As more unstructured data circulates through an organization, how to integrate it into the enterprise to create more value should be at the top of a CIOs to-do list.
Some days it feels like I’m riding a wave of information that is building into a full-blown tsunami. The data bombardment starts first thing in the morning with news gathering on the Internet and answering e-mails in the inbox. Then there is a mash of spreadsheets, dashboards, and word documents to work through as I Google, text, tweet, and network online.
Obviously, I’m not alone. Most people in the workplace are doing the same thing. That results in a whole lot of unstructured data being passed inside and outside the enterprise that may directly impact a product brand or company. That can be a gold mine of information—if it is captured, stored, and, most important, integrated into the enterprise.
There are a couple of problems, however. First, this data is, as I mentioned, unstructured, which means it does not follow a pre-defined data model, making it ambiguous to traditional computer programs. Second, there’s a whole lot of it. Industry analysts call it “big data,” which refers to data sets that are too large to work with using traditional database management tools. There are tools out there such as Salesforce.com’s Radian6, which can monitor social networking conversations, or RollStream, which is basically a B2B social network for the supply chain. But there is still a lot of work to do as an industry to create a unified enterprise integration model for big data.
The task of managing all that information may be daunting, but according to a report from McKinsey & Company, leveraging big data can lead to higher organizational efficiency and more product innovation.
Last year, in an effort to help bring order to the increasing complexity of enterprise data, IBM, Informatica, and Software AG all acquired companies that specialize in master data management. But to take advantage of new ways to integrate unstructured data, companies will also need to invest in storage technology, computing power, and updated business intelligence platforms that are capable of analyzing the new data sources.
It’s a lot for CIOs to have to think about. However, if they want their companies to remain competitive, they’ll need to find ways to capture, manage, and govern all of this unstructured data.
So get on board, and ride the digital data wave before it turns into a disaster.