(un)structured

Josh Payne on content analytics, enterprise content and information management

Structure: the key to unstructured information

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This is part three in a three part series exploring master content. Part one explored the business need. Part two explored the definition of master content itself.

A recent article by Chris Dixon on the Silicon Allye Insider caught my eye recently. When discussing “knowledge systems”, Dixon stated

It has been widely noted that the amount of information in the world and in digital form has been growing exponentially. One way to make sense of all this information is to try to structure it after it is created.

This quote resonated with me as I’m wrapping up my mini-series on ‘master content’ and I’m using it as an opportunity to tie master content back to the name of this blog — (un)structured. Chris succinctly summarizes this point for me.

I named this blog (un)structured as a tip of the hat to the core of the challenge I see in the enterprise contnent world and specifically in my corner of that world — the content analytics field. The information we’re working with in ECM is, at its core, assumed to be completely unstructured. We’re working with long form texts that by default require a human to comprehend, analyze and handle.

Yet any process that aims to automate the handling of, extract an understanding of or derive more value from that unstructured information immediately goes about the process of adding more structure to that information. We add more data about our ‘unstructured’ data (thus the term metadata).  Structured data about our unstructured information becomes the primary language through which the surrounding software ecosystem interacts with the unstructured information. Structured data is the lingua franca of software information management.  (un)structured, as a name, acknowledges that the content has deep and true value, but lending structure is a critically neccesary task in order to exploit that content.

The idea of master content and incorporating trusted enterprise content into a master data managed single view is emblamatic of that need.  The unstructured information provides much of the motivation for synchronizing information from ECM to a single view of a customer. A scanned image of a driver’s license or a long-text description of a customer complaint is valuable in painting the full, in-depth picture of a particular individual and their relationship with a company — but we can’t relate that image back to the profile of the customer without some sort of structured information facilitating the linkage.

(un)structured is about the importance of structured information to delivering new business value from unstructued content.

Content classification lends more structure. By doing so, individual content decisions can be automated and executed consistently.

Content analytics lends more structure. By doing so, content can be explored and new insight can be uncovered.

Master content is identified by the structure associated to content. By doing so, content can be linked to trusted single views.

In the coming weeks, I’ll focus more on classification and content analytics and how they can better empower decision making on content decommissioning. Stay tuned.

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Written by Josh Payne

January 19, 2010 at 2:53 pm

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