When it comes to your organization's data, it's critical for you to understand that you're talking about so much more than just a series of 1s and 0s sitting on a hard drive somewhere. Contained inside that data is the true story of what is going on with your business. It contains the insight you need to do better and more informed work on a daily basis. To always make the right decision as quickly as possible given the circumstances. To create better and longer lasting relationships with your customers.
Yet at the same time, the sheer volume of data that most businesses are dealing with has absolutely exploded in recent years. Yes, it's true that a lot of this data is structured — meaning that it is in a form that is easy to work with and even easier to extract insight from.
But a lot of it is unstructured — meaning that it doesn't have any type of pre-defined method of organization. Because you can't totally eliminate unstructured data from the conversation, it's best to do what you can to manage it moving forward. Getting to that point isn't necessarily difficult, but it does require you to understand as much as possible about the situation before you.
Breaking Down Unstructured Data
In most situations, unstructured data is often text-based. However, it can also include images, dates, numbers, and other relevant information about the inner workings of your business.
Just a few examples of unstructured data include but are certainly not limited to ones like
- Documents that may be saved randomly in a folder, be it on a network share or on a cloud-based storage drive.
- Any images that are downloaded to a computer from the various online resources that you're working with.
- Comprehensive notes and meeting agendas.
- Any scanned documents that you're working with, like receipts or client information.
- Communication data that itself can be sourced from emails, mobile devices, or even social networking channels.
The reason why it's so important to better manage your unstructured data is because this directly relates to not only your efficiency as a business, but your security. If you allow this information to remain unstructured, it becomes difficult to find — meaning that the people who need access to it to do their jobs simply don't have it.
Not only that, but if you're not actually sure what you have and where it is located, you can do little to protect it — potentially exposing a wealth of business information and insight to people who shouldn't have it.
The Key to Managing Your Unstructured Data
Thankfully, there are a few key ways that you can manage your unstructured data to actually put it to good use for your organization.
Chief among these is optical character recognition, otherwise known as OCR. This is a process that actually converts the text in a scanned or photographed image into text that isn't just editable, but that can also be searched for electronically as well. This would be a great way to extract more value from a document like a PDF that was received via email.
Another viable way to manage your unstructured data is through metadata, which allows you to describe and categorize unstructured data in a way that provides an invaluable context. This not only improves the searchability of your unstructured data, but its accessibility as well.
Finally, you have an intelligent information management platform like M-Files that can act as a single digital repository for all of your data needs. Rather than allowing unstructured data to erect artificial data silos across your enterprise, M-Files acts as a single source of truth for all information flowing into and out of your organization.
A high-quality information management platform like M-Files will include tools that allow you to customize your options for managing data to support the way you already like to work. It will include not only features like federated search, but also intelligent capture and even access rights as well. Access rights are particularly important, as they help make sure that the only people who have access to certain files are the ones who need it to do their jobs. This goes a long way towards increasing security, regardless of where those files are stored.
In the end, unstructured data isn't necessarily something you can totally eliminate — but then again, that's not really what the goal is. Instead, you need to find a way to manage it and extract as much value from it as possible — and tools like M-Files and other intelligent information management platforms go a long way towards allowing you to do precisely that.