Why are the BI rock stars reluctant to take on unstructured data?

For decades now Business Intelligence and Analytics folks have been the rock stars of the IT department.  They’ve been the ones collecting, integrating, analyzing, slicing, dicing, dashboarding, scorecarding,  and in general dazzling upper management and the C-suite with stunning insights and revealing statistics about all that data sitting in warehouses, marts and other silos. 

They’ve had lightning bolts shooting from their fingertips, and have conjured up answers to complex business questions in seconds or minutes (if it’s a bad day).  They’ve helped executives steer around icebergs, and tap into goldmines which had never been visible before.  They’ve been the Indiana Jones of the business world.

Fast forward twenty years to this moment.  Now, businesses have access to oceans of unstructured data.  It comes from everywhere.  Surveys, blogs, Twitter, FaceBook, Yelp, product reviews, physicians’ notes, e-mails, texts, paper documents, PDFs, and more now represent the VAST majority of available data for analysis.  And most companies recognize this and agree that these are the new untapped treasure vaults just waiting to be plundered.  So why are these smart, innovative, brave souls who redefined how you compete in business twenty years ago not tackling the unstructured data challenge with the same vigor as they demonstrated previously?

I would like to pose this simple explanation….no columns or rows.  That’s it.

Unstructured data is messy.  It doesn’t fit neatly in boxes or allow for simple mathematical equations or algorithms to generate the right answer.  It comes from tons of unfamiliar places and formats and requires some magical intermediate software to distill meaning from it.  It’s not collected in the usual way, and damn it, it’s fast and doesn’t stop changing!  Think of a dog trainer suddenly trying to get a hive of bees to do tricks.  Not only does he not know where to begin, he gets stung…a lot.

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The irony is, many of the same principles that apply to structured data analysis still apply to unstructured data analysis.  The trick is to put in place the technology that distills meaning from the messiness.  This technology tames the beast, so to speak.  Once it does its work the unstructured is structured enough to treat it like all the data these folks have been working with for their entire careers.   So they are back in business with their dashboards and scorecards, only with a few new kinds of graphics that are well suited to this type of data. 

So it’s time for our aging rock stars to suit up again.  You’ve still got it, and you have a whole new songbook and new instruments to play.  And there’s a line around the block waiting for you to step back out on to the stage.

If you’re still a bit apprehensive about the tools to tame the unstructured data, not to worry.  My company, OpenText Analytics, has all you need to find it, analyze it, and structure it such that you can serve up those extraordinary insights and help your companies begin to crack open that vault and enjoy the riches within.  It’s not too late either.  Most companies are right where you are, waiting and watching for others to take that first step.  You can contact me here.  It’s time to take that step… and be cool again!  


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