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What if the X-Files Were in the M-Files ECM System?


Recently, Fox broadcasted the tenth season of the X-Files. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, an X-File was a case that had been deemed unsolvable or had been given low priority status by the Federal Bureau of investigations (FBI). The subject matter of these cases concerned unexplained phenomena such as the paranormal or extraterrestrials.

Many X-Files episodes depicted the main characters (FBI agents Mulder and Scully) in messy files rooms or unsecured storage facilities and using slow mainframe computers. Also, when they weren’t investigating in the field, the agents needed to spend time rifling through paper case files and perusing Department of Defense (DOS) systems to find context for their work and connections between cases.

Pretty much a model of inefficiency from an enterprise content management (ECM) standpoint, wouldn’t you agree? It’s no wonder it took Mulder and Scully ten seasons and two movies to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life and government conspiracies!

I have a theory—our protagonists could have confirmed the existence of aliens in one season (maybe two) if they’d had an ECM system. So, let’s explore what would have happened if the X-Files were managed in M-Files.

“The answers are there—you just have to know where to look” – Dana Scully

During its investigations, the FBI attempts to detect and classify the personality and behavioral characteristics of an offender based on the crimes and other acts that person commits. This process consists of several stages, the first two of which are assimilation and classification.

Simply put, for Mulder and Scully, these two phases meant gathering and digesting field data, physical records (unstructured content) and structured data from the FBI mainframe system. The methodology of investigative work depends on three things: good record keeping and ensuring information is findable and secure. Sounds like a case for M-Files! Specifically, M-Files could augment the intrepid team’s investigative process in a few respects:

  • The assimilation phase– In this phase, all information about the case is examined. This includes photos, witness statements, police reports and autopsy reports. Fans of the series know that one of the constant sources of frustration for the protagonists in the X-files is disappearance of files. Additionally, much of the premise of the series is built around information not being findable or securable. In season one, episode one, Mulder is unable to prove the alien abduction of some students—who were subject to tests—then killed when the experiment failed. The only surviving record of evidence (of a metal implant) goes missing because Smoking Man hides it in a vast storage room beneath the Pentagon.  If Mulder stored the X-Files in M-Files, it wouldn’t matter if the Smoking Man moved the physical files to a hidden facility beneath the Pentagon because the digital files would be in the system. And this M-Files deployment would have been particularly secure. Mulder, in his paranoia, would have ensured he (and maybe Scully) had role-based security and metadata-driven permissions to the system. And if Smoking Man were somehow able to gain system access—M-Files audit trail would have recorded the event. With M-Files security in place, Smoking Man becomes a less formidable arch-nemesis.
  • The classification stage– This stage involves integrating all of the information collected into a framework. Easier said than done for Scully and Mulder, as their information lies in various systems, paper files and hidden storage rooms. Over the seasons, the main series arc is that alien beings, assisted by a shadow government group, are planning to invade and colonize the Earth. Imagine if Mulder had all of his files scanned into M-Files. Then, picture him using its powerful search on keywords such as “alien”, “abduction”, “extraterrestrial”, “hybrid”, etc. In a few moments, he could begin architecting his investigative framework. Mulder could create custom views of case files unearthed through these searches—and from there, start to detect patterns and other similarities in the data. M-Files could also link documents like police reports to non- document objects like the aforementioned metal implant record. Basically, M-Files would allow Mulder to build informational context around his scattered records and disparate systems—enabling him to more efficiency solve his cases.

Admittedly, watching Mulder search through M-Files might be a bit less exciting for the viewer, but it’s certainly fun for those of us in the ECM industry to think about!