Extracting value from unstructured data within your organisation – what’s the point?

extracting value from unstructured dataUnstructured data often takes the the form of spreadsheets, presentations, Word documents, media files and emails – to name but a few. This unstructured data is typically spread across file servers, smartphones, PCs, tablets, cloud repositories, USB memory sticks, SD cards and other storage mediums. Not all of these may be held within your organisation.. Question is: What is the return of investment for identifying and extracting value from unstructured data ?

On the other hand, the value of structured data is immediately apparent  Without the repositories of structured data, modern organisations would not be able to operate. The world of structured data revolves around the concept of the database,  with clearly defined data fields, record structures and architectures. Examples of structured data  includes customer records, payment and banking transactions,  stock control, parcel track and trace and sales history – to name but a few.

Four of the 7 Vs of Big Data – validity, veracity, value and visibility ­­– are all highly relevant to your unstructured data. If your unstructured data meets these criteria and is not being utilised in your organization, ask yourself why.

Armed with a laptop, PC or mobile device, anyone has the ability to freely create files such as spreadsheets, presentations or Word documents which may contain valuable or sensitive information.  These files, together with other unstructured data comprising emails and files generated from devices such as Smart-Boards, are all adding to your burgeoning pool of unstructured data. Globally, unstructured data is growing fast, and  is expected to form the bulk of information retained within organisations.

As far back as 2010, the challenge for organisations attempting to govern and manage the Data Deluge was identified. Since then, the value of unstructured data held within organisations has continued its exponential growth.

This fragmented, unstructured data has some potential intrinsic value, even if historic. In areas with high staff turnover, or where there has been restructuring or downsizing, valuable corporate memory could be locked away in this unstructured data which could potentially be harnessed to underpin your attempts at being a learning organisation.

The net realizable value of the unstructured  data when collated, analysed and interpreted may prove invaluable to helping your organisation remain relevant in today’s volatile environment.

Extracting value from unstructured data – Learn from the master!

Google is the grand master of content search across the Internet. It has positioned itself very effectively as the information umpire. Without owning the source data and information, it has mastered the technology and art of presenting relevant and hopefully useful information in response to a request for information across the Internet.

Question is: How are you emulating this identification and  value creation capability within your organization? Who (or which team) has a clear understanding of your enterprise’s information and data taxonomies, as well as possessing the necessary technical skills in analysis and information interpretation?

Typically, a prerequisite for unlocking the intrinsic value of your unstructured data, is having a well designed and managed enterprise-wide Master Data Management (MDM) regime. If your organization does not have an MDM process, establishing one should be your first step.

The prevalence of smart phones and cloud computing adds another dimension to the spread of unstructured data across your organization.

With the shadow IT phenomenon alive and well in many organisations, and in the absence of strict technical controls and policies, what measures do you have in place to ensure your security controls are not porous? Can trusted staff save important files to a cloud-based storage service without questions being raised?

At the end of the day, the explosive proliferation of unstructured data is here to stay, and the proactive consideration of how, where and where you should manage this data should be at the core of your enterprise information management strategy. It’s not something you should pass over to IT to fix all by itself.

Turn unstructured data to your advantage. Ignoring its potential value is no longer an option in an increasingly competitive world.