80% of business data is unstructured; be it from an internal source such as a spreadsheet, or an external source like social media. Take a look at our steps and gauge whether your business is getting the most out of your datasets.
Step 1: Have a clear strategy.
Utilising unstructured data within a business can be both time-consuming and challenging, but is very much worth the effort. The insights you can derive from analysing big data sets are unlike anything we’ve seen in the past 20 years, but a data pool that large can be easy to drown in.
The intelligence provider IDC estimates that unstructured content already accounts for a massive 90 percent of digital data, most of which is in varying formats.
A key element to getting the most out of unstructured data is to have a clear strategy for the integration and utilisation of said data within your company. This is a given when dealing with any kind of data, but especially important when dealing with something as vast and new as big data.
As a business, you should decide what data to collect, how to analyse it and where to store it. Because we can now capture data from a million different devices and resources, there is the temptation to overindulge and go for quantity over quality. Therefore, always align your data sources with your organisational goals before embarking on your big data journey.
Step 2: Combine unstructured data with other sources.
Unstructured data can be a great resource when used in isolation, but certain types- such as social data- deliver significantly less insight when used as a standalone product.
A high-profile example of this was during 2013’s River Elbe flood in Germany. The Disaster Management professionals in charge turned to social data to help assess flood damage, deciding to use Twitter feeds to manage the situation and gain geographical insight into which areas were most affected.
This seemed all well and good, until a clever article (which can be found in the Journal of Geographical Information Science) suggested that had they used a combination of social media data and Hydrological data, providing insights into groundwater levels, rainfall rates and evaporation rates, they could have identified the areas with only the worst flooding, thus allowing them to direct their resources accordingly.
This is perhaps an extreme example, but it is a relevant one. Although using a single data source (such as unstructured) could save time, accuracy may be compromised. Combining unstructured data sources with more traditional data sources often provides the most well-rounded view on a situation, thus allowing for optimal analysis.
Step 3: Consider the tools you’ll need.
Finally, you should consider the type of unstructured data that you are processing, and acquire the tools needed to mine that specific type.
There is a plethora of Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) tools out there to help you extract value from your data and integrate it with traditional sources, as suggested in Step 2. If you are committed to using unstructured data then these tools are worth the investment, because simply collecting the data won’t benefit anyone.
If you run a call centre, your goal may be to sift through the huge amounts of auditory data you’re storing daily. Therefore you’ll need a mining-based computer system that converts speech to text, allowing you to search through the text and utilise it accordingly.
As a retailer, you may want to invest in software that mines social media feeds, so you can pick out certain text and see what your customers are saying about you without having to trawl through manually.
Hello Soda’s software PROFILE, for example, takes billions of data sets and packages them up into different segments, enabling businesses to understand their consumers in much greater depth. We make sense of unstructured data in such a way that it can be used across almost any business sector.
The possibilities are endless, and the amount of big data out there is growing day upon day. The 21st century has brought about a wealth of information for business to tap into; something that can be done easily if you follow the correct steps and maintain organisational data objectives.