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In the age of unstructured information, analytics is the enabler that turns info into knowledge

DATA IS EXPLODING at an unprecedented rate. Businesses are feeling the pressure of trying to cope with the increasing volume, velocity and variety of information entering the organisation on a daily basis. And those that are managing to not only cope with this challenge, but outperform their competitors in the way they utilise this new influx of information, are carving out a distinct competitive advantage for themselves.

Today, the majority of information that is created and distributed is unstructured, stemming from the almost two billion Internet users and 4.6 billion mobile phones across the world. The figures are astounding: Twitter processes 7TB of data every day; outdone only by Facebook, processing 10TB on a daily basis. A recent study in 2010 predicts that over the coming decade, there will be 44 times more data and content created than has been created up until now - shooting from 800 000 petabytes in 2009 to 35 zettabytes by 2020. Because so much of this new information is unstructured, a paradox has arisen: we are drowning in information, yet starving for knowledge. This is because information is only valuable and can only be made sense of when it is synthesised into knowledge. For data to become useful, it needs to be easy to find, access, analyse and put to use. This is where analytics fits in - the term given to the process of harnessing raw data and unstructured information, and turning it into knowledge. It provides decision-makers with the ability to forecast and predict scenarios, understand why something happened, and what would happen depending on certain variables - ultimately allowing for smarter decision-making.

As we enter an age in which business success is so strongly linked to information, organisations will do well to pay greater attention to the structures and tools that they have in place, to allow them to leverage the latent power of information and turn it into knowledge.

About the author: Greg Bogiages is director of Cortell Corporate Performance Management.

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