Looking back at 2019, it was a year of significant development for M-Files. That was the year we truly saw the transformation with M-Files Online — allowing customers to truly achieve instant cloud-readiness. And, it was the year we helped customers find the benefits of intelligent information management within their daily business applications — like Microsoft Teams or Outlook, or Salesforce.
But so much for nostalgia. Now let’s jump into the path forward for 2020.
Our focus for this year in product development is driven by five major themes.
Our metadata approach sets us apart from the competition. Our solution is truly metadata driven; everything is managed with metadata — from the documents themselves to the user and access rights, workflows, policies, app integrations and more.
On all the three cornerstone areas, 2020 brings in development that will enhance the user experience and offer new ways to automate office work. As cool as AI can sound, it all boils down to this: How can it help employees work more efficiently? Our new intelligence features will make the user the centerpiece of everything, assisting the user in the context of his role and task at hand. And, as an out-of-the-box feature, artificial intelligence is still going to be as simple as ABC.
2. Improving the user experience
Putting the user at the center also means adjusting to the way THEY prefer to do their work. This was one of the key initiatives for 2019, and we continue the same path in 2020. We will embed M-Files into more systems and common business applications. One more was just recently launched, when we integrated with Esri ArcGIS, a tool for applying location-based analytics into business practices.
On top of the integrations to other systems, we will significantly improve our own web client, offering easy deployment and ease-of-use in a modern and simplistic UI, designed to support daily work.
3. Scaling for more complex requirements and environments
As organizations grow and begin to embrace new technologies to deal with the exploding amount of data, it is vital to offer more scalable ways to run business applications — like M-Files — or to search for data in both cloud repositories as well as on-premises data storage.
Our roadmap for 2020 supports initiatives like multi-server mode, which will improve scalability. Multi-server mode will always balance the load for M-Files Online customers by offering high availability.
4. Improving service management capabilities
As we look at 2020, the M-Files solution will also provide better service to customers — improved cloud architecture, self-service capabilities and other improvements that help further our task to be the best SaaS provider of intelligent information management solutions.
Already, M-Files is recognized as a Visionary in Gartner Magic Quadrant for Content Services Platforms, the Best Document Management Software of 2020 by Business.com, and a Leader by Nucleus Research. User experience is very important to us, and we pride ourselves on the ease-of-use confirmed by numerous customers and reports — like the Top-Rated Enterprise Content Management Software for 2019 by TrustRadius. The new service management capabilities will help us further improve the user experience.
5. Enhancing collaboration capabilities
Collaboration seems to be an overarching theme in numerous discussions and articles. The new ways of working together in virtual teams call for new solutions for easy collaboration. People will always find ways to work the way they prefer, and unless the organization provides safe but easy-to-use tools for collaboration, people will do so with whatever tools they find.
Easier collaboration is one of the themes for 2020 for M-Files as well as we seek to serve the information-driven industries better. We will start to introduce several enhancements that will make everyday collaboration a walk in the park.
So – if 2019 was a year of transformation and going where the customers are, 2020 is going to be yet another interesting year with lots of new features and capabilities. These capabilities will put our customers at the driver’s seat, allowing them to stay even more focused on the task at hand while benefitting from the many advances of intelligent information management.
As more companies start to transition away from paper files and towards digital, the threat of data breaches increases as does the disasters that come with it. In 2018, the United States experienced 1,244 data breaches resulting in 447 million records exposed.
There are hordes of hackers and nefarious people that work hard to breach weak security protocols and gain access to important documents. But let’s not discount the less nefarious yet risk-laden instances of security compromise. What about employees who access files that they weren’t authorized to look at — either accidentally or on purpose? What about Alan’s termination letter that was left on the printer right next to Alan’s desk?
Depending on your cybersecurity efforts, your IT department might already be using the latest firewalls, malware detection, and anti-virus software, so that the perimeter of your company’s documents are always secure. Having a strong external security system in place to prevent hackers from getting in is necessary for any company to function. But do you have a system in place to protect your documents from internal breaches?
Whether intentional or not, an employee may have unintentional access to emails that contain sensitive information, get forwarded important documents, log in to a public computer and forget to log out, and many more possible scenarios that result in a data breach.
To help protect your files from internal data breaches even as your company grows, intelligent information management (IIM) solutions like M-Files could be your first line of defense. IIM solutions ensure that all your unstructured files, documents, and business processes are stored, captured, managed, preserved, and delivered on a centralized network for easy retrieval. Below I’ll discuss how an IIM platform can help you protect your data from internal breaches.
The whole takeaway here is that data security should be enforced, not only as protection from outside intruders, but at the document-level for internal security.
“It has long been realized that encrypting content at rest, and particularly content in motion, is the only way to secure sensitive and potentially damaging content,” according to this AIIM report. “But suppose that instead of building protective walls around places where sensitive documents are held, we embed security into the document itself?”
Permissions and Access
It goes without saying. Sensitive documents should only be accessible to those who need access. It’s easy to have control over a few employees and the content they access in the first stages of your company. However, for growing companies, the ability to scale permissions access can get unwieldy.
With M-Files, you can set access permissions for whole classes of documents and data objects, in addition to specific documents, and even for different versions of the same document or object – including assigning roles that give different levels of access to different users or user groups, such as managers.
M-Files ensures that information is accessible to the people who need it, and inaccessible and unseen by those who don’t need it or aren’t sanctioned to access it. Access permissions can be controlled by user, group, role, as well as any metadata property — no need for scripting with the flexibility to address unanticipated future needs. Take these two examples:
Employment documents. Employment agreements can be tagged to selected employees, making the agreement visible to that user, their supervisor and the HR department, but no one else. If there’s a management or organization change, just change the supervisor property of the employee and all related documents become visible to the new supervisor.
Sensitive project documents. When project team members are assigned to a project, all associated documents will be visible to only them. Brought on a new team member? Simply assign them to the project group. No need to micromanage and examine permissions for every piece of information related to the project. This approach simplifies onboarding new team members, and also makes it easy to allow external users such as partners and customers to securely access project-related documentation and participate in related processes and workflows.
M-Files also supports the concept of “faceted permissions” — where multiple metadata properties together can define the permissions of a document. In the project-based scenario above, for instance, if permissions are created for project group members, you can make certain document types — like an agreement or contract — visible only to project managers of the related project.
In regulated industries where compliance is key and audits by customers, vendors and regulating bodies are required, M-Files consistently enforces access control policy. M-Files enables businesses to easily prove they are following required procedures and follow regulations.
Audit Trails and Proactive Reporting
Audit trails and proactive reporting are useful during or after a data breach. You can use them to determine who has been accessing files, when they were doing it, and which documents they were after. Your IIM solution will notify you of any suspicious activity that occurs so you can attend to it as needed.
As an example, your IIM can notify you that a finance department staffer, who has access to all invoices, payroll, and tax-related documents is conspicuously downloading confidential information. The information consists of a few vendor invoices, employee payroll, and company tax documents while they’re on vacation, without notifying you of their intent. If you suspect something untoward, once you’re notified, you can block access to all documents until further investigation is conducted.
Sometimes we all hold on to documents or belongings that we should’ve thrown out. While hanging on to a few personal items isn’t disastrous, doing the same with company files presents risk. Although there are certain documents that a company must retain for protection purposes, not all of them have that same weight.
An IIM solution will notify you when certain content has been idle for too long and is taking up space. It’ll then ask you if you want to keep or discard it. If you have no more use for content, you can discard it which ensures that no one has access to old documents that still contain sensitive information.
In the past, we’ve discussed the importance of adding quality metadata for several reasons. Of course, better metadata will improve all aspects of search performance. Also, the right identifiers and tags can provide you with business intelligence, audit support, ideas for extra revenue streams and more. The real gold mine is in converting unstructured data into structured data.
Here’s a quick one-minute primer on what exactly metadata is:
Adding this additional information to describe your documents may seem like a big job, and that’s certainly true if you don’t use the best tools. Not to fear. Today’s artificial intelligence will help create and add better metadata with less effort. Plus, it will work with all types of files, including text, graphics, audio, and video.
How Intelligent Document Management Systems Improve Metadata Creation
Despite the obvious benefits of having high-quality metadata, the task of adding it to countless files and records might seem like an incredibly time-consuming and tedious process. You may not have the manpower to comb through hundreds of thousands of text, image, and video files to select relevant keywords. Even if you do have the resources, that might not seem like the best use of your people. Advances in AI and machine learning can minimize human effort and produce excellent results and in that way, AI is finally living up to the hype.
How Does AI Work for Metadata Creation?
This list provides a basic overview of the types of AI technology that systems use to help with metadata creation:
Natural language processing: These systems can process language in a way that’s very similar to the way people’s brains work. NLP can look for patterns in text, image, and audio files.
Statistical learning: This technology relies upon statistical models to help divine important information from large sets of data.
Neural networks: This kind of tech finds patterns by sifting through information with neural networks that are designed to work a lot like organic, brain neurons.
Deep learning: These advanced systems can sift through layers of information to extract meaning, patterns, and comparisons.
AI Can Extract Metadata from All Kinds of File Types
In the past, people associated indexing mostly with text documents. Modern AI isn’t just limited to text files. Case in point… Las Vegas face recognition can identify known cheaters and card-counters in video images. You may have also seen examples of this on popular social networks. Like when Facebook knows that family reunion photo has Aunt Wanda in it and suggests a tag. Language processing can extract meaning from speech in audio files. Combining various techniques will also extra tags from video files.
Thus, you can use AI to help create and add metadata to text, graphics, and video files. For instance, today’s search engines can index and categorize .MP3 and .JPG files as well as .HTML and .PDF files. An intelligent information management system can do the same thing inside of your organization.
Consider some examples from CMSWire of using intelligent systems to categorize various types of files:
Images: The healthcare field has relied heavily on image recognition technology for all sorts of medical scans. Other industries can use this tech to help categorize scanned documents, including handwriting. If you have deposited a hand-written check in the ATM, you have probably seen this kind of image recognition at work.
Audio: Common examples of intelligent speech processing include Amazon Alexa and similar home systems. You have probably also used voice-to-text to compose text messages or request searches on your mobile phone. This same technology can find patterns in your company’s audio recordings.
Video: Analyzing video files combines the AI tech that’s used to process images, text, and audio. For example, you might tag everybody at a meeting by using facial recognition of a recording. Similarly, you may set time indexes of a video to make it easier to find the exact moment when a certain topic got discussed.
Humans Still Make AI-Assisted Metadata Creation Better
AI can help reduce effort and, in some cases, improve the quality of your metadata. Mostly, intelligent systems can make projects possible that you may lack the time or funds to accomplish quickly if you had to do them manually. Even better, these systems learn as they work, so they can provide increasingly better and more useful results over time. Since the machines never get tired or bored, they can also help minimize and eliminate the kinds of mistakes that people are prone to making.
Here’s a simple example: How fast could the fastest data worker look through 500 documents to find instances of social security numbers and then tag those documents as sensitive? Maybe a few days. Intelligent information management AI can do it in minutes, if not seconds. That’s the kind of power we’re talking about here.
You should still involve various stakeholders to determine which kinds of metadata you need, in order to create rules within the system and verify results. You can use these rules to help direct both the intelligent software and your quality control teams. Basically, the higher the risk of specific information, the more you may need to rely upon people to normalize the intelligence with governance rules and quality verification.
You might prioritize various kinds of information, so you can devote more time to the specific documents that carry the most value and associated risks. Also, you might start testing your smart systems with low-priority information, so both you and your AI system can learn to work together better.
See Intelligent Metadata Creation in Action
You don’t have to wait for future technology to involve intelligent computer systems in information management. Here at M-Files, we eager to offer you a free trial or a walk-through to answer your questions.
Artificial intelligence (AI) digital transformation refers to using machine intelligence to help solve problems and work more efficiently. According to Xerox, 46% of employees of small- and medium-sized businesses still waste time on inefficient, paper-related workflows, daily. That means that smart document management systems can do plenty to improve these processes.
Companies that already employ sophisticated document management systems gain a competitive edge. The good news is that these smart tools may help most when organizations haven’t relied much upon tech in the past and need to catch up. Even better, smart document management systems have grown accessible and useful for all sizes and types of businesses.
5 Vital Efficiency Boosts from AI in Document Management
Many organizations and industries still struggle with paper documents. Even if the company doesn’t generate them, they may need to use paper forms from the government or business partners. Also, some businesses have moved away from physical paper. At the same time, they may have only made a small step towards digitization by attaching spreadsheets or scanned forms to emails and storing them on various disk drives in random, disorganized ways. All these practices waste time because they can result in the sort of poor data management that causes redundant, incorrect, lost, and insecure documents.
In contrast, consider just a few revolutionary ways that using AI in document management systems like M-Files can speed up and improve the integrity of common business practices:
Automate manual processes. After scanning or entering the document, the AI system can automate a lot of the drudgery while enforcing good standards. Examples include using smart systems to help categorize and tag entries, so they’re easy to find next time. This ability can speed up the initial digitalization efforts and help with future tasks. As employees use the system, efficient searches often rely on correct tagging and categorizing documents, but this is one area that’s often neglected at the time the information gets entered. Even if the system doesn’t automatically tag and categorize, it can enforce preset rules to ensure employees do this extra bit of work when submitting new ones.
Speed up business intelligence: Smart systems can speed up business intelligence. For instance, AI can spot patterns in very large sets of data much faster than people can. As one example, a hiring manager might search through resumes with an intelligent system that will find keywords associated with successful people hired in the past or based on preset rules. Another example could include looking for seasonal sales trends from past invoices or orders.
Applying structure to unstructured data. IT people are used to seeing data organized into formatted databases or reports. Nobody can expect that kind of organization in most documents. Instead, communication often arrives in the form of emails, text messages, letters, or another organization’s forms. In the past, people needed to comb through these kinds of communication to pull out and organize information. Today, intelligent data management can do a lot of heavy lifting. As an example, the Adobe blog mentions a superb use case:
“In a more dramatic example, some companies are using AI and machine learning to scour emails, texts, and other customer communications to understand words, semantics, and sentiments, and connect that data with billing and service history to predict who will buy what products and services. Most remarkably, these models regularly outperform models that use structured data only.”
Streamline document preparation. Instead of having to teach employees how to correctly format various documents, the AI can simply request the information for unique, new documents. For instance, the system can automatically generate an employment contract for new hires, based on the employee’s name and other information it already has from the recruiting process.
Enhance document security. AI’s ability to secure information may prove one of its biggest benefits. The document management system can automatically scan for sensitive information and flag any documents that contain it. Even better, the software can detect unusual requests for private data and prevent access or alert security teams. According to Market Watch, many of today’s cyber threats come from inside jobs, either intentionally or unintentionally. AI can offer a powerful weapon against all sorts of threats to datasecurity.
Improve data quality. The smart document management system can help reduce data redundancy, catch input errors, and keep files from getting misplaced. Businesses need good data for efficient decision-making and business processing, and that’s another feature that AI can supply.
Document-Based Digital Transformation Can Streamline Most Businesses
From legal teams needing to parse discovery documents to retail stores that must predict sales trends, AI in document management can improve efficiency in revolutionary ways. It can bring order to chaos, deliver useful insights, and even help prevent such common occurrences as data entry errors. To make the most of your valuable data, you should consider getting some assistance from a smart document management system.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning already impact our everyday lives. These technologies mostly work so seamlessly with our daily experiences that we barely notice. For instance, machine intelligence powers the digital assistant people use on their phones, movie suggestions on streaming websites, and filters in email. In another generation, it’s possible to imagine that people will consider such revolutions as self-driving cars just as ordinary as their recommended movies on Netflix. Yet, according to CIO Magazine, AI and machine learning are just now making inroads into corporate IT departments.
AI, Machine Learning, and the Changing Roles of Chief Information Officers
In the CIO article cited above, Dave Wright serves as the CIO of Service Now. He said, in the past, his role as Chief Information Officer served to guide, build, and maintain a company’s tech infrastructure. These days, that role has evolved to focus more upon strategizing ways to use technology to benefit his organization. For instance, the CIO may not always choose to expand or even keep their own internal IT infrastructure as much as survey existing technology to see what the business can use to meet its business goals.
Sometimes, this role may involve shrinking the company’s own computing power and partnering more with providers who offer the best solutions. If companies don’t have the resources to develop their own intelligent systems, they can rely upon trusted third parties for solutions.
Facing Internal Resistance to Artificial Intelligence
Wright understands that some members of the IT or other departments may fear changes, specifically the adoption of machine learning and AI. They have concerns that they will detract from their own duties. As was the case during the first days of digital transformation, these technologies seldom remove jobs but allow people performing those functions to work more productively in a way that supports their organization’s true business goals. While it’s up to CIOs to explore solutions, they also need to communicate the benefits of those solutions to their employees and other executives.
AI’s Penetration into Today’s Businesses
Right now, according to the survey CIO Magazine reported upon, almost 90% of companies do use AI and machine learning in some fashion. However, about 66% of the businesses surveyed are only researching or piloting these new smart technologies. Only about 23% responded that they either used machine intelligence either in several parts of all of their business. Wright believes that most businesses will start by using AI to help interpret and organize information. Only after they feel comfortable with that aspect, will more businesses move to using it to solve problems and later, to anticipate and remediate them.
AI vs. Machine Intelligence
As a note, sometimes people use artificial intelligence and machine learning interchangeably. Artificial intelligence describes computer systems that use their algorithms to mimic human decision-making ability. Machine learning describes a type of artificial intelligence that can use information to adapt its algorithm based upon the information that it receives. In that way, machine learning refers to a kind of artificial intelligence.
Why Cleaning Up Bad Data Matters for Effectively Using AI
As we experience the Information Age, people sometimes refer to data as the new “oil” because of its value. As companies collect more and more information, they increasingly wrestle with problems of data quality. Without proper management, information gets corrupted because its obsolete, redundant, or simply in error. As CMSWire pointed out, new compliance rules like GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act also can turn the problem into a regulatory hazard.
Mostly, Wright emphasized that artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies will only work as well as the information that they receive. Luckily, businesses can find an intelligent solution to help them with that task as well. Gartner says that machine-augmented data management will grow common within many organizations. In other words, AI can provide the solution to making certain that it can get the best possible information to base its processing upon.
Why Are CIOs Exploring the Benefits of AI and Machine Intelligence?
Increasingly, high-tech companies are offering smart features to consumers to help them make better and faster choices or to do things more efficiently and safely. It only makes sense that businesses can find plenty of ways to employ this technology to improve their own business processes. Even better, AI tech providers can help level the playing field, so that businesses without the resources to develop their own tech can still access it. These intelligent machines can help companies reduce threats and enjoy more value from the increasingly large amounts of information that they collect.
Given the current state of affairs, over the next few months, a large chunk of people will start to experience the reality of remote work, though, and I hope that the experience is a positive one for them. I also hope that it’s a positive one for businesses, and that flexible work arrangements are made available to more people in the future.
I want to share some quick tips for those starting to do this, regardless of where you sit within an organization. Let’s split this down into the two main constituent parts: the technology and the social/practical issues.
The Technology Behind Remote Work
Technology is what really underpins remote workers, so let’s look at a few pointers that can really help you work. If you work from home, most companies want to make sure that you’re productive (in some regions they may even have legal obligations to follow as well). If you are lacking some technology to keep/make you productive, make sure you ask for it! Upgrading your broadband service, improving your WiFi (or converting to a wired connection), getting a webcam, getting a good chair, a separate monitor or laptop dock — these are all things that your manager may be able to help you with.
If you don’t ask, then you don’t receive.
Use the best medium for each form of contact. Often this will simply be phone calls or emails to the people you’d normally go and find in the office but remember that Microsoft Teams (and others) can be used to easily schedule group video calls to replace face-to-face meetings. For content that doesn’t necessarily need immediate response (or perhaps needs input from multiple people), then look at email or internal message-board systems such as Yammer. And while I mention email: take a glance over these email etiquette rules and discuss making your own ones with colleagues. One of my favorite email “rules” is to use CC for “notifying” people about things that are happening where their direct input is unnecessary; I can then have an automatic rule to file these out of my inbox so that I can look through them when I get time.
Try and keep your work and private spaces separate, and I apply that rule to both technology and physical space (if you can). Don’t use your home laptop to work on company documents, as doing so may expose your company either to security issues (enterprise machines are locked down / monitored / secured / remote-wipeable for a reason), or to GDPR concerns. If you need to work remotely, find out what options are available from your manager or IT department. These may include switching you to a company laptop, or them providing a thin-client interface for you to access your work system from home. A separate physical workspace allows you to mentally disconnect from work outside of your work hours, otherwise you’ll constantly feel the need to dip in and out.
Most email doesn’t need to be responded to immediately. Some does, of course, but most does not. Glance at each email individually and assign them a severity. If it arrives at 6pm and can wait until 9am tomorrow, then leave it until then. It probably goes without saying that personal situations can affect how you respond to emails, so re-read anything you write after having told the kids off (or having had that glass of wine in the evening!), especially if the email is going outside the company or to your boss.
Make sure that you have remote access to the information that you need. While large chunks of information are often in our email (far too much information, if you talk to people in the know), make sure that access to Customer Relationship Management, Enterprise Resource Planning and Information Management systems can be done from home. This includes information that may be held on network shares. Speak to your IT department about what options they have in place to help with this, such as a VPN (shameless plug: and/or speak to us at M-Files about how our Intelligent Metadata Layer could help).
What about Those Social and Practical Issues?
For most people the main difference they will find is that they are suddenly less connected with their colleagues, both at a professional and personal level. While it’s now less likely that your boss will come in for a “quick chat”, you will also not bump into people in the kitchen to say hello, or overhear what’s happening in that project you were interested in.
Keeping involved with colleagues will require changes to your behavior. You’ll love having more time to focus on tasks but ensure that you schedule some meetings with your teammates or friends at times that are convenient for everyone. Remember that they too may now have childcare issues or need to nip out to support vulnerable friends or family, so be flexible with times.
Don’t worry about life getting in the way. This is of increased importance in the current situation where all members of a family may be working in a confined space. If your kids need you then they need you; it is better to take 10 minutes to sort them out and then return to concentrating than it is for them to argue, grumble and affect your ability to work all morning. Discuss any issues such as childcare with your manager and see what options there may be to flex the specific times you work so that you can share the monitoring of the kids with a partner, friends or family.
Time management is one of the things that I found hardest when I started working from home, although perhaps not in the way that most people might expect. In my role, I will often get emails from APAC early in the morning, and emails from the Americas into the evening. It’s very easy to start going through your emails in bed when you wake up, and to continue answering them until late in the evening. Ignoring the contractual side of things, this isn’t good for your mental health.
Schedule some breaks throughout the day and make sure that you take them. These can be as simple as making sure that you make a cup of tea or go downstairs and chat with the kids for ten minutes. Better would be to get out of the house and go for a 30-minute stroll. Trust me, you’ll feel much more refreshed. To help with time management, check whether you can alter the hours that your mobile device synchronizes your work email so that you don’t get interrupted with emails at 11pm.
Will it Continue?
While the current worldwide situation has thrust a significant portion of the workforce into uncharted territory, I hope some of the tips above can help you maintain your work-life balance, and also help businesses continue to get value from employees who are adjusting to this new way of working.
Provided this works for both parties, I strongly hope that this opens the door for more people to work remotely in the future.