M-Files 2018 hailed as a ‘game-changer’ in the struggle against content chaos
With its new release, enterprise content management specialist M-Files is using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve information management in an age of rapidly increasing data volumes, multiple document repositories and more stringent security and compliance requirements.
In particular, M-Files 2018 addresses the difficulties of managing file retrieval and version control across multiple systems, highlighted in a recent survey of 350 office workers by Dimension Research:
48% of organisations struggle with managing information silos;
66% of office workers complain that different versions of documents are spread across multiple systems and locations;
40% don’t know whether they are working with the most recent version of a document;
23% have difficulty locating the most recent version of a document at least once a day; and
60% have difficulty locating the most recent version of a document at least once a week.
Julian Cook, Vice President of UK Business at M-Files, told PrintIT that to understand how these problems develop you just have to consider the evolving nature of customer relationships.
“When you first engage with a prospect, you might keep a proposal or quote in Dropbox because that’s an easy way to share that document with the client. Then, when you progress to drawing up a contract you might want to put in more control, so that contract might sit in a SharePoint-type system. Then, when you get to the point where you are delivering a service to the customer, you might hold the project information internally on your network drives. Many businesses struggle to tie all those documents together to provide a unified view of information that might be linked or connected but spread across different repositories,” he said.
“What’s big and game-changing with M-Files 2018 is our ability to sit across multiple repositories and really provide a unified view of information whether it’s within your enterprise or in the cloud.”
How it works
M-Files 2018 does this through a combination of a new Intelligent Metadata Layer (IML) and connectors to external systems, including network drives, fileshares and CRM, ERP, HR and legacy ECM systems. Once a connector to an external system is installed, information residing within that system is immediately available via the M-Files desktop application, web access or mobile app. Staff can search and browse those files without migrating data or impacting users of the connected system.
In addition, information residing in external systems can be enriched with metadata (properties and attributes), which enables M-Files to establish relevance and context when searching for information across systems. For instance, documents in a network folder or SharePoint can be classified by type (e.g. a contract or proposal) and related to other business objects, such as a customer account in Salesforce or a project in an ERP system. This provides a dynamic contextual view of the information while leaving it in place and fully accessible to users who don’t have M-Files.
At launch, M-Files 2018 has connectors to network folders, SharePoint Online, Microsoft OneDrive, Box, Dropbox, Salesforce, OpenText, Documentum, FileNet, OnBase, Laserfche, iManage, Docuware and Synplicity.
“We have about a dozen connectors with the first version of M-Files 2018,” explained Cook. “About half have been developed in-house and about half have been developed leveraging third party technology. The plan going forward is to use our partner community and eco-system to develop more. That will be an on-going process.”
The second big advance is the use of artificial intelligence in the IML to semi-automate the application of metadata to documents.
“Historically, when users put content into M-Files they were expected to determine what type of document it was, e.g. a proposal, a contract or an invoice. Depending on the document category, the user would be prompted to enter properties and attributes. For each document category there are usually half a dozen or so that might be relevant, but you might only want to make three or four of those mandatory. Users had to go through this process manually,” explained Cook.
“With M-Files 2018, we are moving from a manual approach, where we expect the user to apply the metadata, to a semi-automated and eventually fully automated way of categorising and determining the metadata relevant to the document.”
To start with, the IML will use artificial intelligence and machine learning to suggest metadata that the user can accept or pick from. However, as the artificial intelligence/machine learning engine becomes more accurate, Cook expects this process to become fully automated.
Even in its semi-automatic state Cook describes this new capability as a ‘game-changer’, and not just because it saves time and reduces the workload for users.
“M-Files has done incredibly well over the last three years because we have taken a very different approach to managing information. What we are now doing with the IML and the intelligent services embedded in that module takes us to the next level. When you have metadata applied to information in M-Files you can use it workflows and change the path of information and documents based on how the metadata changes. You can also use the metadata to determine who can access documents. AI ensures you automatically get the right metadata associated with a document,” he said.