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Even before the global pandemic forced nearly every business on the planet to pivot to a majority remote workforce, having collaborative software for document management and processing had become necessary for nearly every company in the world.
For many businesses, the debate about what software platform to utilize boils down to a choice between SharePoint and the various ECM platforms available. Within this article, we will look specifically at SharePoint vs M-Files—a rising star in the world of intelligent information management platforms.
Both have their strengths and weaknesses and score somewhat similarly in most independently run polls. So which is best for you?
To figure that out, you need to take stock of what your company needs now, how those needs may change as your business grows, and how your content management platform can facilitate that growth.
Before diving into the finer points of the M-Files vs SharePoint debate, it’s important to look at the main differences between the two platforms.
The most obvious difference is where these programs come from. SharePoint is a Microsoft product and can be purchased on its own or as part of your company’s Office365 package. The number of features you will have available to you will depend on the subscription plan you choose.
In contrast, M-Files deployments are configured and implemented on a case-by-case basis. When a business chooses M-Files, they work with consultants to create a customized platform that addresses both that business’s current needs and establishes workflows and processes to ensure scalability as your business grows.
Because of the level of configuration and variety of options that come with M-Files, the cost varies from company to company—but that cost covers a range of services from configuration to implementation to training and managed service.
Another major factor in the M-Files/SharePoint comparison is compatibility with other important programs and applications. You don’t want your documents to live in a vacuum, so it’s essential that your document management system software can interact smoothly with the rest of your software infrastructure.
SharePoint is part and parcel of the Office365 suite, so it will consistently interact smoothly with those programs. It also has functions that focus on interactions with specific CRM applications and business intelligence platforms.
Because M-Files is designed to be customizable, compatibility with industry-standard software is built into it from the start. Industry-leading programs and applications like Salesforce CRM, AutoCAD, Autodesk, SAP, and Microsoft products, including SharePoint, all work seamlessly with M-Files.
Both platforms are available on mobile and via the web, so when it comes to M-Files vs SharePoint online, it’s a fairly dead heat. SharePoint provides a UI that is familiar to those that use mobile and web-based users, while M-Files uses familiar UI elements to tailor online functions to a client’s specifications—including optimization for a broader range of mobile devices than SharePoint.
Though the SharePoint M-Files comparison polls run by several consumer groups showed very similar scores across the board, one comparison—from TrustRadius—showed that training team members on how to optimally use their platform is a point of difference.
In that survey, M-Files partners were lauded for their communication skills and the recordings of training sessions that were promptly sent out to ensure that everyone could go back to double-check the responses to any questions they had.
SharePoint was hailed for their 24/7 service availability and, because of the resources of their parent company, the ability to find service reps that could communicate in a wide range of languages.
Perhaps the most significant difference between the two platforms in question is how they make use of metadata.
SharePoint has the capability to incorporate metadata, but because of the way SharePoint stores files—in a traditional file, folder, and database table-based systems—many users tend to save files to their desktop or OneDrive because they just aren’t sure which library they’re supposed to use. That creates an IM management problem that can lead to compliance and legal complications.
In contrast, M-Files prioritize metadata usage to optimize discoverability and to drive permissions. By using metadata to categorize documents, an authorized user can search for the files they need regardless of folder or library storage.
Metadata values can be used to maintain access control so that confidential information doesn’t pop up in a search by someone who should not be granted access. This means that no matter where you store your files, with M-Files, the right team member only needs to run a simple search to find what they need, while the wrong team member won’t be able to view those documents that they are not authorized to view.
Looking at the primary differences between the platforms, each has strengths. But which should you pick? The answer to that question depends entirely on your business.
A major factor in choosing the best document management software for your business is the size of your company. An organization that is just starting out will likely have a smaller budget and fewer team members accessing documents.
But a successful business doesn’t stay small for very long, and as a company’s services and products expand, so does its document management software needs. More employees and a larger customer base will necessitate the adoption of more streamlined workflows and efficient processes in order to give your clients what they want quickly and effectively.
For a young company, SharePoint’s inclusion in an Office365 package might make it the ideal platform. But as they grow, its limitations may outstrip the convenience of its inclusion with other Office applications.
M-Files customizability, scalability, and use of metadata make it a perfect choice for a business that is on the ‘grow.’ And with M-Files integration with Office365, Salesforce, and SAP, upgrading your document management system software will be a relatively painless process.
You won’t need to worry about losing documents when you make the switch because M-Files is compatible with SharePoint. You can migrate M-Files to SharePoint—but you won’t need to worry about migration in the other direction because M-Files allows your documents to live in their respective homes.
Every industry has requirements and regulations specific to it. Your content management software should make compliance with those regulations simpler.
For example, confidentiality is paramount in the legal and medical industries. Failure to comply with confidentiality laws can lead to dire legal and financial consequences. Your document management software must have robust permission protocols if you work in those areas.
That’s where M-Files focus on utilizing metadata stands out. Having the ability to limit access to certain documents with metadata while also giving authorized users access to relevant documents no matter where their search originates means that the right people get the information they need when they need it, and the wrong people are kept out.
While metadata can be incorporated into SharePoint documents, the central nature of metadata to M-Files makes them the best construction, accounting, and legal document management software. The same optimized use of metadata that makes M-Files such a strong system for those industries with their notoriously strict compliance and confidentiality requirements also make M-Files a great choice across the board.
Whether your focus is professional services, accounting or construction, the metadata fueled search functions and version control afforded by M-Files ensures that everyone on your team is operating on the same page.
And because M-Files offers full functionality on mobile devices, they make industrial field service data collection far simpler than it has ever been—no matter if your field team is inspecting machinery on an oil rig, upgrading a client’s intelligent manufacturing equipment, or responding to a service call.
In the SharePoint vs M-Files debate, the way your teams can optimize their usage of the software is a paramount concern. Both platforms have a wide range of capabilities, so which actually makes things easier for your team?
SharePoint, for all its strengths, does have a tendency toward site sprawl and can require more governance to maintain than M-Files. There is also a greater risk of saving files incorrectly with SharePoint.
A team member that saves a document in the wrong library or only saves to email can throw off version control, lead to important information not showing up in a search, or even lead to a costly compliance violation. This is less likely to happen in M-Files because processes and workflows can be linked to documents.
And M-Files has superior functionality when creating discoverable objects. You are not limited to documents. You can create objects to represent clients, for example, which makes M-Files an excellent supplement to your CRM.
On top of that, M-Files’ compatibility with so many legacy systems means that implementation and migration of data will be simple, cost-effective, and easily accessible through the cloud and on a variety of devices.\
With searches that can pull from your entire data vault, workflows and processes built into the system to help minimize user error, versatile object creation, and programming that will pair perfectly with your existing software—including SharePoint—M-Files makes your teams’ work simpler and more efficient.
Choosing software for a business is far more complicated than picking a personal document management software system. You have to factor in ease of access, compatibility with previous systems, training time, customer service, how the software stores and sorts content, compliance with regulations, scalability, automation functionality, and more.
Your needs are unique. And those needs may change as your business grows. An off-the-shelf software solution may be exactly right for you at first, but as your success grows, a more robust platform may be required.
Document management is so important in the modern business landscape. How you gather, store, edit, and access your documents can be the difference between a company that runs like a well-oiled machine and one that limps to the end of every fiscal year.
The SharePoint vs M-Files debate is one that every company needs to have at some point. Talk to your team to see what they’re asking for. Talk to experts, and read customer testimonials. Both systems can be significant assets to your company.
The power is in your hands. Which way do you want to go?