Steps to Unstructured Data Nirvana
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?