitors. Shadow IT and legacy network file shares couldn't support the growing business: the company needed a secure, compliant and easy-to-use solution to power business processes across offices and with external partners and agencies.
ChargePoint employees use Box as a central hub to work with external manufacturers, vendors and regulators. Sales reps use the Box and Salesforce integration to support the deal process. The legal team manages contract processes in Box.
ChargePoint has a quicker time to market because employees are more productive and work seamlessly across the extended enterprise. Sales and contract cycle times are faster. Risk is reduced and costs are cut by replacing specialized LOB solutions, file shares and unsanctioned consumer applications with Box.
Electric vehicles used to be a boutique market, but as more and more car makers have put out affordable electric options — Tesla, BMW, Nissan, Chevrolet, Ford, Volkswagen and Kia among them — the market has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Today, as we drive past shopping centers and downtown commercial strips, we're sure to pass at least a handful of EV charging stations, and plenty of us pull in. As a culture, we're starting to reimagine transportation, with EV cars and the "fleetification" of transportation as critical elements in modern urban design.
ChargePoint is a startup driven by (and driving) this exhilarating and swiftly progressing market. Helping consumers and businesses make the switch to electric, the company is rapidly building the world's largest seamless, interconnected charging experience to make it easier and more convenient for vehicle owners to charge their EV vehicles anywhere — a critical factor in making EV ownership efficient. "The days of us stopping at a gas station to charge are being transformed to charge our cars where we park," says Sasan Vossoughi, CIO of ChargePoint. "It's a change in behavior and a change for the better in our environment."
For ChargePoint, having an intelligent network is considered a competitive advantage. Only 10 years old but in a leadership role in the EV charging field, ChargePoint is now experiencing hockey-stick growth. Vossoughi knows that this growth must be supported by an integrated tech stack to enable today's generation of workers, constantly evolving internal processes and ChargePoint's global footprint.
Building a smooth employee experience with best-of-breed tools
In the early days, with the whole company in a single office, unified collaboration tools weren't seen as critical because colleagues could walk up to each other's desks to chat. But as ChargePoint developed a bigger corporate campus with multiple buildings and opened international offices, all of these different, sometimes redundant, hard-to-control systems became a hindrance to collaboration and productivity.
When Vossoughi came in, IT and content management were fragmented across the company. "We were in an environment where each group was doing something different," he explains. "Some people were using Dropbox, some were using file servers and some were using Box. There was a lot of content scattered about on laptop hard drives, and users were complaining they couldn't find things."
With employees scattered across the globe, Vossoughi says, "I've had to think about how to ensure that the culture of collaboration that we had stays intact, and support it with tools and a vision. You need to put different pieces of the foundation in place in order to build a way for employees to collaborate easily." ChargePoint's CEO had asked Vossoughi to look at eliminating hard drives on all employee laptops and find a secure, centralized solution for content collaboration. ChargePoint uses Office 365, so OneDrive was one potential option. But as Vossoughi says, "I haven't found anybody who says 'We have to have OneDrive.' It has a lot of limitations. It works mostly with Microsoft products, and that's not how business works today. Instead of improving our collaboration, it compartmentalizes our content into silos, and then we end up with the same fragmentation problem."
By providing a central, secure content layer, Box was the intelligent solution for collaboration around documents and smoother processes. Now, employees can work out of the various apps they're already used to — Slack, Jira, email and soon SFDC — across ChargePoint's best-of-breed tech stack with Box as a unified content layer. He explains, "Within an application, you don't have to come out of the application, you can just access content in Box from there. You're not sacrificing the user experience."
"The majority of a modern IT org is integration. Building on a digitization strategy today is not just about ensuring that ERP and CRM are integrated, but making sure there is a seamless integration between all apps plus collaboration, content and unified communication."
Sasan Vossoughi, CIO, ChargePoint
He has also introduced Slack for casual communication, and he's now looking to integrate NetSuite and Salesforce with Box so that all content will live on a single platform. Box, as that centralized content platform, will eliminate the risks inherent in using multiple cloud-based storage apps, and tools such as Netskope will help by monitoring potential unauthorized access. With all of the foundational pieces in place, the next step is to bring all of it together and use something like Workplace by Facebook to create a seamless collaboration and communication platform via an Intranet.
ChargePoint is still a relatively small company, and that's why Vossoughi thinks it's so important to make pivotal technology decisions now. "I have to tackle this when we're at 500 people instead of when we're at 2,000 people," he explains. "Going after this problem early and knocking it out of the way will help set the collaboration culture and behavior we need to allow ChargePoint to scale without compromising efficiency.
"My advice to people would be, most companies don't deal with unstructured content until later in their lifecycle. And to me, that's one of the biggest mistakes."
Sasan Vossoughi, CIO, ChargePoint
Building adoption of new digital processes by empowering users
At ChargePoint, technology is considered a competitive advantage. Beyond the ROI it provides by eliminating expensive servers and increasing productivity, Box enables workflows that support what employees need to get done. Seventy percent of the content sharing at ChargePoint involves unstructured content, so a platform that supports it well is critical, and so is giving employees a way to design and control their processes. Given that the company needs to be able to collaborate globally in a seamless manner, having a platform that supports content management and scalability is critical.
Still, Vossoughi believes in a staged implementation strategy that's well-paced, rolling out any new technology in such a way that the basics are done right and advanced capabilities added later. "We decided to walk before running," Vossoughi says. "People were chomping at the bit for workflows. We said, let's start with Box and then get to advanced functions like retention and workflows."
Prior technology solutions had been frustrating different groups and holding up projects. The legal team, for instance, had put in place a contract management system, but within nine months they were ready to pull the plug because it was too hard to use. Vossoughi's team demoed for them how easy it was to create and use workflows on Box — including eSignature capabilities through partner integrations — and they got excited.
Vossoughi's leadership style is to make decisions with inclusion, making sure to consult with groups on how specific technology solutions might best support them. He describes his initial actions at ChargePoint: "We started out with a bunch of meetings with different groups, letting them talk about their needs and share the issues they're dealing with today. We did that with marketing, sales, operations, legal, finance, engineering, etc." He's a big fan of the "show and tell" method of inspiring adoption: "By showing them the tool, we really were able to get people to say, okay, when can we get it?" He knew that asking workers to switch tools would improve workflows, but also that it would require a certain amount of effort — for instance, in cleaning up files before the switch — so he paced the change accordingly to make the transition smooth.
Marketing is another group at ChargePoint that's enthusiastic about using Box and, eventually, Box Skills. "They have so much digital content," says Vossoughi, "and now they'll be able to find and tag it more easily. The future of AI is going to be a blessing in the sky for them."
"We're an IT organization in the Age of Participation. We need an easy-to-use user experience to collaborate and communicate in the cloud, but can't sacrifice security, identity, privacy, storage, computing power and speed."
Sasan Vossoughi, CIO, ChargePoint
Security and governance can't wait: Why you should start conversations around both early on
As a leader in an industry still being defined, and a company that partners with manufacturers and enterprise partners on an international scale, ChargePoint does a lot of work around compliance issues, cooperating with government agencies frequently. Being able to share and collaborate on content securely in the cloud makes that kind of work much easier. Vossoughi says, "One of the biggest reasons for us to go after Box was because of Box being, as far as I'm concerned, the most secure content management software out there. That helps me sleep better at night."
Vossoughi works closely with ChargePoint's legal team and his CISO to enact particular governance policies and institute information classification. "Those discussions started early," he says. "Our initial conversations with Box around governance really helped us put together these policies and realize what we need to do."
Within Box, Vossoughi has set up what he calls a "top-down trickle-down system" where content is kept in folders with the correct security assignments. "The way we're setting up our folders makes sure that you don't by mistake share things in folders that you shouldn't. We took the time to figure that out with folder permissions. Now, I don't have to worry about usage and security, because we're doing it at the folder level." And Box eliminates version-control issues, too. It's now much easier to share content not just among employees, but with dispersed international vendors and partners.
"We're a pre-IPO company and we have to have these policies in place. When you adopt best-in-class tools, it forces you to think about these things early."
Sasan Vossoughi, CIO, ChargePoint
As ChargePoint's growth trajectory mirrors the trajectory of the EV industry, Vossoughi's role is an exhilarating one. The technology choices he makes are thoughtful by design — tools that don't just provide solutions to the immediate needs of the workforce, but integrate well together so the future is better enabled. With Box as a secure content layer underneath all the company's IP and regulated and non-regulated content, ChargePoint has a foundation that enables not just content management but also governance, workflows and future AI initiatives.
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