In recent years, innovative pushes toward data collection and automation have caused many enterprises to scramble in their attempt at modernization. Modernizing by leveraging new automated technologies and collecting and using data is vital for any organization that wants not just to survive but thrive in the modern market.
Many enterprises have only managed this about halfway. They may intake plenty of data, but they may not use that data properly. That’s because the data is unstructured; that is, the data is not properly stored or ready for retrieval and use.
However, unstructured data management strategies can help your business take advantage of the data it has collected so far and improve data collection, analysis, and retrieval practices going forward. Let’s break down how you can exploit the power of data for your marketing efforts, your customers, and any other goals with an unstructured data management strategy.
The Rise of Modern Automation and Data-Led Business
Automation and big data have led to massive restructuring and productivity increases across industries. These days, it’s difficult to find an industry untouched by developments and innovations, including:
- Automated manufacturing equipment
- Data-run marketing and engagement tools
- CRM software that heavily leverages collected data, and more
Of course, all this automation and increased focus on data collection has also placed a heavy strain on enterprises everywhere. For example, the world economy overall is experiencing record global and domestic labor shortages, issues with supply chains and getting invoices paid on time, and other external constraints or challenges.
This has only redoubled the need for enterprises to deliver digital-led improvements and refocus their efforts on proper data collection and, more importantly, data use.
In short, there’s an unstoppable wave for modernization driven by the collection and use of consumer data. Although most companies now gather plenty of data, a lot of it is unstructured and not as usable.
What is Unstructured Data?
In a nutshell, unstructured data is any data that doesn’t have a set structure or record format. It can include but is not limited to:
- App reviews for a company’s product
- Social media engagement metrics or reviews
- Video and audio files
- Customer feedback
- Emails and web pages
- PDFs and other documents
All of this unstructured data potentially holds unique market research insights if only it can be collected and properly analyzed. There’s some evidence to suggest that unstructured data will grow from 33 ZB in 2018 to a whopping 181 ZB by 2025.
Benefits of Unstructured Data
When used properly, unstructured data can provide advantages or economic benefits such as:
- Improvements to sales processes
- New insights into how to launch new products or revamp existing offerings
- Auditing improvements
- Boosted customer service
- Improved profits
In many ways, unstructured data can provide the same economic and marketing benefits as other data types your business collects. However, odds are, your company collects tons of unstructured data in more forms or formats than you can imagine. Unstructured data is, thus, more common and potentially even more useful than the specific key metrics or other data points you collect on purpose.
But unstructured data must be managed to be understood and leveraged correctly. If not collected, stored, and then analyzed properly, unstructured data just takes up space in a company’s servers.
Therefore, it’s important for modern enterprises to know how to practice unstructured data management strategies. In this way, they can overcome some of the unique challenges of the era and benefit from the unprecedented amount of data collection tools available these days.
How to Leverage Unstructured Data Management Strategy
Fortunately, leveraging an unstructured data management strategy is relatively straightforward. Enterprises that want to make the most of their unstructured data should focus on the following elements.
Note that the below factors are not specific to any industry organization. You may need to adjust them as necessary, depending on your enterprise and its limitations.
Master Data Management
Practicing master data management essentially involves:
- Having a single officer at the top of the data management chain. The buck stops with this person, and they are responsible for ensuring unstructured data management initiatives run smoothly.
- Ensuring that all unstructured data is related to or understood by its context to structured data (that is, any data collected in a record format used across your enterprise).
By practicing master data management, any unstructured data will, over time, become more structured and, as such, more understandable and usable.
Retrieval and Reporting
Next, enterprises should revamp their data retrieval and reporting systems and strategies. As you retrieve data, your company and its employees must:
- Ensure that the data is placed in the right buckets or slots so it can be analyzed and understood in context to relevant or related data.
- Ensure that the data is easy to retrieve, especially for analysis purposes.
Many enterprises struggle with consistent, easy data retrieval. In such cases, it doesn’t matter how structured your data is if you can’t get to it in a timely manner.
By focusing on unstructured data retrieval and reporting systems and protocols, that unstructured data will gradually become more structured with time.
Data Ingestion and Storage Protocols
Furthermore, your company should implement new data ingestion and storage protocols. This will help in two ways:
- First, it will assist in ensuring that new data brought in (such as new sales reports, social media metrics, and so on) is not dumped into an unstructured pile where no one can understand what’s really going on.
- Secondly, it will assist your company by ensuring that the data is stored logically and progressively. This will, in turn, assist with data retrieval.
In this way, focusing on data ingestion and storage protocols will also help your team revamp its retrieval and reporting systems. It’s all related, which is why unstructured data management strategies are long-term initiatives.
Full Enterprise-Level Data Strategy Alignment
Perhaps most importantly of all, unstructured data management strategies mean ensuring that every department in your enterprise is aligned on the same strategies or ideas. If even one department doesn’t play ball or practice the same strategies, any data brought in by the department will be unstructured and may not work well with the new systems created for these initiatives.
Enterprise-level data strategy alignment is crucial, just like any other big company initiative. It may be wise to create a new position to head up or lead your unstructured data management strategy. They can check in with the department heads and executives and make sure that everyone is following the new protocols and rules.
Future Success Lies in Unstructured Data
In the end, unstructured data may hold the key to further improvements and refinements in your enterprise, its sales practices, and its marketing campaigns. There’s no telling what wealth of information or insight you may gain from understanding and fully leveraging the unstructured data your company has already collected.
But mastering unstructured data management strategies is necessary before you can bring that data to bear on your company’s diverse problems. Follow the advice above, develop a data management strategy that your team can use, and make sure everyone sticks to it for the best results.