Are you harnessing the true power of unstructured data?

Traditionally data analytics has been performed on structured data. But it’s fair to say that most organizations have not explored the treasure trove of insights that can be unlocked by analyzing unstructured data.

It is estimated that unstructured data makes up around 90% of the data that an organization possesses. And that may be where the true value lies.

One way to put this could be that organizations can get an insight into “what” is happening and can happen in the future from the structured data.But the answer to “why” that is happening can be extracted from the unstructured data.

Recently companies are waking up to the potential of unstructured data and most research agencies predict a mushrooming of unstructured data initiatives over the next 5 years.

Unstructured data comprises content which is human-oriented like texts, emails, spreadsheets, etc. This doesn’t have any structure or format and hence it is difficult to process and analyze. In the face of a slew of data privacy regulations and given the added complexity of managing unstructured data, data management has become a crucial aspect for all the organizations.

So, what can organizations do to harness the value from this unstructured data?

The first step is conducting in-depth research about the kind of unstructured data available. This step will help identify possible solutions approaches too. Data lives on forever and whether structured or unstructured it is identified by its metadata. By using this metadata and tracking the lineage we can start understanding the nature of the data. Data is an asset but understanding the value of that asset will prove hard without a proper understanding of the metadata.

This suggests that organizations may have to develop specific skills to be able to achieve that level of understanding. Data analytics calls for a combination of data science, IT skills, and domain knowledge. For understanding the data and the story it is telling, it is imperative to onboard the correct stakeholders. All that while also factoring in the risks associated with data collation and curation and ensuring compliance to all the regulatory requirements.

With unstructured data growing at a phenomenal rate,the next step is finding a way to manage it. One reason many organizations are finding it difficult to manage unorganized data is that this requires different approaches and different ways of thinking to manage it. It may become necessary to adopt specific third-party tools for managing it. Managing starts with acquiring all the unstructured data and reconciling it in a centralized pool. This addresses the accessibility problem. Once it is centralized, the data can be made searchable. The ECM tools that can help do that have the added advantage of being able to make data available to the key stakeholders for analysis.

By this point, the unstructured data is on the way to transformation. It can then be mined for business benefit.

It can help increase revenues. It’s often said that that 80 – 90% of the data available with an organization is unstructured. The industry is also talking about getting a 360-degree view of all their aspects (customer, finance, supply chain, etc.) backed by data. It is only when structured, as well as unstructured data, is studied together that organizations can get that holistic view. This will allow them to unearth the potential for generating more revenues as well as discovering new streams for generating revenue.

Bringing in unstructured data has the potential for fueling a new type of data analytics. Once analyzed together with structured data the intelligence quality can be vastly improved. Social media content, customer-generated data, and customer support messages from the contact center can emerge from their siloes to be analyzed. Such data can become the voice of the customer. It can tell us why they are buying what they are, not just who is buying.

Sectors like healthcare are also realizing that unstructured data may be the key to the puzzle of improving the quality of patient care. Interesting use cases have emerged that show just how unstructured data can be leveraged for greater impact. The underlying symptoms of opioid abuse were analyzed in one instance to correctly understand whether a patient has started abusing the substance to drive corrective measures. In another use case,this approach helped identify several other factors that impacted the recuperation of a patient, like domestic abuse, homelessness, etc. Similar projects are underway to enable deeper analysis of medical journals, which are unstructured by nature.

As is apparent, many companies are waking up to the immense potential of unstructured data in data analytics. They now realize that this is where the real transformative impact may lie.