Published: October 11th, 2018

There’s a growing appetite for new approaches to information management, and at least one Canadian company is reaping the benefits of its partnership with Finnish-based M-Files Corp, known for its intelligent information management solutions.

M-Files says $40.2 million in financing it recently received from the European Investment Bank will be used for international growth, channel partner expansion and R&D in Europe. According to Gartner, the content services platforms market has grown by almost 12 per cent in the last year. During that time, M-Files has grown by 40 per cent.

Long-time M-Files partner, Quebec’s Geomap GIS America, is riding that wave of success. After doubling down on its partnership with M-Files in recent years, and betting on AI to have a meaningful impact on the enterprise content management space, Geomap has not only achieved a Gold level status within the M-Files partner program, but it’s also become an authorized service partner in recent months, leading to a new subscription-based model for buyers and a tidal wave of new customers across North America.

Danick Venne, president of Geomap GIS America.

“For the past two years, we have made important investments in our technical and sales and marketing departments to increase our M-Files sales and improve our expertise of the product itself,” says Danick Venne, president at Geomap.

It’s easy to understand why. After opening its doors in 2000, Geomap, as the name implies, focused on building geographical information systems, or geomatics. Its customers span across public and private bodies that need help managing assets such as transportation networks, sewer pipelines and real estate.

But things became a lot more complicated with IoT and the increasing number of connected devices, so Geomap began creating clarity out of unstructured information by partnering with M-Files in 2009 – years before AI was accessible, but at a time when the number of types of files was growing as fast as the number of devices that was storing them. Suddenly, a greater emphasis was needed on what a file is, and less on where it’s coming from, says Venne. Once M-Files began incorporating AI capabilities into its solutions, bolstered by last year’s acquisition of Apprento, a Canadian-based provider of artificial intelligence and natural language processing technology solutions, and a recent partnership with ABBYY, a global provider of innovative language-based and artificial intelligence technologies, their M-Files business exploded.

Venne estimates their M-Files business grew by approximately 400 per cent last year, and approximately 500 per cent the year prior. Last year’s addition of an intelligent metadata layer to M-Files 2018 – the latest iteration of the core platform developed by M-Files – uses an open architecture that connects to external systems, such as SharePoint Online, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive. It automatically classifies documents and establishes relationships with other files across a system.

Graphic from M-Files.com, data sourced from aiim.org/research.

This was very very attractive to customers, says Venne. The Canadian National (CN) eBusiness Group uses Geomap’s services to display its railways and stations across North America, representing 72,000 segments of railroad map on Google Maps. Environment Canada turned to Geomap to help it manage environmental emergencies for the Quebec region as well as manage the shellfish areas of the St. Lawrence River. According to Geomap, the system replaced an older one and now allows people in charge from different organizations to share their data in real time to improve decision-making and emergency response times. The latest AI tools are improving those use cases and attracting new customers simultaneously.

M-Files’ new AI capabilities and open architecture has got resellers knocking on their door too, explains Trevor Cookson, M-Files’ AI product manager at M-Files Inc.

“The resellers are doing what Geomap does. They have the base M Files 2018, and that has a lot of modules that you don’t need for specific use cases, but then they add specific content themselves,” indicates Cookson. “And that’s why resellers like us as much as they do because the platform is extendable to a given use case.”

Cookson says researchers are improving the M-Files platform to get better at categorizing content such as photos and video. It won’t be long before you can search for gestures and hand motions to narrow down search results when looking for a specific video or image, he says, but they’re working hard to ensure this capability includes a strong business focus for enterprises. Most recently, M-Files added a hybrid model to its platform, giving customers the same software-as-a-service experience on-premises, removing the need to move entirely to the cloud.

M-Files sells through a channel of partners from around the world, and according to a previous interview with Greg Milliken, the company’s senior vice-president of marketing, they have more than 600 partners globally in Canada, the U.S. and in Europe.