Unstructured Data: What Lies Beneath

Unstructured Data: What Lies Beneath

Type “Big Data analytics” in the search bar of any search engine and you won’t be disappointed with the results. Enterprises, experts, and research firms all agree that the amount of structured data generated every minute of every day is rapidly increasing—leaving companies with no choice but to jump on the analytics ship or risk crashing into a data iceberg. But what often gets ignored is what lies underneath: unstructured data. Here’s why it matters.

Unstructured Understanding

As noted by a recent Forbes article, unstructured data is everything that doesn’t fit neatly into a spreadsheet or can be easily represented as a numerical value. Data from social media posts/feeds, call center notes, emails, voice mail transcripts, images, and customer surveys all fall in this data category and offer tremendous contextual value for companies.

The problem? Mining these sources for insight is no easy task. But a March 5th article from Investors points out that unstructured data sets are the next untapped territory for analytics tools; according to Daniel Ives of FBR Capital Markets and Co, “unstructured data is the Holy Grail.”

So why all the interest? Because statistics, charts, and graphs only tell half the story. Facebook posts and Tweets, for example, are excellent indicators of public perception and mood, and can significantly impact consumer buying habits. What’s more, it is estimated that a whopping 90 percent of all the data generated today is unstructured—making it the much-larger bottom portion of this data iceberg.

Creating a Link

For companies hoping to leverage data as the foundation of predictive insights and corporate strategy, relying on structured data alone is like listening to every tenth word of customer feedback. While this may provide a vague picture of overall sentiment and market trends, specificity is almost impossible.

So how do businesses link what’s easily seen with what lies beneath? The right analytics vendor is key. While it’s possible to manually filter out the “noise” of unstructured data—social bits and extraneous information that don’t speak to larger relational trends—companies are better served with analytics tools, which provide “full-view” solutions. More importantly is the ability of the solutions to cross barriers; alone, structured and unstructured data have value, but together offer a far more accurate view of consumer sentiment informed by accurate and reproducible data sets.

Bottom line? Structured data is the result; what lies beneath is the cause. Tapping both is essential.

Next Steps:

  • Try Spotfire and start discovering meaningful insights in your own data.
  • Learn about Spotfire Content Analytics that delivers deeper insights and greater contextual value from your unstructured data assets.