Data is the new gold. This is a phrase that has come to resonate with businesses across all industries because of the enormous benefits that can be derived from data. Data can be of two types: structured and unstructured. Thus far, structured data has been a favourite as it can be organised and accessed easily, can be used by machine learning and AI algorithms, and can be analyzed and mined to get meaningful insights easily. Yet, structured data is limiting because, according to many experts, 80-90 per cent of data that exists today is unstructured. Applications today are expected to easily integrate with others, move data around, take decisions based on data exchanged and in the process, these applications create a lot of data that loses the original structure that each individual application started with.
Unstructured data is any data that has not been neatly organised into tables, cannot be stored and accessed easily and cannot be analyzed directly to gain meaningful insights from it. This data may be partially structured, for example data in XMLs, JSON, CSV and such similar formats or could be completely unstructured in the form of text conversations, social media and web page content, qualitative survey answers, online reviews, emails and even images, videos, audio and other media formats. Most companies overlook analysing unstructured data simply because they think it is a tedious and messy process or due to the lack of right tools required to extract information out of the unstructured data. Not taking advantage of unstructured data means that a company is losing out on taking advantage of close to 80% of the data available to them. Take this simple scenario – sales and marketing reports provide us with structured numerical data about how much business a company does each month in comparison to marketing spends. However, what it does not provide us with are details of why businesses see unusual spikes or dips in certain months – something that could be revealed by analyzing unstructured data from social media, market sentiment reports, emails discussing the market trends and other such sources of information. That’s far better than just hazarding a guess. Ability to draw insights from unstructured data gives the business concrete intelligence to act upon and take actions to handle such spikes and dips in the future. That is where unstructured data proves its worth.
The most valuable benefit of unstructured data is that, if analyzed effectively, it allows you to understand and connect with your customers better. Social media conversations, emails and online reviews help businesses really identify what your customer are saying about you and then allows you to model your behaviour based on that to build a lasting relationship. Oftentimes, unstructured data is the difference between transforming your business positively or remaining stagnant with the same products and offerings due to the lack of innovation. It may falsely lead to aggressively pushing products on an audience that does not want it rather than understanding why they do not want it. In this sense, it allows businesses to identify gaps in the industry and innovate new products to fill those gaps. In short, it is far more beneficial to mine actionable insights from unstructured data as there is an enormous wealth of information hidden there.
One of the potential reasons for companies hesitating to analyse unstructured data could be that it requires qualified data experts to make sense of the data. It involves several steps that are not easy to do without the right tools and the right experts – extracting, harmonizing, extrapolating, organizing and structuring to allow subsequent analysis. It certainly helps to utilize experts with the knowledge of the tools and methods required to make sense of unstructured data. One of the tools that we and our customers have relied on to extract information out of unstructured data is MarkLogic. We at Impelsys, have a MarkLogic practice, run by MarkLogic certified developers who are professionally equipped to act upon unstructured data to generate meaningful reports out of it. The advantage of using a tool like MarkLogic is that it allows for the upload and storage of all types of source document formats directly. In addition to this, it has a default in-built search engine that allows to search for data without the requirement of an external search engine or from having to develop one from scratch. It helps with easy conversion of file formats, supports different languages, makes data retrieval easy and can be integrated into a wide range of front-end applications. A wide array of 3rd party reporting suites can be set up to be used alongwith MarkLogic to extend its capabilities to allow the data to be mined and get business intelligence out of underlying unstructured data.
Solutions based on MarkLogic can help perform a large number of actions on unstructured data, revealing usable insights that our customers benefit from. Every business across industries, irrespective of size, will have to begin analysing their unstructured databases if they want to start innovating and transforming their businesses. It serves as a bridge connecting you to your customers and helps you understand them better in order to deliver optimal experiences to them.
– Uday Majithia, VP, Solutions & Service Delivery