Unstructured data: How to turn the risks into rewards

The volume of unstructured data is exploding, and so are the associated security risks, says one content management expert.

Unstructured data includes any information, such as multimedia, that doesn’t fit neatly into a database. According to Gartner, the overall volume of data in organizations will grow by 800 per cent over the next five years and 95 per cent of that will be unstructured.

In today’s workplace, employees need to share information with each other and external stakeholders, said Sonny Hashmi, the government managing director for Box, at a recent ITWC webinar. But, legacy systems are not designed to share securely. With the high volume of unstructured data, this leads to “different handoffs in lots of different places and mistakes can be made,” said Hashmi. “This has been a cause of major security breaches.”

“Managing more of this information has to be done securely and at scale,” said Hashmi.  “It’s an opportunity, if done right.”

Building your content management maturity level.

Many organizations don’t actually know where all of their data is, said Hashmi. But, they should not be looking to existing technologies to solve these problems, he said. Instead, they need to take a step back and decide what their architecture needs to look like in order to achieve their business objectives.

There are four key things to consider when developing the new architecture, Hashmi told webinar participants. Organizations need to know: who the stakeholders that need access to the data are; all of the systems or platforms they’re using; the types of data they use, and what the stakeholders need to do with the data.

As well, Hashmi has developed a maturity model so that organizations can understand where they are now, and the investment needed to achieve their goals. Each level in the model is based on how well the organization is gaining value from its data. Organizations move up the scale as they enable individual productivity, team collaboration and automated business processes.  “At the end is the holy grail concept of the intelligent enterprise where data is driving intelligent decisions,” said Hashmi.  “But you have to go through each step to get there,” he added.

How to get started

Once they’ve determined their business goals, companies should not launch into buying more systems, said Hashmi. Rather, they should implement horizontal platforms across the organization to manage content, identities, business process automation and analytics. “Then they can create microservices to tie that platforms together like a lego set,” Hashmi said.

When it comes to content management, this approach ensures that data is pulled from different sources, but stored in one secure place, with policy controls in place. All access to the data is tracked and recorded.

ATB Financial adopted this approach to provide more modern and mobile banking services to its clients. In doing so, it reduced the time to process loan applications by 50 per cent. “They are one of the most innovative and forward-leaning companies I’ve worked with,” said Hashmi.

ATB Financial recognized that using old technologies to do new things wouldn’t work.  “To solve 21st century problems, you need a 21st century architecture,” said Hashmi.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker has over 20 years of experience in IT-related fields in the public and private sectors, as a lawyer and strategic advisor. She is a former broadcast journalist, currently working as a consultant, freelance writer and editor.

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