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The business-wide benefits of unstructured data discovery tools .

by Ryan Scully
The business-wide benefits of using unstructured data discovery tools

Unstructured data is one of your business’s most invaluable – and underutilised – sources of insight. But what exactly is the value of unstructured data, and what are the benefits of using unstructured data discovery tools, beyond finding this data?

Your business sits upon a trove of invaluable data: insights, information, and opportunities for exponential growth. Minute by minute, more data is created and collected from transactions, processes, and communications, ready to be searched and put to work.

At least, some of it is.

Within your countless media files, spreadsheets, emails, and documents lies a vein of untapped business potential. This unstructured data – so called for its incompatibility with SQL, XML, and other database formats – makes up your most overlooked, underused, and underappreciated data; Gartner estimates as much as 90% of unstructured data lies unused.

Unstructured Data: Obstacle or Opportunity?

The underuse of unstructured data isn’t the result of negligence or a close-kept industry secret. Quite simply, it is difficult to govern, owing to its diversity of formats, its incompatibility with typical databases, and its esoteric approach to metadata. Existing outside of established meshes, unstructured data can be tricky to tame.

But unstructured data is no problem child. If anything, it has the potential to provide broader insights and contexts than more regimented datasets. The challenge, then, is discovering this data, making it as useable as structured data, and leveraging it for means beyond fact-finding.

Understanding Unstructured Data Discovery Tools

You’d be forgiven for thinking that unstructured data discovery tools were little more than a digital stop-and-search; a means for finding integral files that exist outside the typical dataset. But, in fact, they can do a whole lot more. For businesses with regulatory concerns, data governance struggles, or data quality issues to name a few, unstructured data discovery tools can help provide a business-wide remedy for wider challenges, all while leaving unstructured data in its native format.

Data Parity

Unstructured data is as integral to your operations as its structured counterpart. The key is giving both attention and visibility, while allowing them to be managed both separately and in conjunction with one another. Once a data discovery tool uncovers your integral data – a process we’ll explore below – it is contextualised in tandem with your structured data. The result is a business-wide, connected view of your entire data picture.

Data Visibility and Compliance

Knowing there is a wealth of information within your unstructured data is one thing – knowing where to find it is quite another. Powered by AI, unstructured data discovery tools use natural language processing techniques, such as Named Entity Recognition, to intelligently discover data points like names, Topic Analysis to identify key themes, and Pattern Matching to find things like contract, part, or order numbers. Because this process is automated, there is no need to perform manual searches, or even to know the specifics of any held data – anything relevant is immediately and automatically identified. This can support any number of use cases, from finding more detailed insights into your customer journey, to the classification or removal of sensitive data.

Tightened Data Security

An abundance of data can be a blessing, but its scale and complexity also make it harder to govern, creating internal and external security concerns. By categorising data types, recognising duplicate files, and suggesting data for deletion, such data discovery tools mitigate unnecessary security risks, enable better data governance, and restrict access in line with permissions. Furthermore, the ability to recognise third-party data means tasks such as processing subject access requests can be carried out without the risk of exposing sensitive data.

Business-wide compatibility

Business data resides in every software solution: HR software, CRM, Microsoft ecosystem, email, and beyond. As crucial as these solutions are, they are often disparate, meaning the data can become fragmented or lost in translation as it travels between systems, users, and departments. Unstructured data discovery tools go everywhere and see everything, making structured and unstructured data equally searchable, operable, and connected across your entire business. The result is an all-encompassing way to manage your business data, while leaving it all in situ.

Leveraging Unstructured Data

Unstructured data should be an asset, not a burden. When you find it, unlock its value, and connect it with your structured data, you get the broader context and granular insights that only the full data picture can offer.

Unstructured data discovery tools, made possible by existing and emerging technologies, don’t only mitigate the risks of unstructured data, but make it usable for business-wide application, in tandem with your structured company data. With a view of your entire data landscape, data you didn’t know you had starts to yield the answers that were there all along.

Find out how the Aiimi Insight Engine, our secure enterprise AI platform structures the unstructured with automated discovery and enrichment, helping you unlock insight, save time, and ensure compliance.

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