Managing Big Unstructured Data - How to Be Your Own Data Scientist

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The word “big” is one of the most straightforward indicators of size that exists in our language. But with the case of big data, technologists have been forced to think about “big” with a more universal perspective.

Specifically, many people’s first thought about big data is size, or volume. In order to handle the volume of big data, there is no more popular job in the tech world than that of the data scientist. Few people have the skill set or the technology to accomplish what data scientists are being hired to do. In fact, many argue that for big data to truly matter, you need some serious computing power and some data scientist wizards with mathematical prowess.

Not Just Volume but also Velocity and Variety

But while the volume of big data certainly can present challenges, there is also the velocity and variety of it to consider. Variety is actually the biggest concern and issue for most organizations that find it difficult to track, correlate and glean insight from data that’s coming from so many diverse sources. Data may be growing by 800% in five years, according to Gartner, and 80% of it will come from highly fragmented, unstructured environments.

Who says that a data scientist is the only one that can extract the power of big, unstructured data? Why is it that only the one behind the algorithm can obtain insight from data? Is this a case of the Wizard of Oz, and do we need the great magician? Can we find our own way home, our own heart, our own steely nerve — ourselves?

The Beauty of Unified Indexing

Unified indexing takes the power away from Oz and puts it in the hands of the end user.  This technology, often the backbone of an enterprise search solution — consolidates, correlates and presents data from any variety of sources—within the context of the user. 

The beauty of an index is that anyone can use it. The search query allows you to bridge data from all sources — structured and unstructured, on-premise and cloud, social and CRM, etc. When you have all information presented in a unified, correlated format, any user can derive insight from data.                                                                             

Here are a few tips that organizations can use to be sure that Oz is working on the right projects, while the gang can use self-service to obtain greater insights from big, unstructured data.

Data is only as good as the insight you uncover. While data is key to creating knowledge, it’s just that—a building block. In and of itself, data provides limited value, regardless of how large or diverse the amount. Unstructured data from customer interactions and social media in particular can overwhelm most organizations, but can also create tremendous opportunity when consolidated, correlated and leveraged correctly.

Resist the urge to move data around. Legacy technology to handle big, unstructured data often attempts to consolidate the data by moving it into a "system of record," whether that is a CRM, Knowledge Base, collaboration platform or other type of technology. This can pose a new set of challenges, as unstructured data becomes unavailable to users during the time it is being curated, oftentimes rendering it out of date. Moreover, data will always proliferate outside of the system of record. Rather than trying to control data and move it into a single system of record, or spend significant resources integrating disparate systems — which can take years and leaves IT teams struggling to keep up with demand.

Stop replicating data. Users, unable to easily find the information they need, and after having spent significant amounts of time trying to find, consolidate and correlate certain useful information, duplicate it on their own desktops. Data not only grows larger and more fragmented, but it also ages. New information is not added, the user does not benefit from new findings, and when this action is compounded, the organization’s risk grows, and the company’s agility suffers.  That’s when Oz steps in.

Utilize the index. The enterprise data structure is largely a heterogeneous information environment, which increases the complexity of information consolidation and requires sophisticated connectivity to pull the information. The only way to navigate this complex data environment is a real-time, central, unified index — a sort of virtual, real-time information integration that federates and presents content virtually in an organized fashion.  This is what’s behind the curtain.

Connect and correlate all separate systems. With the huge amount of data available, people are basically connecting the dots when working with information. Now, with the advent of multi-channel text analytics that run on a central, unified index, technology can make the connections for us. Advanced indexing technology securely reaches into data from any system, unifies it, and presents only information that is contextually relevant to the user. This enables the correlation of both enterprise and social data to provide tremendous insight into customers, prospects, markets and more. Additionally, users no longer need to perform multiple searches across multiple systems in order to access such important corporate assets — knowledge and expertise. It lies in their own hands.

Turn the data into insight and ROI. If knowledge is an asset, then the return on that knowledge is ultimately linked to people’s ability to access it more efficiently. It either drives a return, or otherwise, it remains unknown and the organization fails to tap into it, and only Oz is all-powerful. For example, workers don’t realize what information already exists and are unaware who the experts are at their own organization. Works slows, workers feel powerless, customers feel unknown.   Ultimately, the ROI from the investment will allow the company to further increase innovation, better serve its customers and ultimately be a step ahead of its competitors who are still struggling to manage their big, unstructured data and tap into their own knowledge bases.

As these tips indicate, there are many ways organizations can derive actionable insight from the wealth of data they have —with or without an Oz. If you’re dealing with an insight deficit due to fragmented information, give indexing a try. You may be able to access more knowledge than you ever thought possible, and in context. If you need inspiration, check out many of our customers in the CRM, marketing and research industries that are using indexing every day.

About the author:

Diane Berry is senior vice president, Marketing and Communication, of Coveo.