Businesses love data. They want to hoard it, churn it, and analyze it to gain insights into their business. But data volumes from within (ERP, SCM, CRM, MES, etc.) and from outside (interest rates, income trends, GDP, weather, consumer trends, etc.) have been growing at a furious pace. It has reached a point where instead of feasting on the data, businesses have begun to get frustrated by it. The limited use of data is indicated in a study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) called 'The Data Directive', commissioned by Wipro-only 12% of business leaders polled said that they were highly effective in using data to make strategic decisions.
What is the reason for the ineffective use of data? Just about 20% of enterprise data is structured and can be crunched to deliver Business Intelligence (BI). The other 80% is chaotic and unstructured, perhaps allowing it to be searched, but rarely uncovering the rich intelligence that hides within.
Now, businesses may find a solution at the convergence of BI and Search technologies and associated methodologies. The convergence -- what is being called Unified Information Access (UIA) -- demands that businesses familiarize themselves with the ideas and tools behind it. I believe the time is ripe to start making investments in UIA. These investments will deliver the kind of insights and answers to problems that have eluded business owners for centuries.
Structured data like excel sheets and RDBMS can be queried for reporting. But businesses have to find structure and derive sense from the unstructured data they have today in the form of Word/PDF documents, e-mails, handwritten forms, voice recordings, images, scans, video, etc. Only then can they extract intelligence from it.
The problem is this: BI tools can analyze words, but can’t arrive at the context of the words or sentences. Search, on the other hand, is evolving rapidly. More people are using search engines for everyday activity like shopping, organizing holidays, research, browsing news and looking up the weather forecast before leaving for work. They have begun to wonder, “Why can’t I find information as easily in my company?” Search technology is able to dig into unstructured data and report in a structured form. This is invaluable input for BI engines and has the capability to transform the kind of intelligence businesses create.
To leverage this data, arriving with unprecedented velocity and at staggering volumes, requires advanced tools and capabilities so that response time (for actionable insights) is cut from hours to seconds. Otherwise, there is little meaning in acquiring the data. Products that enable this are already finding their way into the market.
The early adopters for BI-Search convergence technologies would be the Financial, Retail, Legal, Telecom, Hi-tech and Healthcare sectors. These are sectors that generate vast amounts of structured and unstructured data and need to leverage it.
How can organizations embrace this convergence?
The first step is to build a business case. What are the problems that the organization will solve through the convergence of BI and Search? What is the rational for adopting the convergence? What will the ROI be? How will it make the business more competitive or more responsive? The answers to these questions will help create a roadmap towards the path where BI meets Search.