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Looking at BI and unstructured data

by Lyndsay Wise, President, WiseAnalyticsFriday, March 12, 2010

Business intelligence (BI) diversity continues to expand as organizations take advantage of emerging technologies to help shift their BI initiatives from historical analysis to forward looking business management.  Whether embedded analytics, operational dashboards, or best of breed analytics engines, business intelligence has come a long way to provide a shift in the way organizations use BI applications.  No longer is it enough within companies to look at historical trends and what occurred to help drive what will happen.  Organizations require insight into market trends, customer behavior, sales and marketing convergence, and the like.  To really get the most out of this type of information and to identify general employee and company performance, it becomes essential to combine both structured and unstructured data.

Enter the role of BI and unstructured data

In two recent analyst briefings, I had the opportunity to get updated on the initiative of both Bi3 Solutions and Datawatch.  Both solution providers approach the business problem of how to tackle unstructured data analysis because of the fact that much of the valuable information that businesses require to make informed decisions reside within unstructured content – whether ready-made reports, documents, contracts, emails, etc. Many organizations struggle with how to access this information, organize it, and gain insights.  Within a traditional BI model, the ability to adequately handle unstructured data and integrate it into an analytic framework is near impossible.  So how do these solution providers do it?

Bi3 Solutions uses a cloud-based infrastructure within a Software as a Service framework.  Their solution extracts relevant information from within content; thereby identifying the structured aspects organizations are looking for within their unstructured content.  For instance, pertinent contract information can be extracted and transformed into structured data to alleviate the burden of having people go through hundreds or thousands of documents, saving time and money in the process.  Afterwards, regular data analysis can occur to identify trends and the like. 

With Datawatch and their Monarch BI Enterprise Server, currently created reports and other content are leveraged and transformed into relevant BI content.  Information is pulled directly from the content residing within the organization within heavy data integration requirements.  Organizations can then combine various data elements to gain valuable insights into what already exists within their business.

Choosing to leverage unstructured content within a BI framework

While both solutions offer business value to organizations, the fact remains that Bi3 Solutions and Datawatch serve as a complementary tool to an organization’s overall BI infrastructure. Aside from initial attempts at text analytics and BI related search, organizations that want to take advantage of unstructured data analysis may have to consider a two-pronged approach to BI. The first being building a traditional BI framework, and the second, adding an unstructured data analysis layer. 

About the Author

Lyndsay Wise is an industry analyst for business intelligence. For over seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Lyndsay is the channel expert for BI for the Mid-Market at B-eye-Network and conducts research of leading technologies, products and vendors in business intelligence, marketing performance management, master data management, and unstructured data. She can be reached at lwise@wiseanalytics.com. And please visit Lyndsay's blog at myblog.wiseanalytics.com.

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