Connecting big data and big content

People expect ready access to information: being able to connect to lots of it, quickly, anywhere, and anytime.

But the reality is that this is often not as straightforward as it sounds.

The ever-increasing amount of information created on a daily basis combined with the proliferation of disconnected business systems and content repositories makes it hard for employees to find what they need.

To effectively connect information silos and ensure workers have fast access to all of the content they need, it’s important to first understand the different kinds of information organisations are dealing with.

“Big data” refers to the structured data that resides within database-based systems such as CRM and ERP solutions — much of which is often maintained by different lines of business and isolated to specific users and applications.

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On the other hand, “big content” is the unstructured content that consists of items such as documents, spreadsheets, images, videos and PDFs.

It’s widely believed that as much as seventy to 90% of the information that most companies collect is unstructured, and it’s growing by leaps and bounds.

In fact, IDC estimates that the worldwide volume of digital information will grow by a factor of ten between 2013 and 2020.

The big content conundrum

Effectively managing big content can be tricky.

Unstructured content assets often reside in a multitude of different repositories and systems, making it not only difficult to quickly locate a particular file or document, but also challenging to ensure it’s the most current and precise version.

In addition, there’s typically a lack of context to any of the content.

Not only do information workers need fast access to up-to-date data, but they also need to understand the context and relationships between various data assets.

For example, a salesperson looking for a new project proposal with an existing customer would also benefit from knowing if this customer had outstanding or unpaid invoices, but if systems and repositories are not connected, this level of insight cannot be achieved.

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The result? IT teams and business leaders are frustrated by a lack of control over, and visibility into, their organisation’s information assets.

Furthermore, employees have to waste time trying to find, recognise, organise, leverage and share information, because if you can’t find information, it’s the same as not having it in the first place.

Bridging the gap between big data and big content

Many organisations are realising that metadata is the key to help them unlock the value of their big data and big content.

Metadata is defined as “data about data,” and not only does it natively exist for all structured data throughout an organisation, but most unstructured content also contains basic metadata properties as well (such as type, author, date created, etc.).

One of the primary areas where metadata can add value is by serving as the bridge that connect big data to big content.

By leveraging metadata, an unstructured content asset (for example, a sales proposal) can be linked to related structured data objects (such as the customer account in a CRM system).

>See also: The dangers of web scraping

This approach to information management liberates information assets from the constraints of internal business applications, content repositories, and devices, thus eliminating these information silos while delivering contextual relevance to users.

For example, an account manager could search for a customer name and return all content related to that customer across multiple systems and repositories, such as sales opportunity details, account history and other relevant information.

A sales rep could initiate a search from the CRM for data relevant to a customer profile, and the results could include purchase orders, support requests or paid invoices stored in the cloud or on-premises.

Or a support center employee could pull up all information on a shipped product within seconds of taking a call about a specific order.

With the surge of big content and big data companies are tasked with managing, the role that metadata will play in an organisation’s information management approach will become increasing paramount.


Sourced by Mika Javanainen, senior director, product management at M-Files Corporation

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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