Manage Unstructured Data using ECM Solutions

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Written By Haissam Abdul Malak

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Managing unstructured data represents a challenge for all organizations as these are usually not organized, scattered across different locations, and hard to locate.

According to IDC, the volume of data produced globally will approach 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020. Furthermore, according to several well-known reports, 70 to 80 percent of data is unstructured.

As a result, it is vital for companies to understand how to plan, store, and handle their most precious commodity (both structured and unstructured data).

Before we get into how unstructured data can be handled by ECM solutions or document management systems (DMS), it’s necessary to consider the distinction between organized and unstructured data.

Structured vs Unstructured Data

Structured Data

Structured data, categorized as quantitative data, is highly organized and stored in a way (typically relational database) to make it relatively easy to manipulate and searched for.

Having data organized, formatted, and stored will empower organizations to get insights and drive fast decision making.

Examples of structured includes data names, addresses, credit card numbers, dates, ect.

Unstructured Data

Unstructured data, categorized as qualitative data, is usually difficult to gather, store, and organize in a typical databases i.e. Excel, SQL and can’t be processed and analyzed using the traditional tools.

Examples of unstructured data includes emails, text files, audio, video, social media posts, mobile/tablet activities, business applications (PDFs).

How can ECM solutions help?

Organize Content

As stated previously, unstructured organization data is scattered across different locations such as network drives, emails, personal drives, etc.

Using ECM solution can help organizations have both structured and unstructured data in one centralized repository.

Having your emails, PDFs, word documents organized and properly stored will help you locate them faster and access them while on the move.

Major ECM solutions have been working on adding more integration capabilities to their systems allowing easier content creation such as

  1. MS office Integration: directly import words documents or emails to the system.
  2. EFSS integration: Importing content from enterprise file syncing and sharing tools such as Dropbox, Box.

Faster Content Retrieval

While adding your unstructured data into an ECM solution, you should add meaningful metadata describing more the characteristics of the content which will allow you to easily retrieve the document you are searching for in the future.

In addition most ECM solution have OCRing capability that will provide faster content retrieval due to the ability to search texts inside the word, pdf, image, etc.

for more info about OCRing, check this link

46 % of workers find it sometimes or almost always challenging to find the information they are looking for


Collaboration Made Easy

When your unstructured data is stored in an ECM solution, it becomes smooth to share it with your colleagues for collaboration and you don’t have to worry about

  • Modifying the wrong version as the system will make sure that you are working on the latest version
  • Security breaches as also ECM solution usually provide powerful yet flexible security model.

No Data Lost

When your import your unstructured data to an ECM solution, you make sure that you don’t to waste time recreating this content again.

83 % of workers have had to recreate a document which already existed because they were unable to find it on their corporate network



Most ECM solutions nowadays provide a way to have access to your content from your office or from your mobile/tablet whether in a form of an app or their portal adapts to different screen resolutions.

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