Unstructured data is a gold mine for businesses. In my last article, I discussed the nature of unstructured data, and which tools businesses can use to extract value from it. Here, we’ll look at the real-world benefits of harnessing unstructured data and what it can do for your business.
Unstructured data may be more difficult to collect, process, search, and analyse than its structured counterpart, but, as we’ll see, making use of it can bring numerous benefits, from streamlining vital business processes to aiding smarter and faster decision making.
Aiding Security and Compliance
Identifying and then labeling data according to classifications is crucial for data security as well as for compliance. Yet, it is nearly impossible to protect data effectively if you don’t know where it is or what form it is in.
Most data security programs prioritize the protection of a company’s most valuable and sensitive information. To identify the most valuable assets, it’s necessary to take into account all possible data sets. That includes unstructured data.
For example, your company might put a premium on protecting its patents. But what if information that supports your patent applications is spread out across your entire enterprise? Documents buried in file drives and cloud volumes might hold rich intellectual property, such as engineering drawings and research reports. This vital unstructured data remains unprotected, leaving your business vulnerable. To protect your intellectual property (IP) in its entirety, unstructured data must be included in any data classification process.
Compliance presents a similar use case. Analysis of unstructured data is required by regulations like the HIPAA law, which protects patient privacy, and the GDPR and CCPA laws that aim to keep consumers’ personally identifiable information (PII) private. PII data might be lurking inside email messages or PDF documents. If you don’t know it’s there, you cannot protect it from being breached or accessed by unauthorized persons. This exposes your company to the risk of significant financial penalties.
Understanding Your Customers
Unstructured data gives businesses the opportunity to developer a deeper understanding of “brand sentiment”. Of course, it is possible to detect a problem in customer loyalty using structured data sets like sales ledgers – if customers are making fewer repeat orders, that might indicate a brand sentiment problem. However, it’s possible to gain a deeper understanding of brand sentiment by analyzing unstructured data, such as the comments left on social media posts. If nine of out ten comments on a company’s page contain phrases such as “this product is awful”, that would give a richer indication of negative brand sentiment than examining the number of sales.
Complex and Challenging Use Cases
The value of unstructured data extends to the most complex of use cases. The health and life sciences industry is an example of where harnessing unstructured data makes a real impact. In the pharmaceutical industry, fast delivery of safe and effective medicine can change lives, so access to the right data quickly is essential. Data and information guide every decision made throughout the process of drug development, from determining whether a drug is suitable to go to the market to measuring its success when it does. However much of the data that these organizations possess is unstructured text, making it much more challenging to harness for insights.
Unlocking the value within this data can dramatically enhance the drug development process, not only in efficiency but also in supporting researchers to access information that they were perhaps previously unaware of.
Making use of unstructured data is an essential strategy for any forward-thinking business. Not only are the benefits of harnessing this data numerous, the risks of ignoring it are also severe. If businesses are unable to track and manage their unstructured data, intellectual property is at risk of being buried, lost, or even stolen.
Armed with the right tools, as described in the first of this two-part series, organizations can use insights from unstructured data to drive efficiency, productivity, and innovation. If your business isn’t making use of its unstructured data, perhaps now is the time to start.
[To share your insights with us, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org]