For an organization to reach its greatest potential for success—whether that’s through increased revenue, decreased expenses, a better company culture, or some combination of other factors—data is necessary to provide informational insights that support the achievement of business goals.

However, the road between Point A, where companies sit on significant amounts of unused, inaccessible data, and Point B, where that data has been scrubbed and consolidated to provide the information to generate company insights, can seem daunting and long. We’ve discussed as much in recent weeks by reviewing steps to ensure that high-quality, accurate insights emerge from your current and historical data, including how properly defining business goals can save your data project from failure.

Overall, the greatest opportunities for increased profit and predictability within a business are driven by targeted and meaningful data insights, and the best method to achieve those insights comes from consolidated but diverse data, both structured and unstructured, found within multiple sources.

However, the challenge that arises from mixing dissimilar data—which ranges from organized, structured information in a relational database, to unstructured sources such as social media, emails and electronic documents – have typically been significant. Further, there is also often a need to integrate semi-structured data, which while not having a data model still has a structure, such as that found with json and xml documents.

So what causes this complexity? As mentioned, these different types of data are always stored in different places, as their various formats promote a lack of mutual compatibility. While structured information is kept in relational databases, unstructured data may present itself in a file system, such as an email account, and semi-structured data is often found in NOSQL databases, such as Azure DocumentDB or Mongo. Therefore, getting information from these multiple sources into one home is not simple.  Another pain point can also be found within an organization’s staff structure and processes, which may provide employees with varying levels of access to the data, which leads to increased risk of corrupting data via errors made at these different touch points.

With the right tool, like Datalink, Quisitive’s cloud-based storage accelerator, much of the guesswork, frustration and time-consuming tasks associated with mixing structured and unstructured data has been transferred from your time to the capabilities of the tool. Not only is Datalink adept at quickly moving and organizing data in the cloud with less time and cost, but it facilitates the consolidation of unstructured and structured data so that information can be pulled out, mined and correlated for precise insights into your company or customer base. Without needing a custom application or having to manage costly infrastructure associated with storing diverse types of data, Datalink accelerates your ability to obtain a singular view of your company that leads to informing business goals that induce transformational changes.

Todd Schick, Azure Cloud consultant, speaks to the importance (and challenge) of mixing structured and unstructured data as a critical part of a company’s data management and storage strategy. Over numerous years, Todd has developed cloud applications that leverage the full Microsoft technology stack, with his expertise lying in connecting research and application of knowledge to develop new products, features and frameworks, like Datalink, to leverage the capabilities of the modern cloud.

While a difficult task without the assistance of tools like Datalink, Todd describes how structured, semi-structured and unstructured data are all necessary, and must work in tandem, to use data analytics to their full potential of achieving transformative company insights. In essence, for an organization to understand and be able to explain what is happening—whether it’s a lack of return customers, high employee turnover, or missed opportunities for cross-selling—you need structured data to perform analytics that derive these insights. However, to be able to explain why these patterns, trends or even a singular occurrence took place—which may empower you to promote or negate client or employee behavior in the future—you need unstructured data to provide the necessary context.

Therefore, to capture these critical benefits, an organization must first understand how to make these different types of data compatible and housed with one another. Due to unstructured data’s contextual, amorphous nature, its incorporation into a cloud-based storage system requires additional steps beyond structured data sources to be ready for consolidation and analysis. Datalink eases this process, as it allows for analytics systems (such as those that conduct data mining through map-reduce systems) and Al systems (Machine Learning systems that facilitate the prediction of future events through training with previously-gathered data) to work with different data forms, resulting in application-specific “domain stores.” These domain stores, which are databases in and of themselves, contain subsets of data for specific purposes that can be used for queries and reports. Ultimately, the reward of mixing structured and unstructured data is worth these extra steps of work, as targeted inquires can derive insights that are important for answering business questions of interest.

Is your business capitalizing on its diverse sources of data as a key informant of future strategy and growth? Mixing structured and unstructured data can lead to a higher level of analysis and clarity that cannot solely be obtained from structured data, and leveraging the right tool can be critical to remove the technical and logistical barriers associated with the process. By capturing both the “what” and “why” of organizational trends and patterns, you will have an increased ability to predict and forecast based on past performance, freeing you to choose a course of action that moves your organization from maintenance to acceleration mode.

Interested in learning more about how Datalink can help move your business to the next level? Watch now.