Unstructured Data Explained
Unstructured data is content such as proposals, scanned images, presentations, faxes, contract numbers, or data from engineering drawings. This information lives in various files, documents, and other valuable media content that cannot be easily found in databases.
As you can imagine, this information is highly qualitative. It is subjective and can therefore be understood and organized differently depending on its specific characteristics. The subjective nature of unstructured data means it cannot fit into a predefined structure within an organization’s content management system.
Companies usually attempt to organize unstructured data by creator, format, category, and with other forms of data syntax — none of which can effectively capture the valuable information contained within the file itself.
Because unstructured data files don’t have clearly defined relationships between them, it isn’t always apparent how each piece of content fits together. Consequently, unstructured data is much harder to locate, analyze, extract, and use.
Common Challenges of Unstructured Data
Organizations are creating more unstructured data now than ever before.
With each passing day, companies generate more documents, files, records, and media content — and store them in various places such as enterprise content management systems (ECMs), cloud storage, and shared drives. In turn, the proliferation of unstructured data makes it difficult to know how much of it you have, what it is, where it lives, and how you can find it.
This poses various challenges for enterprises and organizations attempting to streamline workflows and operational processes.
Of all the data stored by an organization, unstructured data comprises approximately 80% of it.
The sheer amount of unstructured data makes it difficult to manage using standard tools and methods for data management — and it only gets more complicated as the volume continues to grow.
As discussed above, unstructured data comes in many forms, including: emails, text documents, drawings, design files, presentations, and so forth.
These files are difficult to identify, tag, and classify by name and metadata alone — and because there isn’t a common thread that links them all together and organizes them into distinct categories, it’s harder to locate specific pieces of information.
Lastly, unstructured data poses a searchability challenge.
Every business is unique, and there is no universally applicable structure or set of standards for storing or sharing unstructured data within an organization. As such, this information lives in many different locations across content sources.
Since there are no established means for organizing this information, it takes extensive time and effort to locate it. This negatively impacts productivity and costs organizations time and money.
Important Use Cases for Unstructured Data
Now that you know what unstructured data is and the challenges that arise from it, you can begin to learn how your organization can use it.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
Files, photos and other important documents such as contracts can be significant sources of unstructured data within an organization. Finding what you need, when you need it, to efficiently do your job is half the battle.
With optical character recognition, text can be pulled from images, engineering stamps, name, ID numbers, drawings, schematics, diagrams and other types of files that contain text. Finding, grouping, and processing these files can be more daunting than necessary.
Optical recognition is useful across multiple industries since all organizations need fast access to their data to extract insights, and make informed decisions based on those insights.
Intelligent Document Processing
Data lives everywhere. It’s in the cloud; it’s in your company’s databases; it’s on computers and the phone in your back pocket.
That said, the unstructured data you hold is an invaluable asset to your organization. It offers valuable insight into your customer and business operations, and if managed effectively, it can make your organization more productive.
Company workflows are chock-full of unstructured data, generating new documents and files every single day. While there is typically an established indexing system, it still requires manual navigation to find necessary files. As you can likely imagine, this is an incredibly time-consuming process.
Data management software can declutter your content servers and file shares by turning unstructured data sources into easily-locatable documents. In turn, you can streamline your organization’s productivity by locating needed files faster and making them more accessible.
Digital Communication Organization
Finally, analyzing your unstructured data can give you valuable and actionable insights into customer behavior and interests, as well as growth opportunities for your business.
For example, your company can analyze recent sales to identify customer behavior patterns over time. From there, you can evaluate which customer demographic prefers a specific service or product and use that information to narrow your promotional target efforts and refine your offerings.
In turn, unstructured data analysis gives you a sharp edge over your competition.
How Data Management Software Can Help
Unstructured data is only growing. It is a daily resource that drives organizational success. The ideas, data, and information in your company systems are essential to improve efficiency and performance, make informed decisions, and drive growth.
That said, you need the right data management tool to find, analyze, and manage your unstructured data for you to get the most out of it.
Step 1: Unstructured Data Discovery
Effectively managing your unstructured data requires the ability to sift through large amounts of documents within any given system or storage location. It also necessitates an automated system that enables users unfamiliar with searching databases or software to find what they are looking for faster than manual methods.
An unstructured data discovery tool is essential for such an endeavor.
The first step to analyzing your unstructured data is to define your goal. Consider what you hope to discover, what you want to accomplish with your analysis, what questions you want answered, and what patterns you are looking to uncover in the data.
From there, Shinydocs software can locate and collect your data.
Step 2: Data Governance
Locating your unstructured data is one thing — getting the most out of it is another. Getting the most out of your data requires software that can do more than just clean it. You need a tool that retrieves and analyzes data, gives you a visual representation of your data as it changes and grows, and delivers actionable insights to drive your business growth.
Shinydocs can do that, too.
Shinydocs software helps you find, understand, manage, and enrich your data wherever it lives.
No matter the size of your organization, Shinydocs can help you identify, visualize, cleanse, and organize your data from one centralized location. This way, you can understand what information you have and where it’s stored, so you can make informed decisions about how you can use it.
With the right software and data management systems in place, companies can efficiently organize and manage their information — thereby improving data governance strategies.
Unstructured data consists of documents and files that don’t fit into a standardized organization structure. This data lives on file servers, in email inboxes, and in shared drives across your company.
It contains valuable information that can completely change your organization for the better — if you use it properly. This makes unstructured data one of the most significant resources at a company’s disposal.
That said, analyzing, understanding, and organizing unstructured data is crucial for you to see the ‘big picture’ of your business. Doing so can help you problem solve, make informed business decisions, drive growth, and generate the results you’re aiming for.
Shinydocs is the key to understanding and managing your unstructured data — and your journey starts right here, with us.
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We believe that there’s a better, more intuitive way for businesses to manage their data. Contact us to improve your data management, compliance, and governance.
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This report offers an overview and a step-by-step guide for creating an inventory, so you can identify redundant, obsolete, and trivial (ROT) data and drive productivity.