Have you ever needed to locate an important document in a vast group of files, but could not find it?
Companies in many industries are realizing that there is valuable information hidden in their unstructured data assets of paper documents and electronic files. Energy companies may have previously-inaccessible oil and gas reserves that are now accessible due to improved methods for extracting oil and gas from fields in the energy industry. Asset-intensive businesses typically have complex, aging plant machinery. Maintaining or modifying machinery systems often requires that employees access information stored in paper-based design documents.
Achieving your business value means finding the needles in the haystack. Metadata can be defined as data that describes other data. However, there are many metadata challenges that companies face today:
- Documents are not fully text searchable to allow users to search for and identify key data;
- Metadata is available, but is not stored with system attributes;
- There are duplicate files and no true source;
- There is a lack of consistent use of metadata;
- There is no efficient method for quality checking existing metadata;
- Information is stored in unstructured drives and cannot be instantly located;
- There is too much information to analyze and not enough manpower to do so;
- Documents containing foreign languages have not been translated;
- Existing paper or tape media is aging and deteriorating by the year;
- Information that was inherited during mergers and acquisitions does not contain data consistent with the acquiring company’s standards and systems
Many companies lack the information management standards, processes or procedural guidance to know how to address these challenges. But, with the right course of action, companies can unlock the value (needles) in previously inaccessible metadata and documents (haystacks). Key steps for releasing value are as follows:
Step 1 - Define: Define the metadata requirements. There isn’t one steadfast rule for this. Metadata can have many forms and can be located within many areas. For example, in the oil and gas industry, those might be fields, basins, geological provinces, keywords or system attributes. In addition to the company, third parties may use or need the metadata - contracting companies, vendors, fabricators and partners. The important thing is that good metadata gives an end user confidence that the origin, history, and integrity of each attribute comes from a reliable source.
Step 2 – Assign: As organizations embrace the cloud to become fully digital, they must migrate their previously-unstructured assets to new accessible formats, and assign the metadata defined above. This brings its own complexities with data sources that are enormous, aging and growing each year.
This all may sound daunting. But there are new techniques for scanning, digitization, artificial intelligence, extraction, verification, loading, de-duplication, metadata assignment and handover which open the door to searchable and accessible information at one’s fingertips.
The result? The ability to extract rich and searchable data from previously inaccessible repositories can transform the way a company operates. It can mean increased:
- Data integrity
- Enhanced safety
- Streamlined processes
- Data traceability
- Improved decision quality
- Accelerated decision-making
- Operational use of information that was previously unreachable. And that can point the way to untapped value, free of hay.