Beyond Big Data: Unstructured Data Makes Inroads in Enterprises

If the tale of big data had a title, perhaps its first chapter would be called, “So much promise; now let’s see the delivery.” That was the storyline in two articles published last week. In InformationWeek, technology expert Phil Simon argued that, “organizations are taking the wrong approach to big data or not utilizing it at all.” But a recent Harvard Magazine piece includes an argument from Gary King, a Harvard professor and director of the school’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, that information science is making significant steps forward.

Simon’s article, “Why Big Data In The Enterprise Is Mostly Lip Service,” outlines the reasons why organizations aren’t yet leveraging their data effectively, even as analyst firms such as Gartner report huge numbers of companies making plans for big data projects. Simon writes:
“For every Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and Google, I would wager that thousands of mid-sized and large organizations are doing nothing with big data beyond giving it lip service. That is, the fact that a CXO has heard of big data is hardly the same thing as her company actually doing anything with the massive amounts of unstructured data flying at us faster than ever.”

Why is this? Because, writes Simon, companies are intimidated by the prospect of expending the kinds of resources a company like Apple might have to extract intelligence from data, and they have yet to find or adopt tools that would enable them to use that data to answer critical business questions.

While the InformationWeek article highlights unfulfilled promise, the story in Harvard Magazine, “Why Big Data is a Big Deal,” reflects on recent advances in the application of big data. Professor King states, “The big data revolution is that now we can do something with the data.” His teams are experimenting with algorithms that harness emerging statistical and computational methods to solve problems faster. The article emphasizes that “new ways of linking datasets” and “creative approaches to visualizing data” are helping organizations create knowledge from data in ways they never could before.

The article explores how better analysis of unstructured data in the public realm will change the way experts in numerous fields extract intelligence from data. But first, “These skill sets need to get out of the computer-science departments and into public health, social science, and public policy,” according to Professor King. Researchers across disciplines need additional training in data science methods.

How effectively data science methods evolve out of academia and into mainstream adoption remains to be seen, but I can’t help but think that for this to happen, we’ll need to come up with more powerful, more intuitive, user-friendly tools.

How could big data impact your business? What datasets do you possess that are likely candidates to analyze but for want of useful tools and simpler means?

Want to stay up to date on news about unstructured data analysis? Check out the DataGravity news page and follow the DataGravity blog.

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Tim Sherbak

Tim Sherbak leads product marketing at DataGravity, aligned to his passion for helping customers adopt new technologies and solutions to deliver breakthrough results. Tim has held sales and marketing leadership roles in some of the most pioneering companies in technology.