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M-Files has some projects in the works that its users (and competitors) should take note of. The enterprise content management (ECM) system provider is looking to extend its infrastructure beyond the current system boundaries to locate and surface data residing in third-party applications.

Greg Milliken, vice president of marketing at M-Files, didn’t provide specific dates when these capabilities would be generally available, but he did tell CMSWire in an interview last week that they will be going out to proof-of-concept enterprises in early 2016. He hoped some of the extended functionality would be available by the end of 2016.

Building On Metadata

The move is a logical next step for the Dallas-based vendor.

Since its founding in Finland in 2005, the company has focused on managing content according to what it was rather than where it was located.

It does so through metadata. The metadata associated with any piece of content allows M-Files users to find the content no matter what repository it resides in, offering users a birds-eye view of all data located within the system.

“The drive at the moment is to produce business value from the data you have,” Milliken told us.

“There is ongoing disruption in the [ECM] market with the large proprietary systems continuing to lose market share while new emerging players are starting to provide easy-to-use tools that can be deployed quickly and used by everyone.”

Small Can Be Good

Milliken isn't the only one who has noted this. Gartner also pointed it out in its Magic Quadrant for ECM released in October. The report stated:

“One of the signs of consolidation is that some of the same vendors are falling behind on their innovation of ECM functionality as part of a digital workplace, allowing newer, smaller and more specialized vendors to fill the gaps. So, although there is less differentiation in the established players, there is also a myriad of smaller non-ECM vendors pushing innovative features into the market.”

Contextual content is the key to this, according to the report:

“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."

To respond to this, Milliken said M-Files is stepping beyond the boundaries of its own system, looking at ways to provide insights into content found in other applications from the M-Files dashboard.

“It doesn’t matter where it's stored, all that matters is what it|data] is and the context. We’re seeing great opportunity in generalizing our architecture so it is not just talking about data in M-Files anymore,” Milliken said.

By integrating M-Files with a customer relationship management system (CRM), for example, the metadata-driven architecture of M-Files can effectively harness this structured data to establish relevance.

The ultimate objective is to provide users one view of content and structured data from any systems they use — for example CRM or enterprise resource planning systems (ERP), or SharePoint, Box or Dropbox.

Effective Classification

A lot of this hinges on effective classification. For enterprises that have faced classification headaches in the past, Milliken said a project is in the works to provide automatic classification of data that will work like enterprise search, but go beyond.

The goal is to build a system that not only automatically classify data, but also finds existing, poorly classified data that has relevance to a given project. When it does, it will re-classify the data to make it useful.

Milliken said the company is actively working on releasing both of these projects some time next year and is happy with the results so far.

While Milliken isn't promising specific release dates, the goal is to release the first tools to market by the end of 2016, after working through proof-of-concept with some of its enterprise customers.

The development of a system that can examine and surface content in third-party applications is timely one.

Returning to Gartner's Magic Quadrant, the report noted that the disruption that the rise of new content types and business-specific applications is having on the market, requiring new ways to manage that content.

“Drivers in ECM for 2015 include the need to mine content for either internal or external use cases. These include scenarios where a more contextual or personalized view of content is desired."

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