Adopting an Unstructured Data Platform to Accelerate your Data Driven Processes

Unstructured Data

The past couple of years we have seen an explosion in data content and systems. We are now at the stage where the pure processing of it all can no longer be done by human interaction alone. Decisions and processes have become so fast, that serialization as well as non-digital formats become barriers to business success.

Aligning data, content and processes is essential to becoming an intelligent enterprise. A common barrier for companies achieving this, is that they do not incorporate structured and unstructured data to the same level in their processes.

The IDC estimates that 37% of unstructured data can be of benefit to businesses if it is properly analyzed, leading to $430 billion in productivity gains.

Adopting content to the process also becomes central in this transformation.

To provide a simple example of a successful transformation of structured and unstructured data, consider the airline industry. Traditional tickets were printed with multiple copies and handed to the customer. The customer interacted with different employees along the way to fly from destination A to destination B. Each employee took a copy of the actual ticketing slip or handled a boarding pass, and the customer eventually boarded the plane.  Whenever a change happened, a new ticket and a physical boarding pass needed to be re-printed. It was a serialized analog process. Times have changed. By making the booking code, and the associated e-ticket ID the system of record, we now can provide tickets as well as boarding passes in any medium that fits the customer best, printed or barcoded in an app.  This allows self-check-in and even auto-rebooking in case a connecting flight was delayed. It also allows the system to react without human triggers, thereby providing the scaling needed for today’s world.

Is this our only example? Of course not.

Another example is the digitization of incoming documents as early as possible. A common scenario goes as follows: The business receives the invoice, then accounts payable needs to validate and schedule a payment. 35% of business invoices created today, are sent by paper or PDF-based emails. Without the right content and data processing system in place, it requires manual data entry or processing. The most advanced companies today have systems in place which use machine learning for extracting the vendor and line item information out of the incoming invoices, have rules setup for validation, and even started to apply machine learning, with human interaction in case of real exceptions. This can all be handled by shared services, thereby making the process location independent.

The same principle and tools exist for other incoming content processes as well; for example, all supply chain processes and documents (purchase orders, sales orders, delivery notes).

The digitization at the start of the process and the extraction of data, enables the system to work digitally for analytics and transactions, while providing a supporting human-readable form of the content in case a person needs to make a decision. This can then be served inside the system on one screen, or pushed into any approval or working context, such as mail approvals or review applications on your phone.

Sales to Delivery

A crucial reminder that unstructured content follows the data in cross-system processes. Consider the following example.

The Sales to Delivery process:

    1. You have a sales person or a sales system
    2. They track customer contact
    3. The sales person/system produces a proposal, a quote or contract
    4. The buyer then creates an order and has other supporting documents that need to be signed
    5. All of these documents are then associated with the customer, and or the individual business transaction in the CRM system
    6. When the customer finally buys something, the transaction goes to the ERP system, and some of the documents follow the transaction
    7. The customer then receives the Delivery Note, Bill of material, and invoice needed to associate the transaction with the customer

Transformation Across Industries

Work orders in engineering and field work forces have transformed from paper-based processes to digital-enabled processes. The simplest example is a pilot. They used to carry big books of the aircraft manuals and operating instructions. If airlines, or manufacturers issued updates, it was a large undertaking to get it to every pilot. Today, they can be pushed to pilot tablets and can be updated between every flight if necessary. The same is true for a field technician. Plant maintenance and engineering projects can be executed much more efficiently. The planner in the back-end system can design the operations, build the task, and associate the newest job safety instructions.The next step is to combine it with information and content from other agencies, create everything in a project work space, associate all the business object data and geo-location code through synchronization, and present it to the user in their interaction contexts. Examples of this would be a SharePoint site, or any mobile workforce tool, while also associating it with the back-end work order management system and asset management system, overlaying it into GIS and mapping tools.

Unstructured Data Explosion

Managing unstructured data also provides additional information for humans and machines. Photos and videos play a key roles retail, marketing, but also in maintenance processes. Capturing them and associating them with an asset or product is the first step. Digital analysis, such as object identification, or problem identification, such as finding a leak of a pipeline in drone surveillance, has become more and more relevant which feeds into the predictive analytics engine.

Full text search is now a standard for any unstructured data management system. The systems now start to integrate semantical analytics based on the newest machine learning technologies. Examples we have seen are contract evaluations for unclear or contradicting clauses as well as product analysis for unclear or potential lawsuits.

What all these examples show is that just having it stored and not associated with the business data and context is not enough. Organizations must have the tools to put this information into context and connect it with the people and processes across the enterprises that need it. The tools must be able to play an integral strategy in your digital platform to enable the digital enterprise.

Unstructured content must be associated with all relevant business transactions, must be digitized as early as possible and must be presentable everywhere, but only where it is relevant. Metadata and classification must be automated as much as possible, as it is often forgotten, which makes searching and association with the business context possible.

Content Still Matters

Content plays an equal role in your digital transformation and intelligent enterprise strategy.

Like the business object hierarchy in ERP, CRM or other systems, the content must follow a similar business context approach which allows the modeling of related workspaces and associates the content correctly.

For a fast adoption, it is key that the system provides prebuilt integration into leading ERP, CRM or other dedicated business systems, with prebuilt synchronization of classifications and metadata. It is also key that the system provides an easy to use modern API to adopt any other system, or integration into any customer application, as well as adoptable UI.

To bring all the data from IoT, business transactions and unstructured content together, customers need an intelligent digital platform that can handle it all at scale and is open.

If you are interested in how Auritas can help you in bringing a cohesive vision for your data and unstructured digital process, please feel free to contact us.

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