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Advances in unstructured data

by Lyndsay WiseWednesday, April 16, 2008

The SAS acquisition of Teragram marks another advance in the convergence of BI and unstructured data.  Aside from industry wide progress and speculation about how unstructured data will be leveraged and the advantages organizations should be taking by deploying solutions targeted at both structured and unstructured data analysis, industry wide adoption is still in its early phases.  Aside from earlier adopters identifying customer patterns using CRM data, or using advanced text and data mining (i.e. in academics or sciences) the transition to mainstream BI is still a couple of years away.

Vendors like SAS are helping pave the way by enhancing their current analytics offerings through the acquisition of a best of breed vendor in the unstructured text analysis space.  Teragram’s strength lies in its natural language processing (NLP), enabling SAS to transform text based information into actionable analytics whether through search or analytics.   In addition, Teragram uses automatic categorization to classify documents via customized criteria so that end users can access text documents based on user interest – leveraging search and giving end users the ability to analyze document contents. 

In many cases, when unstructured data meets BI, such as with search, the application mimics traditional content management systems.  This means that using unstructured data within BI broadens the use of business intelligence applications beyond performance management functions, towards becoming a centralized access point for the organization’s overall search and analytics use.  After all, if organizations deploy BI search or enterprise search capabilities the eventual goal should be to expand access to all relevant data, including the information residing beyond BI.

By looking at both SAS and Business Objects (pre-SAP) and their acquisitions of best of breed text analytics vendors it is possible to get a feel of the larger focus on the expansion of analytics towards unstructured data. Additionally, the surge of BI search offerings shows that the focus on and convergence of BI and unstructured data will continue to grow.  As vendors become more adept at integrating text and non-text information sources into analytics, other vendors, such as data warehousing appliance vendors will also start developing solutions that provide the ability to handle unstructured data expanding the organization’s options.

The overall goal and importance of unstructured data cannot be overlooked.  The ability to gain a broader view of customers, supply chain, and competitors information will only enhance the way organizations do business as well as increase the overall value of business intelligence solutions.

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