M-Files cloud-based products got its start almost exactly seven years ago when Motive Systems, a Dallas, Tex.-based document management vendor, introduced a new, cloud-based, information management platform. At the time, M-Files was attempting, alongside the other cloud-based solutions, most notable Box, to disrupt the very traditional document management solutions from the likes of Documentum. They were also, it must be said, looking to disrupt themselves – after all, Motive Systems, the company behind M-Files, first came up with a document management system way back in 2005.

Since those early days, M-Files has continued its attempt to be a unified document management platform, bringing together content no matter where it resides – network folders, SharePoint, file sharing services, ECM systems, CRM, ERP and other business systems and repositories – the idea being to let existing data remain in its existing location, but to remove siloes by offering a document management fabric across all those different locations.

Today, the Finnish founded, but now Dallas-based, company has grown to service thousands of customer globally and has attracted close to $50 million in venture funding. Meanwhile, the document management space has gotten even busier: Box had a successful IPO, Egnyte looks likely to do so soon, platform plays from Microsoft and Google have grown exponentially, and even the legacy vendors are trying hard. There has been the odd failure – in particular, the recent fire sale of Huddle – but generally speaking, the space has grown, off the back of the very real value that the cloud brings to content and collaboration.

Finding added value

Content management, while an important enterprise function, is plumbing – something that has to be done but which isn’t exactly… exciting. As such, everyone is trying to find ways to differentiate and add value on top of that plumbing.One area that most of these vendors have attempted to do so is via the application of artificial intelligence/machine learning – either to surface the most relevant content to a user or to do smart things like automatically move content to wherever a particular user might be located.

Whatever the use case, artificial intelligence is a key enabler for adding value on top of these platforms. Some vendors have relied on third parties to build out this functionality, while other have made strategic acquisitions to do so. An example of the latter comes today with the announcement that M-Files is acquiring Apprento in order to bolder its artificial intelligence capabilities.

Who is Apprento?

Apprento is a Canadian-based provider of artificial intelligence and natural language processing technology solutions. The company’s technology automatically draws intelligence from text in unstructured content, which streamlines the process of classifying, processing and securing business information while also providing contextual insights on related content assets and workflows. The Apprento Business Context Engine employs natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) capabilities to understand both semantics and concepts in content and communication systems.

Founded in 2012, Apprento is a small, privately-held company whose main focus to date would see to be the surfacing of contextual information within email. The reality is, however, that deriving context from email is the same problem set as deriving context from other documents and hence the Apprento technology should be readily applicable to M-Files’ product.

Multiple AI initiatives

This acquisition isn’t the start of M-Files AI forays, it backs up a recently-announced partnership with ABBYY, a global provider of innovative language-based and artificial intelligence technologies. it is also a ploy for M-Files to gain some attention in a space that is both incredibly busy, and particularly attentive to the industry darling, Box (not to mention its charismatic CEO, Aaron Levie.) In talking about the deal, Miika Mäkitalo, CEO at M-Files talks about the future of content management:

Business leaders, industry analysts and others who follow our industry all agree that traditional approaches and solutions for managing information are inadequate and that a new and more intelligent approach is required. Our acquisition of Apprento coupled with our recent partnership with ABBYY reinforces our commitment to deliver human-like intelligence to the massive volume of unstructured content that resides within disconnected systems and repositories in the typical enterprise.

MyPOV

Content management is simple plumbing, and while plumbing might be critical, it doesn’t exactly get people excited. While AI is certainly the buzzword du jour, beyond the hype, there is some very real utility to be gained by applying AI to the ever-increasing quantity of documents that these management platforms have sitting within them. This looks like a smart acquisition – it will be interesting to see what M-Files does with it.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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