M-Files Ready for Next Generation of ECM

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The recently announced planned acquisition of Dell EMC’s Enterprise Content Division (ECD) by Open Text has brought a lot of lot of talk about the changing of the guard regarding the ECM market. Along these lines, M-Files VP of Marketing Greg Milliken authored a blog post entitled “The End of the Beginning for ECM.” He senses an inflection point in the market “signaling an opportunity for businesses to depart from the old ways of the past, wherein the promises of ECM too often remain unmet.”

“Historically, M-Files has focused primarily on the SMB, but we have been growing our business and over the last two to three years increasingly getting traction in the enterprise,” Milliken told DIR. “We’re starting to play at some huge companies like Abbott Labs and OMV Group, one of Austria’s largest publicly traded companies. In those cases, we always compete against Open Text and Documentum (ECD). We’ve also developed a vertical specialization around life sciences and supporting compliance in highly regulated industries. Documentum, of course, has a very strong foothold in those markets, especially in life sciences.

“But, we’re seeing a shift in life sciences, like we are in other ECM markets. M-Files might not have every feature that some of the more established players have, but we have the core things users need to meet their compliance issues. In addition, we are finding our customers looking for more accessibility and flexibility. The idea is that the entrenched vendors get locked into their models and have a difficult time innovating without cannibalizing their existing business. This speaks to the end of the beginning of ECM as we know it.” [To be fair, earlier this year, ECD launched its new LEAP cloud-based content management platform as an alternative to Documentum, see DIR 6/10/16].

M-Files, which is based in Finland, has been making a lot of noise recently in both the European and North American markets. Fueled by two rounds of funding secured over the past three years (worth approximately $44 million), M-Files’ growth has easily outpaced that of most of its ECM competitors [see DIR 4/22/16]. M-Files differentiates itself through its metadata-based, mobile friendly architecture and its software’s ability to be deployed on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid manner. In Gartner’s recently published 2016 Magic Quadrant for ECM, M-Files was the only vendor to be recognized in the “Visionaries Quadrant.”

“When we compete against an established vendor in a market like life sciences, they typically aren’t looking to replace their existing ECM system,” said Milliken. “It’s usually a separate entity within the company that is looking for something new. And although, we typically come in at a lower price, that’s not why we are winning. Our customers like having the flexibilty of a client/server, Web-based, or hybrid architecture, our ability to support mobile devices, and also the notion that we offer them a path from content management to information management.

“Our world is not just about silos of repositories for unstructured content. On the other side of the equation are systems for structured data, your CRM, ERP, HR, financial systems, etc. Our goal is to elegantly, tightly integrate access to content to drive processes within those systems—as that is what makes the content most valuable.”

Looking forward, based on the architecture that M-Files is constructing, Milliken notes that it should not matter where content resides. “We are focused on creating cases or projects or matters that contain relevant objects, some of which may be documents, some of which may not be,” he said. “As long as the object has a particular customer name included in its meta data, then it should be part of that customer case, right?

“This is the type of productivity that a meta-data driven approach enables. If you look at popular EFSS systems, for example, they are a disrupter to the traditional ECM market. They’ve changed people’s mindset about content and how it should be available. What EFSS systems don’t do very well is manage meta data. But, if you take our approach and extend it beyond the M-Files repository, why couldn’t our meta data management be extended to include Box files? Whereas historically, we have talked about connecting M-Files repositories to CRM or ERP systems, as we look at the next generation of solutions, it won’t matter if the content is residing in Box or SharePoint, or even Open Text or Documentum. We’ve created an architecture to deliver that level of connectivity.”

According to Milliken, this type of architecture solves a couple needs inherent in today’s ECM market. “It doesn’t force anyone to desert their existing systems, so it minimizes what they have to learn and install new,” he said. “But, it also enables them to bring on new technology in areas where they have to innovate to keep up with the demands of the market.”

Milliken believes that going forward the ECM market needs to embrace this concept of information management. “It’s all about creating an integrated environment with key information being brought in from different systems and locations to address the needs at hand,” he said. “Our future is as a layer to make that notion of information sharing happen. And it’s not only about making data visible where it needs to be, it’s also about controlling permissions and rights around it throughout its lifecycle. Don’t get me wrong, we are still selling traditional ECM technology and doing very well that space, but information sharing is where the market is headed.”

Milliken concluded that there is plenty of opportunity as the ECM market evolves and vendors introduce their next generation solutions. “Each vendor has the ability to play and adapt and solve information management problems that are out there,” he said. “For our part, we are seeing plenty of greenfield with our approach. The challenge we have is to make people aware of what is possible. Once we get in and start to solve some of their problems, then the value really becomes apparent to them.”

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