Evolution Of Data Technologies

Evolution Of Data Technologies

A long time ago in a gal…uh…Southern Florida city far, far away…

A bunch of college kids were pulling off a “Miracle” in upstate New York. Dr. Carl Sagan, the American astronomer, was educating “billions and billions” of people on the expanse of our universe. A loaf of bread cost 50 cents and Luke was learning his ancestry in the Empire Strikes Back. That is when my technology career was starting, in a cold computer room of a bank in Southern Florida.

Over the decades the miracles disappeared in lieu of dream teams. Dr. Sagan passed away. Bread got more expensive. Luke made up with his dad and found his sister. Over those same decades there were definite patterns in how technologies evolved.

Patterns in Technology…

As the old saying goes, “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

Consider the devices computer users have worked with. Back in the day this was what people used to access a computer.

These “dumb terminals” as they were called accessed large mainframe computers in nearby computer rooms. Personal Computers (PCs) were in the nascent stages.

In the mid-1980s PCs were introduced to enable a more elegant user experience as well as the ability to offload processing from the hyper-expensive mainframes.

A decade later the advent of the browser, in combination with faster networks and servers that were cheaper, allowed processing to be pushed back to a secure, central location, such as a computer room.

In the early 2000s, this “circle-of-life” was completed with the introduction of desktop virtualization. With more powerful and inexpensive servers, and a greater focus on security of data, desktop virtualization enabled the ability to use dumb terminals to access user sessions running on servers in computer rooms. Data was now well protected, and the virtual desktop terminal was cheaper and lasted much longer than a PC. We ended where we began.

Just plug in a monitor, keyboard, and mouse and access your user session in the cloud. Just like that old dumb terminal, but smaller.

We see a similar pattern with software architecture. In the 1980s and 1990s client/server computing was used to leverage the power of the local device. Then the internet and the browser empowered the user to do more so the devices operated thin-client technology. Mobile technology is following the same pattern. First it was mobile apps installed on the local user device. However, with HTML5 and faster mobile networks users don’t have to install apps on their phones. It’s the modern version of client/server giving way to thin-client technology.

Data Analytics technologies following a pattern…

Modern Analytics architecture began to mainstream in the early 2000s. This included Data Cubes, analytical reporting platforms, data visualization, ETL, and Data Warehouses. All these data technologies were designed on the premise that source data would come from a system-of-record with a database of Structured Data.

Through Content Analytics the world is now beginning to understand the value of Unstructured Data. As I covered in previous articles 80-90% of a company’s data is in Unstructured form. So, all those Analytical platforms designed and built over the last 2 decades only process a small subset of the company’s data. That means these companies are making decisions based on incomplete information.

Here is where the pattern is revealing itself. Text Analytics, bringing structure to unstructured data, is being used in Data Analytics platforms now. However, the next step, Content Analytics, which uses AI and Natural Language Processing to understand the context and meaning of the content, as well as apply metadata, is the logical next step.

Imagine What You Can Do by routing that 80-90% of Data You Didn’t Even Know You Had to your Data Analytics platforms. Your organization can make better decisions based on a lot more company data.

As you make business decisions in the coming weeks think about the value Content Analytics could bring to your company through your Data Analytics platform. All these unstructured data sources contain a gold mine of information such as file shares, intranets, emails, websites, and application logs. This is what tells the true story of your company.

In my next article I will talk more about Text Analytics.

Content Analytics – The C-Suite Perspective

Content Analytics – The C-Suite Perspective

Since 2000, I’ve been a Chief Executive Officer, Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer. That’s 21 years in the C-suite. Over those 21 years I guided my businesses through 9-11, years of the country at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, multiple hurricane landfalls in Florida, the Great Recession, the COVID pandemic, the ransomware threat, radical political polarization, and social justice movements.

Sometimes I wonder how we made it through.

It hasn’t just been challenging. There were many economic opportunities and new technologies to leverage:

– Business Intelligence technologies

– the explosion of the internet economy

– the proliferation of smart mobile devices

– virtualization technologies

– social media

– the sharing economy

– 3D printing

– Blockchain

– personal digital assistants

– the privatization of space

– drones

– electric and self-driving cars

– quantum computing,

– the mainstreaming of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

During that span, I, and every other C-suite executive, were navigating those challenges while trying to take advantage of new opportunities. While there is a strategic aspect of our responsibilities, there’s also an operational aspect that requires constant management…marketing, sales, product delivery, support, billing, compliance, security, etc.

Think back to the challenges and opportunities listed. How does one keep informed on them? News articles, blogs, government notifications, industry newsletters, special interest emails, tv, video streaming, podcasts and more. It is all Unstructured Data. How does one keep up with it all during normal times? Further, what about during the tumultuous times? The volume of information becomes more critical, more voluminous evolving at a faster pace.

As mentioned in some of my previous articles, the world has access to many sophisticated business intelligence and dashboard systems. This has revolutionized executive decision-making and management span of control of your operations. They can give you a great perspective on the internals of your business. But what about those external factors? It requires Content Analytics.

When major world events occur, you can be forced to respond with everyone else. With Content Analytics you can not only respond faster, even first but can use that advantage to dictate to your competitors.

This is because Content Analytics can help you access 80-90% of the data you didn’t even know you had, Unstructured Data. This enables better decisions based on internal data you can now access as well as externally produced data.

Nobody can maintain the pace necessary to consume it all and make the necessary decisions for your business. It is all data that is external to your business…coming from the outside world. Imagine what you can do if that large volume of constantly evolving Unstructured Data could be automatically gathered, read, analyzed, structured, and visualized for you. That is Content Analytics at work for you.

9-11 is a good example. At that time, I was Chief Information Officer for a data-center management company with 35 data-centers throughout North America, including 2 in lower Manhattan. As the towers were burning the landline and mobile phone services in Manhattan were overloaded. We lost voice contact with our own data-center employees. We were very concerned for them.

Once we were able to sift through the news reports and understand the scope of what was going on with voice services, we manually shifted our voice system into Voice-Over-IP mode. Then, we were immediately able to communicate with our employees. We enabled voice communications for our data-center customers. With Content Analytics monitoring the news feeds our systems could have been re-routed automatically and we could have stayed in constant contact with our employees.

In the coming week take note of all the external information you consume that is unstructured. Imagine what you can do if all the information could be delivered to you, analyzed automatically, and integrated into your decision-support systems. In my next article, I’ll review the evolution of Data Analytics technologies and how they led to Content Analytics.

Being First, Next

Being First, Next

You are a leader at your company. It is your responsibility to grow it in the most predictable and capital-efficient manner possible. It is paramount for you to minimize risk. However, you have a vision of your business being the next leader in your industry. Being a leader requires calculated risk. How do you approach that mountain climb? What can you do that is special and worthy of your vision? What strategy fulfills each of those competing requirements?

To grow your company, you need to tap into something new. As the saying goes, “If you always do what you’ve done, you always get what you’ve always gotten”. The status quo will not do if you are a visionary that wants to lead.

What can your company afford to invest to achieve industry leadership?

Almost as important, what can you afford to lose if it doesn’t work? A company with a solid foundation can suffer setbacks. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences to decisions that don’t generate the planned results. No organization has endless capital or patience. A large strategic play that doesn’t pan out also consumes the calendar from other opportunities. Time is a finite resource, and that loss of time is permanent. A strategy that doesn’t achieve its planned results can impact your career.

It is well established that the most reliable way to reduce strategic risk is to use data in your decision-making processes. Unfortunately, if you have a vision the cost-of-entry has already been paid by most of your competition in the form of business intelligence systems, reporting, and dashboards. You’ve got to do more than just that.

So, what strategy can you employ that is impactful…worthy of a visionary’s personal capital? What is worth investing your company’s future in? What has the most attractive risk profile?

Content Analytics

Like I mentioned in my previous article, Content Analytics is a field that leverages Unstructured Data. This includes documents, emails, sensors, images, and even voice by using Text Analytics. By combining Text Analytics with Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, and Robotic Process Automation, text can be processed into structured data,

knowledge, and even understanding. That understanding can be integrated into your existing systems for immediate, innovative, and vastly improved decision-making.

Content Analytics gives you access to the 80-90% of your company’s data that you didn’t even know you had. It is your data, so it is a valuable asset. It informs on your company, your market, partners, vendors, and customers. You’ve made decisions based on data for years, but you never had access to all of your data. As a matter of fact, you had access to very little of it.

Imagine what you can do if you could leverage 10 times more data than you had before? Imagine what you can do if that data was integrated into your systems-of-record and decision support systems. Your company could react to situations in real-time informed by your own Unstructured Data.

Does the free-form text entered by your Customer Service department into your Operational Support System reveal dissatisfaction with the response time of your online service today? Imagine what you can do if that data informed your IT department in real-time to investigate the customer-facing infrastructure for performance issues. Further, that Customer Service data can initiate automatic performance monitoring that checks against a baseline and report those results transparently.

Is your Sales Department receiving emails from prospects and customers reflecting a trend of a strong interest in a legacy product? Perhaps that product is garnering renewed interest due to a pandemic or work-from-home related issues. Imagine what you can do if those emails could be automatically read, understood, correlated with current news, and forwarded to specific personnel in Sales and Marketing.

Is your Business Development area missing opportunities in M&A and partnerships? This can be due to Business Development having too many financial reports and analyses to read on their own. Imagine what you can do if everything was read, and trends were mapped to growth strategies.

There’s an Imagine what you can do with every functional area of your business. These areas benefit from access to Unstructured Data…Human Resources, Accounting, Legal, etc.

Implementing Content Analytics is a strategy that leverages your data (predictable and capital-efficient) but is also impactful and can launch your business into a leadership position. Your company could be the Next First in your industry.

In my next article, I’ll review the various perspectives of Content Analytics that you may encounter in the C-suite.

Imagine What You Can Do…An Introduction To AI & Unstructured Data

Imagine What You Can Do…An Introduction To AI & Unstructured Data

Welcome! I appreciate you taking the time to hear my thoughts on how to evolve your company into what it can become next. We’ll review innovative ideas for the corporate visionaries aiming to generate a Giant Leap for your business and taking the lead in your industry.

This will be a continuing series on how to combine the uses of Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, Robotic Process Automation and Text Analytics against an enormous volume of data you didn’t even know you had, Unstructured Data. The field is called Content Analytics.

A little about my background…I’ve been in Technology for about 40 years. I started out working in the computer room of a bank as a teenager and was developing software for Equifax before I was 20. Throughout my 20s I was with Verizon as a Software Developer and Architect in which I specialized in early forms of Robotic Process Automation. During that time I was attaining my certification as a Software Development instructor for the U.S. Department of Defense, eventually teaching at multiple military installations including Pearl Harbor. For the past 25 years I’ve been a Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Officer working with investor groups to launch and dramatically grow technology companies. This includes in the industries of financial services, mobile communications, data center management, logistics, digital advertising and psychological sciences. These endeavors have provided me a very broad perspective on business and technology. I’ve been through multiple successful Exits including with T-Mobile and Fidelity. I’m now CEO of Scion Analytics, a company that specializes in platforms and services in the field of Content Analytics.

Did You Know That You Probably Lack Access To 80% Of Your Organization’s Data?

The world commonly thinks of their data as that which resides in the database of their systems-of-record. This includes systems for ERP, CRM, Marketing, Customer Service, Human Resources and in IT. Fact is, the vast majority of your data is in Unstructured form; Word documents, PDFs, Powerpoint decks, Excel files, Emails, geo-spatial data, sensor data, images, voice messages and even videos. What company doesn’t have a shared drive with thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of files that accumulated over the years? It could be an internal mapped drive or Sharepoint, OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox. As a former CIO of 20 years I know we all have these.

Whether you are a CEO setting your over-arching business plan, a COO trying to optimize your operations, a CIO executing on Technology Strategy, the CFO developing a Financial Plan or the Chief Marketing Officer attempting to divine messages from marketing content, the desire is to always make decisions and take action based on data. However, a decision or action based on incomplete data is a significant risk to your business and prevents you from attaining that next step in your company’s evolution.

Imagine What You Can Do If You Get Access To All Of That Data Then Could Act On It

Your company could quickly and effectively ingest large complex legal documents. Work initiated from those documents could be automatically analyzed and distributed throughout your workforce. Finally, you could speak the same language as your customers, partners and vendors by using Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing to respond and integrate.

But how to get at it? By its’ very nature Unstructured Data is hard to get to, difficult to understand, labor-intensive to index and structure and then to report on it. This is where Content Analytics and other technologies can be brought to bear.

Take an analysis in a Word document full of text, one of the most common forms of Unstructured Data. It may have many data-points that could inform strategy or document past decisions. Unfortunately, someone would have to read that document and extract the applicable data-points and input those into other systems for further processing. You could do that once but weeks, months, or years from now you may need access to that analysis again. By then it could be buried in a file-share containing 50,000 files. Worse yet, the source analysis may have been edited into another document or version. Not only is it hard to find the data you need, buried in files you can’t find, but which version is the right one? That can be a lost cause.

The first step in accessing this valuable data is “reading” it, virtually. Simply said, this is parsing the text based on the rules of grammar for whatever language the document is written in. As text is parsed Text Analytics technology transforms the text into structured data. Natural Language Processing technology generates the needed metadata and understanding. It can then be processed via other methods of Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning algorithms for decision-making.

As you can see, it can be a very complex process to access your Unstructured Data but the value is certainly there.

Over the coming months I’ll be writing about the possibilities of Content Analytics, how to innovate with it, the various perspectives across an organization as well as cover specific use-cases. I welcome you connecting with me and providing your perspective.


James R. Eddy, CEO of Scion Analytics