Every now and then, there's rumbling about integrating structured data -- the stuff you find in databases -- with unstructured data -- the electronic stuff that, well, isn't in databases, like text files and Web pages.
It's not exactly a new topic, though the market does seem to be actually moving toward that point where vendors can offer actual solutions.
Still, it's hard to find concrete discussions of this type of integration, which is why I was pleasantly surprised by this recent find on ComputerWeekly.com.
I learned three important things that will help you navigate this emerging market space, even if you're completely skeptical about unstructured data.
First, even though we have terms like "knowledge management," "business intelligence," and any number of nomenclatures you could use to describe the integration of structured and unstructured data already -- there's still a new term to describe the integration of structured and unstructured data. Of course there is - isn't there always?
The term is "information management" and, in cases where you want to be really clear you're talking about both structured and unstructured information, you may also use "holistic information management."
Now, I know information management isn't a new term, but the usage is now more specific, a bit more defined. I mention that so you'll know what vendors mean when they start to push their new Information Management platforms/solutions/suites. Here's how the article explains it:
"Information management is an umbrella term for bringing together structured, unstructured and semi-structured data. It is a logical next step from using knowledge management or business intelligence tools, says (Mike) Davis (a senior analyst with Ovum). But organizations cannot realize the full benefit of such tools because they are accessing only part of the corporate memory."
Second, I learned there are three approaches or paths, if you will, to information management:
- You can use a Web-based approach, like MySAP, which basically pulls information from other systems into a Web front-end. To enhance these offerings, you can also buy add-ons to content management applications from various suppliers, according to the piece.
- You can have something akin to your own internal search engine that queries both structured and unstructured data. Microsoft takes this approach.
- You can take the heavy-duty approach used by Informatica and IBM, in which you deploy software designed to "pull in information from any data source and translate it into a common data format, such as XML." Here, the software acts as a middle layer to pull in information, "using a combination of business intelligence and data mining," the piece reports.
Third, I learned more about this market. Like all emerging tech spaces, information management has a number of niche players. The piece implies that IBM is the big dog right now - but with the inevitable buyouts of niche players, who knows how it will shake out in the end?
The article also offers tips for getting started in information management. I think it's an excellent piece that explains this emerging space in a practical, understandable way. Read it now so you can navigate the inevitable hype that's bound to follow.