What is dark data, and why should it matter to your business?

What is dark data, and why should it matter to your business?

We live in an age where digital data is the world’s most valuable commodity. We’re generating more data than ever across an increasingly wide range of touchpoints ranging from internet-connected smart devices to online stores. Most business-to-customer interactions are now digitally powered, and each of these interactions generates data. The problem is businesses are generating so much data that it’s impossible to make sense out of it all.

That’s why up to three-quarters of data goes unused for analytics. In many cases, companies don’t even know that the data is being created and, even if they do, they might not be aware that it’s potentially useful. This is known as dark data.

Dark data: A brief description

Dark data refers to all the information that isn’t being used or cannot be used due to specific circumstances, such as location, quantity, or the availability of systems necessary to collect or analyze it. Businesses relying primarily on manual processes to derive data-driven insights typically end up with far more dark data.

Types of dark data

Dark data comes in several different forms. The first is untapped internal data, which refers to the information an organization already collects through its day-to-day processes, yet goes unused.

Another category is unstructured data, which isn’t organized in a way that conventional data analytics solutions can make sense of. Most data takes an unstructured form, since it’s generated by natural activities rather than following the rules of a specific database format. Common formats include images and videos and most interactions over social media and instant messaging.

Dark data can include all sorts of potentially valuable information, such as web server log files and previous employee data. Other examples include email correspondence, old documents, raw survey data, financial statements, and surveillance video footage. The list goes on.

These data sets can provide massive value to your company, provided you have the right tools. For example, analyzing old financial statements could provide valuable insights into cash flow trends and help you better plan your payments. Footage from video surveillance cameras, email correspondence, or customer call records could reveal insights into customer behavior.

Challenges of working with dark data

The ability to derive actionable insights from data is one of the key drivers of business growth. But it’s also important to remember that a lot of data is actually useless. If you’re working with outdated, inconsistent, or incorrect data, you could end up in a worse situation than when you started.

Get data analytics right, on the other hand, and you can turn data into powerful insights that lead to new opportunities, reduce business risk, and maximize return on investment. To make that happen though, you need to know how to spot bad data.

Identifying trustworthy data sources is essential, yet often overlooked. It’s just as important as hiring trustworthy employees and working with reputable vendors. When merging multiple data sources into a single analytics dashboard, it’s imperative that each data point aligns. If data is inconsistent, then it might not be coming from a trustworthy source.

That’s why should consider PaperSave document management systems (DMS). PaperSave integrates with enterprise software like Microsoft Dynamics 365 to ensure data is consistent throughout your entire company. It also comes with intelligent document capture features that process valuable data and feeds it directly to your analytics software. What’s more, PaperSave allows you to program automated procedures for verifying data, so you can obtain accurate insights.

Addressing security concerns with dark data

Another key focus area of working with dark data is information security. Some dark data might contain sensitive information, but because the owners don’t know about it, it’s inherently more susceptible to data breaches. This is why most organizations take several months to identify a data breach.

Although not all dark data will be useful for analytics, it’s still important that you protect any sensitive information in your care by monitoring it closely.
Bringing greater visibility to dark data requires a comprehensive solution that connects all data sources in your organization and compiles them in a single, centralized dashboard. PaperSave helps you do just that, and since it’s hosted in the cloud, you can rest easy knowing that it’s protected by military-grade encryption, advanced threat prevention systems, and a team of cybersecurity experts.

PaperSave is a document management solution that helps companies shine a light on dark data and make sense of their business processes and customers. Call us or schedule a free personalized demo today to find out more.