Unstructured Data – Waking the Giant

February 16, 2017

For today’s CEO, the mandate to drive business efficiency and opportunity with data is clear. However, what’s less clear is how to overcome some of the key barriers that stand between this goal and data-driven success.

In a 3-part blog series, we’ll go head-to-head with why these challenges exist, and what you can do to resolve them to pave the way to more revenue, less operational cost and a create a firm foundation for your business in the emerging insights economy. In this first post, we’ll look at the issue of unstructured data.

Spot the Difference

Let’s start with a comparison. In simple terms, structured data is orderly, well behaved and compliant. It’s the neat and tidy information that sits in rows and columns in a database, making it easy to search, manipulate, analyze and access for your decision-making processes. It is native to the world of computers and as such, is largely considered as ‘machine data’. Common instances in the enterprise include master data (e.g. customer addresses/subsidiaries/legal entities), transactional data (e.g. logistics, financial, bookings, reservations) and resource data (e.g. warehousing, logistics, online shopping etc).

Unstructured data is the rebel counterpart. A dark, messy, distributed, unwieldy form of data that’s difficult to work with. But perfection be damned! This is ‘human data’, and it’s how business gets done. Above all, this is valuable decision-making data. It’s the content of your emails, the notes on your service ticket, the 140 characters of your Tweets and the stockpile of PDFs in your system (and much more besides – think audio, video files, word documents, blog entries and so on.)

It just so happens that most of your data is unstructured, and herein lies the problem:




Data for Decisions

When was the last time you made a great decision based on only 5% of the information relating to it? Here’s the harsh truth: probably never (even if you thought it was great at the time! Chances are, luck was on your side.)

Great business decisions – the ones that save you time and money, the ones that drive revenue, the ones that capture competitive opportunities, the ones you want to build into the very fabric of your business and execute every single day – are made with the benefit of all the relevant information. Businesses can’t run on luck – they can, and should, run on genuine data-driven insights.

From Dormant to Active

Now for the good news: all that data you’ve been stockpiling over the years? You know, the stuff that supports a whole data storage industry? It’s not just for compliance. Likely, there was inherent, a notion that someday, somehow that data would be very, very useful. Even if you didn’t know how exactly, the hunch to store it has paid off. Now the time has come to not only unlock it but to unleash it on your business operations; this mountain, this dormant giant, so full of potential and sheer value, is finally ready to be stirred from its slumber and sent to work.

By including relevant, unstructured data in the analytics mix, you have the best possible base from which to draw insights for actionable, well-rounded decisions. What’s more, it can be utilized to vastly improve your core operational processes – be it resolving ITSM issues or improving customer engagement. Consider these scenarios…

Solve 100 Problems at Once

100 customers experience the same issue with a product or service. They each write an email complaining about it. Those emails become 100 service tickets to solve. Squirro’s cognitive concept search ‘understands’ the commonality of the issue – even though it’s described slightly differently in each email. It scans the contents of those emails or ticket notes – that’s ‘unstructured data’ – identifying this concept. It then clusters those tickets as a group and suggests the best person to solve that problem based on their historical track record of solving similar problems, and recommends the most likely solution to solve them all at once based on your knowledge base and resolved tickets history. Congratulations – your unstructured data just helped you to solve 100 problems at once.

Spot a Timely Sales Opportunity

A key client with a contract up for renewal announces plans to expand with a series of new branches. The news soon spreads on social media. There’s a new executive appointment associated with this expansion. The executive is an old university pal of your CEO. You know all this as it comes to you as an actionable insight in your CRM. You know who to call, about which event, and what to recommend. No routine renewal contract call for you. Now you have an opportunity to secure a new, bigger contract and leverage a trusted relationship. Congratulations – your unstructured data just gave you a competitive advantage on a hot sales opportunity.


Insights Expertise – Take the First Step

Squirro is a specialist in unstructured data. We already help some of the world’s leading banks, telcos and other large enterprises to make the best use of all their data – structured AND unstructured.

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If you’d like to know more about Transforming Businesses with Insights and why CEO’s should take the lead on Digital Intelligence, register for our upcoming webinar with Forrester Principal Analyst, James McCormick.


Full details and registration HERE


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