Many of our clients use Salesforce for customer relationship management, issue management, case management, and all its other robust functionality. But one area where Salesforce might not be ideal is in document management. Salesforce offers the ability to attach documents of course, but there are a number of pain points.
- Non-Salesforce users can’t access attached documents, so multiple document versions can proliferate.
- Multiple content management tools reduce employee efficiency.
- It can be hard to find documents or to find the correct version of a document.
- Salesforce assesses additional fees for document storage.
Luckily, one of our favorite document management partners, M-Files, has a robust built-in integration to Salesforce. Let’s explore how this integration works and some of the benefits it offers.
The Power of Integration
The Salesforce integration with M-Files can be one-way or two-way. Most organizations find the highest benefit with the two-way option to maximize flexibility.
M-Files integrates into the Salesforce user interface, so there is no need for a Salesforce user to swivel to M-Files to access or manage documents. However, some users may prefer the M-Files interface. Providing users a choice of interfaces can increase user adoption and satisfaction.
Due to the richness of the integration, users can access not only the same documents but the same functionality from either Salesforce or M-Files. For example, I can create an account object in M-Files and access that account in Salesforce. I can attach a document to the account in Salesforce and M-Files will automatically assign the related metadata to the document. This allows users to remain in their primary application without having to move back and forth to accomplish their work.
One of the big advantages to Salesforce shops implementing M-Files is a reduction in the Salesforce cost of ownership. Employees who only need to access Salesforce data can do so via M-Files, so you’ll need fewer Salesforce licenses.
M-Files offers integration with Salesforce Lightening and Salesforce Classic, so users of either version can take advantage of M-Files capabilities.
M-Files offers a robust set of document management features to the Salesforce user. These include document versioning, history, ability to revert to an older version, ability to capture or auto-assign document metadata, document previews in the UI, document security, workflows from simple to sophisticated, and robust search mechanisms (quick search and advanced search).
One of the super-powers of M-Files is how documents are organized and retrieved. Unlike traditional document storage mechanisms, there are no folders. All data is classified by its properties. Views are groups of documents organized by their properties, and users can define their own views to personalize their experience.
Some Very Cool Features
M-Files has some great built-in capabilities that enable users to interact with content in easy, intuitive ways. As a user, I can:
- Access a list of my most recently used documents
- Select any document to preview in the preview pane
- Check out a document to lock it while I’m working on it
- View a list of all the documents I currently have checked out so I don’t lose track of what I have locked
- View a document’s version history
- Assign a document to someone else to do something with
- View any documents assigned to me by other users
- Pin any document so that I can have easy access to it in the future
- Duplicate checking warns me if I’m uploading a file that is probably a duplicate.
A Little Architecture
To understand M-Files a little better, it helps to cover a few definitions.
M-Files is commonly referred to as a document management system. But it might be more relevant to describe it as an object management system. Documents and document collections are built-in object types, but additional object types may be created and managed by an organization to meet its specific needs. Metadata is created and stored for any type of object, not just documents. The primary difference between a document and another type of object is that a document by definition must include a file of some type.
Two other terms that can be confusing are properties and classes. A class is a metadata structure element designed to help categorize objects, improve consistency, and speed up the process of filling in the object metadata. You can create new classes and specify properties for each class via M-Files Admin. Properties are be combined to create classes. For example, Contract of Employment is a document class with these associated properties: Title, Document Date, Employee, Keywords and Description.
Some Lessons We've Learned
Real life implementations of M-Files with SFDC have taught us some useful things to consider for your project.
- Document your integration use cases first! You probably don’t need to synch EVERYTHING in Salesforce to M-Files or vise-versa. Understanding what your needs really are will help control your scope.
- Ensure code complete includes both M-Files and Salesforce, because changes to one side can impact the other. Your definition of done needs to account for both systems.
- Generate interest and excitement in the user community with guided tours that highlight the versatility and power of the integration.
- Provide user training just-in-time instead of a big-bang training approach. People will learn and retain the new skills needed much better if they can get the how-to they need when they need it.
The M-Files/Salesforce integration is great, but it’s still evolving. We can look forward to even more benefits in future releases. What’s in the works?
M-Files is working to bring feature parity between the Salesforce embedded UI and the desktop client which has a lot of rich features, so that users will have even fewer reasons to swivel between applications.
Artificial intelligence provides a lot of potential to enhance user experience and remove mundane tasks. Improving and expanding the benefits of M-Files AI in the integrated experience will provide users with increasing efficiency and user satisfaction.
If you’d like to see some of the features of the Salesforce / M-Files integration in action please watch our recent webinar! If you’d like to talk to us about whether M-Files might benefit your organization, please reach out to start a conversation.