Structured Data vs. Unstructured Data
Did you know that 90% of data is defined as unstructured data? Unstructured data is data that’s been saved in its native format. It hasn’t been organized in any specific way and isn’t processed until it’s being used. This can include emails, word documents, image files, PDFs, and so on. For some purposes, this undefined data offers freedom, but for documentation within an AEC firm, unstructured data is often too unwieldy and difficult to parse; interpreting it can require specialty tools or knowledge. There’s no searchability with unstructured data, which makes finding specific documents difficult.
In comparison, structured data has been predefined, indexed, and formatted before being input into a system. Structured data is formatted to adhere to a specific organizational structure and is then placed in a data management system. When you turn your files into structured data, all of the contents of those files are interpreted and made searchable. Because this data has already been processed, the search function in your storage system becomes much more robust.
The Value of Searchability in Structured Data
When your data is structured and housed in an intelligent data management system, the time and effort required to find the information you need is nominal because structured data allows for a highly dynamic search functionality. For example, if you’re looking for a piece of information from a PDF, when that file and its data are structured, you don’t have to search by the file name. You can enter a query for the specific line you need and your data management system will take you not just to the correct file, but to the correct part of the file.
The Applications of Structured Data for AEC Firms
At architectural, engineering, and construction firms, there are always multiple projects in progress at the same time, and all of those projects require substantial documentation. Of course, this leaves AEC firms with massive amounts of blueprints, renderings, topographic maps, safety records, and various other types of documents. Managing all of those in an on-site paper filing system is one option, but it comes with a lot of drawbacks. Paper filing systems require an exorbitant amount of storage space. Paper is fallible: easily disorganized or destroyed. And in today’s digital world, clients and colleagues will expect files to be digital, which means relying paper systems has the potential to lose you business revenue.
However, not all digital systems are created equal. Digital document management solutions that utilize structured data offer substantial positive benefits to a business that unstructured data systems can’t compete with. Imagine a scenario in which a client calls into your office asking to have the permits for their project re-sent to them. With a management system that relies on unstructured data, there’s the possibility that the permits weren’t saved using the correct naming conventions or were saved in the incorrect format or storage location, making it difficult to find the permits and fulfill the client’s request.
With structured data, however, because the system processes and organizes the data when files are uploaded, there’s no opportunity for the file to be saved incorrectly; because the contents of the files themselves are searchable, you’d be able to re-send the permits before you’ve even hung up the phone.
Structured data management increases speed, promotes efficiency, improves organization, reduces waste, and allows for superior customer service.
Structure Your Data With Scan-Optics
Scan-Optics is a team of leading experts in the field of digital transformation with extensive experience in document digitization, data processing, and intelligent information management. We’re here to help AEC firms like yours find the right digitization solutions for their unique needs. Contact us today to begin your digital transformation journey.