5 min read

What is the Best Content Management System?

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There’s a phrase everyone fears to hear in almost any setting: content management system. The problem is, they’re absolutely necessary. And because everyone is stuck using them, we’ve formed Stockholm syndrome-lite bonds with our ERPs and CMS platforms.

If you do any work with a team, a shared database essential — but as we all know, there’s nothing more tedious than searching through a database for a particular file — especially when you’re not the person who designed the file hierarchy.

The underlying problem is how database systems are inherently organized: folders.

If you’re tired of sifting through folder after folder looking for a single file, you’ll be happy to know there is a better option. That option is M-Files.


M-Files is a folder-less CMS that uses file metadata to organize files. Now, that was a lot of information for one sentence. Let’s unpack what that means, exactly.

Imagine you live in an alternate reality where Google, rather than providing you with a search bar, provided you with a folder-based system to search for content across the internet. Think about how much longer it would take to find anything related to what you were trying to find.

Let’s imagine that Google, using this folder-based system, allowed you to switch folder types to improve its search function. Say, for instance, you were searching for “places to eat near me.” Do you organize the folders by business type? By cultural origin? By address? By user rating? By distance from your current location? By brand? By product cost?

It quickly becomes apparent that no matter how much customization a folder-based CMS provides, it will always be highly inefficient, even without taking into account having to click multiple times just to enter a new folder.

To really boil down the essence of folder-based CMSs, the question is this: how many boxes are you willing to open to find what you’re looking for?

The problem is, up until recently, this was the only real option available. We’ve all had the experience of using our computer’s built-in search bar, and results are often spotty — and not to mention, you’re still relying on a folder-based system. You’re essentially just skipping clicking a bunch of folder icons.

Luckily, we don’t live in this alternate reality, and Google utilizes their all-powerful search tool.

So, what powers Google’s search functionality? Metadata.

Now, the following explanation is an over-simplification of how Google works, but for the topic we’re on, this will suffice. Essentially, every time something is uploaded to a public webpage, Google’s AI-powered “spiders” crawl the page, parsing through all of the data that makes that webpage what it is: HTML, CSS, Javascript, written words, image tags, the URL, the publication date, supporting hyperlinks, and user interaction metrics like time on page and links clicked.

By aggregating all of this page data, Google is able to identify what the page is about, what search parameters it is related to, and how valuable the data provided actually is. Google then stores this information in a database that is searchable using keywords a user types into the search bar.

This is essentially how M-Files works.


M-Files’ Google-like functionality is just the surface-level, however. M-Files is a highly versatile and customizable CMS, with the ability to automate tasks, workflows, and template creation, automate work reminders and notifications, facilitate version control, capture, process, and route documents, is mobile friendly, uses OCR to crawl and qualify unstructured data, and is capable of reading almost any file type.

Once again, that was a lot of information in one sentence. Let’s break this out and go over what this all means for organizations like yours.

You open M-Files like any program — and after opening, you are greeted by your personalized dashboard. Within this dashboard, you will find a list of your recently used documents, any documents you’ve saved to your dashboard, and files M-Files recognizes you will need to use.

M-Files uses AI-enhanced pattern recognition to preemptively determine what file you are going to search for before you actually search for it, and will place that file on your dashboard to save you time and energy. Consequently, the more you use M-Files, the smarter its predictive AI becomes, meaning your experience as a user only improves with time.

The customization of M-Files is virtually endless; this can be as simple as setting rules to determine who is next in the document’s workflow, or as intricate as setting certain document types to display the contact information of the client the document is associated with at the top of the dashboard.

These display customizations can be global, for a certain department, or even tailored to a specific employee’s needs.

M-Files also provides different access levels that can be implemented globally, departmentally, and individually, meaning you could set the head of your IT department to have control over all network documentation, but not have access to HR documents. Administrators in M-Files can change, delete, and edit documents they have access over, and set permissions for specific employees.

With M-Files’ version control, users “check-out” documents before editing them, and must check them back in after completing the edits, ensuring that everyone always has the most up-to-date version, to help you avoid knowledge gaps or legacy documents from going stale. And, if a change is made in error, the admin can always revert the document to any previous version.

M-Files can also automate almost any workflow that uses a document, no matter what file type you work with. When paired with a scanner, M-Files can read anything, even receipts printed on carbon paper. This allows you to digitize your entire trove of documents, saving you valuable office real estate.

In these automated workflows, you can create template documents that automatically fill in fields based on data captured using OCR, set automatic reminders for key players in that workflow, and even check the accuracy of the document without any tedious cross-referencing.

Essentially, if there’s a document involved, M-Files will automate, control, and collect data based on that document, so you can spend more time doing the things you need to, and less on tedious tasks.


There’s a reason this blog is named “the best” and not “the perfect CMS.” This is because M-Files’ greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: its adaptability.

Imagine for a moment you’re standing in line at a fast-food restaurant. There’s a patron standing in front of you, at the register. However, rather than ordering a “number 6, large,” they are asking for substitutions, subtractions, and additions. This means the cashier must input specific directions into their sales system, rather than pressing a single button. The order must then be communicated to the kitchen, who then need to pause to read the specific instructions, and create the customized order.

This is M-Files. If you were to purchase a license for M-Files today, install it, and open it up, it wouldn’t be very useful. This is because M-Files is capable of doing so much you need to take the time to set it up according to the needs of your environment. And because you can customize your data displays, without any set-up, you may be presented with extraneous information.

So, while M-Files is the most powerful, adaptable, and capable CMS on the market today, it also takes a significant investment to set up, and then train your employees on how to get the most from it. However, once your company is back up to speed, you’ll move faster and do more work than ever before.

To learn more about the inner-workings of M-Files, watch Folders are Dead, Metadata is Alive, or reach out to us here.

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