12 Steps for Analyzing Unstructured Data

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Increasing digitization and the proliferation of multichannel processes and transactions have resulted in a data deluge. Now organizations rely on unstructured data to make business decisions, such as determining customer sentiment, cooperating with discovery requirements and personalizing their products for customers. They must scrutinize information provided by customers and other organizations and dig into information collected from devices. This not only ensures that the organization remains alert to security threats, but it also ensures the proper functioning of embedded devices. Yet traditional data analysis methods work only for what is already quantifiable, whereas reading large, disparate sets of unstructured data results in identifying patterns and connections from unrelated data sources. “Finding patterns in unstructured data can cause revelations,” said Salil Godika, chief strategy and marketing officer and Industry Group head at Happiest Minds, an IT services and solutions company. But traditional data scientists must acquire new skills to analyze unstructured data. Here are 12 steps to take when analyzing unstructured data.

1. Know Your Disparate Data Sources

Ask yourself what sources of data are important for your analysis. If the information being analyzed is only tangentially related to the topic at hand, cast it aside. Instead, use only sources that are absolutely relevant.

2. Choose Method of Analytics and Set Goals

Your analysis will be useless if it is not clear what the end result should be. What sort of answer do you need–a quantity, trend or something else? Use results in a predictive analytics engine before they undergo segmentation and integration into the business’ information store.

3. Evaluate Your Technology Stack

Evaluate your technology stack against the final requirements. Then set up the project’s information architecture. Factors important to choosing data storage and retrieval often depend on scalability, volume, variety and philosophy requirements.

4. Real-Time Access Is Crucial

Real-time access has become especially important for e-commerce companies so they can provide real-time quotes. This requires tracking real-time activities and providing offerings based on the results of a predictive analytic engine. It’s also crucial for ingesting social media information. The technology platform you choose must ensure that no data is lost in a real-time stream.

5. Data Lakes Before Data Warehouses

With the advent of big data, storing information in a data lake in its native format has become more useful. It preserves metadata and anything else that might assist in analysis.

6. Prepare Data for Storage

While keeping the original file, clean up a copy. With any text file, for example, noise or shorthand can obscure valuable information. It’s good practice to cleanse noise such as white spaces and symbols, while converting informal text in strings to formal language.

7. Ontology Evaluation

Through analysis you can create relationships among the sources and extracted entities so that you can design a structured database to specifications. This can take time, but the insights may be worth it.

8. Retrieve Useful Information

Through natural language processing and semantic analysis, you can use parts-of-speech tagging to extract named entities, such as “person,” “organization,” “location,” and their relationships. Then you can create a term frequency matrix to understand the word pattern and flow in the text.

9. Statistical Modeling and Execution

Once you have created the database, classify and segment the data. Supervised and unsupervised machine learning, such as K-means, Logistic Regression, Naïve Bayes and Support Vector Machine algorithms, can save time. Use these tools to find similarities in customer behavior, targeting for a campaign and overall document classification.

10. Disposition of Customers

You can determine customers’ disposition with sentiment analysis of reviews and feedback. That helps understand future product recommendations, guide introductions of new products and services, and overall trends.

11. Analyze Most Relevant Customer Topics

The most relevant topics discussed by customers can be analyzed with temporal modeling techniques that extract the topics or events customers share via social media, feedback forms and any other platform.

12. Visualize Your Analysis

Provide answers to the analysis in a tabular and graphical format. To ensure that the information is actionable and that the intended parties can access and use it, render it for viewing on a handheld device or Web-based tool. That way, the user can make recommendations in real-time, or on a near real-time basis.

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