Category Archives: Unstructured Data
Data, by its very nature, is difficult to find and to analyze because it’s stored in so many places, with no way to search through it or correlate it across systems to derive meaning from it.
As a recent Fast Company interview with Coveo CEO Louis Têtu stated, people who could remember all of this information, and easily correlate it—mentally—were those who succeeded most often. However, the amount of unstructured data makes it impossible for an individual to know everything that’s occurring related to a specific topic, at any point in time. Add in social media channels which contain up to the minute data, and you have an unbelievably complex information mess. How can an individual, much less all employees in a company, gain insight from such widespread, diverse data in disparate systems?
Well if all of these systems could be connected to each other so we could all understand, assimilate and correlate the information to make effective decisions, provide great service, help customers understand more about our products, and even build more innovative products that contained customer input – from all of our interactions with them—well, that might solve our problem. But would it? Do integrations provide the kind of real-time information mashup that would be required? Not really. Even so, it’s not news that the promise of system consolidation has long eluded companies and we’ve all heard the horror stories about dashboards taking a year to implement, and then they are just windows into different systems rather than actual data mashups.
Every organization wants to generate Insight from its data sources, and many probably think they’re doing a solid job in this area. However, most aren’t gleaning the level of insight they could, and it could be simply that this type of technology is new to the corporate world, though it has been used by consumers for years now – just take a look at Yahoo! Finance to see what I mean.
Until companies adopt the central, unified index approach, they may continue to suffer from what we call “Insight Deficit.” Here are some symptoms that may be familiar to you:
- Employees are frustrated that they need to attend additional training sessions because they can’t see data in the right context.
- Customers are dissatisfied with long response times and feel that your company doesn’t really know them.
- Mistakes happen more than you’d care to admit because employees simply can’t find the information needed to make fast, accurate decisions.
- Products are taking longer to get to market than they should.
If you’re interested in finding out how to think about injecting Insight into business processes from customer service to engineering/product development and sales & marketing, you may want to view an eBook we recently published on making 2012 the year of insight for your organization. Please take a look, and share how you are leveraging today’s overload of data to gain better insight into your customers, projects, products and people. Looking forward to the conversation.
In my last blog we looked at the nature of mercurial data and identified two truths: 1. It is constantly changing; and 2. It exists in silos. Here, we will talk about what some companies are doing to use diverse and ubiquitous unstructured data to transform their businesses.
Monitor. This is the first step that most companies have taken to get involved with unstructured, social media data related to their business. Listening can provide certain benefits, too, such as helping you to understand what people are saying about you. However, listening without responding doesn’t do much for your business. Many organizations use text analytics on individual social media streams and communities, which again may be a good first step (Zach Hofer-Shall, an analyst with Forrester who covers Customer Intelligence, refers to this step as “crawling” – as in crawl-walk-run – in his Roadmap to Integrating Social and Customer Data). This analysis generally creates more data around a single data stream (the social platform) which is subject to data characteristic #2 – it is siloed, generally within marketing or customer support, and also #1, it grows old and requires updating. This first step is generally inadequate because it does not relate the social data (or other data that is being monitored, such as phone calls or chat logs in the call center) to other data that will lend it meaning and provide the insight to take action.
Integrate. Organizations can most effectively monitor and analyze—and take action based upon—unstructured data across multiple channels simultaneously—but only if it is connected. Historically this would have required system integration—which consumes too many resources and takes too much time. There is another faster and more optimal way, particularly considering the transient nature of data. A unified index of data—think about it as a virtual integration—is today’s best practice for efficient and non-disruptive data connection.
Analyze. Performing Multi-Channel Text Analytics on the unified index enables relationships to be formed among the unstructured data—in real time—to provide a much more accurate picture of what is happening now and to provide the key information for decision-making and action: Is this a trend? Should we respond to this and if so, how? Is it an individual issue and thus less relevant? Or is it an individual issue related to one of our most valued customers? Such decisions require insight, available only by exposing consolidated and correlated knowledge, to human interpretation. In these examples, the organization would have integrated and analyzed unstructured data from social media and customer communities alongside data from CRM systems, product defect tracking systems, email communication, chat, voice and more.
Importantly, the unstructured data must be presented in interfaces that facilitate human interaction: allowing employees, customers and partners to navigate and make sense of it, in effect to discover new ideas, new relationships and new ways to drive business, all thanks to its unlocking the latent knowledge capital. Today, there is a new category of software being established—insight solutions. These solutions are aimed at mining the mountains of primarily unstructured data to support business processes and presenting it in ways that enable humans to unlock its potential. And with this comes the ability to truly unleash the power of your data – no matter where it resides.
How is your company gaining value from unstructured data?