Like all persons, places and things, data has certain characteristics. A child may be mercurial, for example, but data is far more so – it is everywhere at once. Perhaps that is why we have a hard time understanding the nature of data. It is so different from our own nature, and we try to manipulate data to…well, to make it more like us.

Unstructured data, in particular, resides everywhere at once and in many different formats. It is in the enterprise and in many places outside the enterprise; it can be in the form of text, video, voice or graphics; it can be contained in event or message data, rich media data; and more and more, it can be living within social media. While many people may resist change, data embraces it – constantly evolving and changing and in effect replacing itself over and over again. Data is able to do what the movie The Matrix attempted to do with people. While it may be interesting to look at historic data—like old pictures—in light of the constant growth and evolution of data, combined with the break-neck speed of business today, it is far more critical to gain an accurate picture of data as it exists today, in this moment, in order to take immediate action.

While we humans move from place to place, data exists in siloes. It exists where it was created, and often, where it was moved once it had been created (and where it often lacks updating—no new clothing styles of haircuts for this data). It is siloed by department, within organizations, by social media platforms, outside of organizations, by organizations themselves, by geography (within multi-national companies), and in many cases, by subject matter experts – the individuals. And data doesn’t talk to each other, at least not without some major integration work happening. Precisely because unstructured data has these characteristics, constantly changing and growing and existing in siloes, it cannot be stored efficiently over time and still provide the type of insight most companies need to transform their performance. What exists today may be gone tomorrow, replaced, tweaked or just outdated by entirely new data. What exists in siloes cannot be combined with other data, or, in many cases, even found by those outside the silo. This is why it is critical to not only allow data to exist where it naturally resides (so it remains fresh) it is also important to connect the data in real time to enable actionable insight.

In my next blog we’ll talk about how companies are getting this right—particularly joining social and enterprise data. Now, maybe you’re not exactly like Neo, but how are you like data?