Well, folks, it’s that time of the year again! Gartner Research just released their Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management and for the fourth consecutive year has recognized M-Files among the top twenty enterprise content management vendors. Gartner also included us in the associated market “contextualization” for the midmarket and Europe, specifically noting, among other things, our established and fast growing business in Europe, as well as our solutions for highly-regulated industries, particularly where compliance with regulations and standards such as FDA, HIPAA, ISO and EU Good Manufacturing Practices are important.
In other blog posts, I’ve stated that this recognition from the analyst community validates that our unique approach to enterprise content management is being embraced by users and analysts alike. Interestingly, the theme of the Magic Quadrant is the “drive for contextual relevance” which happens to coincide with one of our core tenets, to provide “content in context.” At M-Files we often talk about the notion and value of managing content by “what it is” not “where it is,” and in light of Gartner’s focus in this year’s ECM Magic Quadrant, I thought it might be fun to take a deeper dive into why this approach makes M-Files stand head-and-shoulders above other ECM and information management vendors.
“If you do not know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.”- Yogi Berra
If I were to boil the ethos of M-Files down to one sentence, it would be, “M-Files helps enterprises manage every thing in their business. Now let’s parse that a bit: “the management of every thing.” The use of the two words, “every thing,” versus the one word “everything,” is important. We believe, no, we know, that managing files, documents, contracts, proposals, etc., “unstructured content,” as we like to say in the ECM world, is only part of the story. A truly effective approach to information management has to take an active role in the management and processing of other types of information, or data, what the techies would refer to as “structured data.” Without this other critical information it is impossible to truly deliver “content in context,” or achieve the overarching objective in the first sentence of the MQ: “The drive for more contextual relevance for enterprise content makes it necessary to think of ECM as a long-term investment in the ability to deliver relevant content to business applications.”
M-Files Harnesses the Power of Structured Data
For example, let’s consider one common source of this other structured data: a CRM system. As we all know, the CRM manages customers/accounts, contacts, leads, opportunities and related sales and support processes. By integrating M-Files with a CRM, the metadata-driven architecture of M-Files can effectively harness this structured data, as metadata, to establish relevance. For instance, a proposal is important to a given salesperson because it is related to the customers to which it is associated. Consider another example of a structured data system, an ERP. ERPs are involved in a variety of key business processes, such as accounting and invoicing, purchase order and work order processing, vendor management, inventory, etc. Henceforth, the ERP provides vital information to establish relevance for an invoice or a purchase order that is managed in the ECM system. The invoice has to be paid because it is related to a work order that is then correlated with a vendor providing services on a key project. Note that the only thing in this list that is a “document,” per se, is an invoice. Therefore an invoice’s importance, indeed its relevance, is directly established by information that exists in another system. Now consider other structured data systems for other purposes: HR systems, case management systems, the multitude of systems that management critical information in the oil & gas industry, such as data associated with operations, production, land use, geology, etc.
ECM and Integration
In short, it’s impossible to deliver on this vision of Gartner’s, the pursuit of “contextual relevance,” without effectively and efficiently integrating with these other systems. Further, duplication of content and information is a primary objective of an ECM or other information management system, this other critical data can’t just be copied, so a key requirement of a truly effective solution, is the ability to develop direct, dynamic, and preferably bi-directional integrations with essentially any other important business or enterprise system.
In fact, AIIM recently surveyed the ECM market on just this aspect, among others, whether existing ECM deployments were integrated with other core enterprise systems, in their 2015 ECM Decisions report, and they determined that greater than 62% of existing deployments had no — zero, nada, zip — linkages between their ERP/Finance systems and their ECM or RM (records management) system. And this doesn’t even address the notion of whether those linkages are efficient and effective when they do exist.
Folks, this is why these systems, i.e. ECM, document management, records management, etc., haven’t worked very well in the past. They don’t work, or at least work well, if you don’t do this. These linkages and integrations have been an afterthought, or at best complicated and demanding in terms of resources and maintenance.
If you are interested in learning more about how M-Files delivers on the promise of “contextual relevance” so that ECM “works,” stay tuned for Part Two of this post.
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