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3 steps to make your unstructured data work for you

The growth of data still astounds me. In fact, ninety per cent of all data ever created has been made over the last two years. Pretty staggering! I suppose you could call this the era of big data. The major contributor to this explosion of data is the amount of data in an unstructured format, i.e. unstructured data, and stems from the massive growth of Internet of Things devices and associated applications like social media.

Through the Internet, people and machines are much more easily able to connect with each other or other applications for the purposes of easily and quickly creating or sharing information in a variety of formats.

And whilst there seems to be all of the data in the world available to organisations and individuals, capturing and trawling it for useful insights still proves a challenge. A study done in 2013 found that only 0.5 per cent of all data in the world has been analysed and a widely cited statistic is that eighty per cent of all business data is unstructured.

There is without doubt a clear opportunity to take advantage of all of this unstructured data and it is my opinion that those that move quickly to innovate and lead in this area will reap the rewards in the years to come.

Map out what unstructured data sources you currently generate

A clear plan starts with looking at what resources you currently have so that you are able to understand how to get the most out of them. This is especially true in the truly integrated environment that we are hoping to achieve. For example, if you’ve ever used anything like a survey software solution, then you will understand the importance of integrating your qualitative, unstructured data with your quantitative, structured data to get a complete understanding of your research. Other unstructured data examples include: email, letters, video, images, audio, and social media posts.

Outline the challenges that you want unstructured data to solve

Once you’ve mapped out all the disparate unstructured data sources flowing in and out of your organisation, you’ll want to look at how each data source can individually and collectively help to solve some of the challenges you’re currently facing. Perhaps if you’re a marketer or salesperson who needs to better tailor their messaging to improve customer/lead conversions, you would benefit from knowing more about your audience and their interests.

Understand what solutions are needed

Now that you’ve got to a position where you understand what this project will solve, the next step is to make the changes needed to your infrastructure to turn your vision into reality. This could be other software solutions that translate audio files to text or an analytics and data storage solution used to manage and provide insight on all the data you’ve collected. In addition, changes may need to be made to network infrastructure (for example, network speed or an increase in servers) to cope with the more significant volumes of data passing through.

Ben Edge, Digital Marketing Executive at Connexica