We’re in an age of endless content. According to some estimates, people create around 1.145 trillion MB of data every single day. It can be a tremendous feat managing all of it, let alone to make sense of larger business trends.
Most companies have so many documents to keep track of that it can get in the way of more important tasks. Currently, we can break down data into three separate categories.
What are the three kinds of data?
- Paper documents
- Unstructured Digital Data
- Structured Digital Data.
Paper documents are not totally antiquated yet, just ask anybody from NBC’s The Office. In fact, they still serve as necessary backlogs of information for many companies. In addition to delivering customers digital enterprise content management platforms (ECM), GRM Information Management, for instance, houses hundreds of millions of important paper documents for hospitals, government financial organizations, law firms, and even entertainment companies like the aforementioned NBCUniversal!
Paper documents can come with some drawbacks. They are usually a tremendous pain to sort through if you’re looking for an important contract or receipt, and don’t even get me started on paper cuts. Luckily, most businesses are increasingly focused on operating in the digital space today. Thanks to scanning and computers, businesses are able to store vast amounts of electronic documents on hard drives.
These electronic documents are called Unstructured Digital Data. Simply put, this data doesn’t conform to a broader system or model of organization. Think of your personal hard drive with thousands of different files on it. It can include almost anything digital: PowerPoints, jpg files, pdf files, audio or visual files, social media posts, and raw computational information from a variety of systems. When you purchase something online, that’s data. When you record video, that’s data. When you edit that video, that’s more data. The sentence I’m writing is data.
With Unstructured Digital Data, you no longer have papers that are a pain to organize. You have a lot of digital documents that are a pain to organize.
While it may be easy for us to understand a scan of a document on a computer, it isn’t so easy for machines to comprehend. Without the help of optical character recognition (OCR), a scan is basically a photograph of a document. To a computer, a scan of a company balance sheet is the same thing as a photo of your toddler’s birthday party. It’s cute, but it’s not really going to help you optimize your document management practices. With Unstructured Digital Data, your computer can’t automatically file, find, use or leverage any of its content. This is where Structured Digital Data comes into play.
What is the difference between Unstructured Digital Data and Structured Digital Data?
Structured Digital Data follows a highly organized template and can be easily understood by computers, while Unstructured Data is indecipherable, which makes automated actions almost impossible. In essence, Structured Data is designed like a relational database or an online form. The information follows a category structure that lists data points that can be leveraged in business practices. By indexing the data, this model is able to streamline the workflow.
For example, Unstructured Digital Data may include a document that reads, “Sarah Smith signed a contract for $5000 on July 10th.” Structured Digital Data would take the contents of that sentence and plug them into a larger data model including more names (Sarah Smith), contracts, quantities ($5000) and dates (July 10). Think of a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, logging and making sense of data points.
Structured Digital Data can help modernize workflow, save time organizing and searching for documents, and use artificial intelligence to analyze overall business trends. How many Sarah Smiths have businesses hired on contract over the course of ten years? Structured Digital Data might be able to tell you, and show you how much money you’d make by hiring more Sarah Smiths over the next ten years.
This method is able to label, categorize, model, and leverage all kinds of values and inputs that were once a forest of paper and a sea of ink. It can manage that endless data and help chart the course for future business strategies. The systematic organization of all of that information is called Enterprise Content Management (ECM), which is GRM’s specialty.