Gain intelligence from 'unstructured' data

Companies are beginning to realize the value they can gleam from data gathered via e-mail, telephone conversations and the like, says an industry veteran.

Unlocking information from business e-mail, telephone conversations and reports, can "open up a whole world of business opportunities", says a veteran with over 35 years of experience in data warehousing and business intelligence.

And companies are beginning to make use of such data, according to Bill Inmon, and founder and president of Inmon Data Systems, who noted that the weaving of unconventional data into business and customer insights for a company, is the new wave of business intelligence (BI) worldwide.

Inmon told ZDNet Asia that companies in the United States are starting to make use of information from unstructured data, including a clinic in Minnesota. This trend will continue to drive the growth of data mining, he added.

Sundar Kadayam, co-founder and CTO of Intelliseek, wrote in a white paper that 'unstructured' data includes customer feedback through telephone calls or e-mail, sale and warranty records, repair and maintenance claims, patient records and diagnoses, written reports and articles, and online forums. Intelliseek provides software designed to analyze unstructured data.

Kadayam noted that "up to 80 percent of all information today falls into the 'unstructured' category.

Research analyst IDC also projected that the BI software market in the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan), will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.3 percent over five years, reaching US$417.3 million by 2009. Globally, the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.3 percent.

"If you were the airline and there was an extra seat in the business class…would you choose the person to upgrade based on what he wore? No, you choose the one that flies more frequently with the airline."
-- Bill Inmon
founder and president, Inmon Data Systems

Considering a BI strategy
To gear up for the era of bridging structured and 'unstructured' data for improved business intelligence, Inmon noted that businesses would "need to prepare for a different use of information".

"Ten years ago, the airline knew you had a ticket and purchased a seat in the economy class," he explained. "Today, it knows how many miles you've flown, where you live, the method of payment and so on," he said. "If you were the airline and there was an extra seat in the business class, and you had two passengers, would you choose the person to upgrade based on what he wore? No, you choose the one that flies more frequently with the airline."

With the development of business intelligence tools, Inmon added, companies can make the information they have on their hands matter, by changing the way they think about the possibilities.

Pat Wynne, Business Objects' newly-appointed group vice president and general manager for the Asia-Pacific region, noted in a separate interview with ZDNet Asia, that the planning stage is crucial.

Businesses need to plan from both the IT and business perspectives, and consult with a decision-maker at the senior-executive level who can determine what the company's overall strategic requirements are.

Wynne added that from her past experience, the checklist of information that mattered usually contained no more than a handful.

"It all boils down to, like, five things they want to know on a regular basis," she said.