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Towards the end of 2018, IDC released a study claiming that by 2025, worldwide data will have grown by 61 percent to 175 zettabytes, with roughly 75 percent of the population having at least one data interaction every 18 seconds.

Furthermore, IDC also predicted that by 2025, 80 percent of this data will be unstructured, creating a number of unique and long-standing challenges within the enterprise. Unstructured data is not a new concept, organisations have been battling against this so called ‘dark data’ for years. However, what has changed in recent years is the source of this unstructured data.

Usually comprising of text documents, photos, video and audio files that have been created internally, the majority of this growing unstructured data is now flowing into organisations from external sources, such as real-time data from , invoices and contracts. This data can’t be easily be stored in a database and is therefore extremely difficult to search or analyse

As the majority of industries continue to transition towards building data-first business models, organisations are already struggling to keep pace with existing, accessible data. Difficult decisions routinely have to be made about where data is stored geographically, how it is stored, governed, secured and how companies can analyse their information across on-premise and cloud environments, as well as endpoint devices at the edge of the enterprise network.

With the ability to handle data effectively now a clear differentiator between market leaders and trailers, organisations with large amounts of unstructured data will lose out on the insights and the business value that information would be able to provide if it was accessible.

In the same 2018 study, IDC also noted that if 37 percent of this unstructured data could be made useful by 2020, it would result in $430 billion in productivity gains for organisations. As a result, many IT decision makers have started to take proactive steps to improve the way data is both collected and stored within the enterprise, with the aim to remove some of the challenges associated with having large amounts of unstructured data.

What’s the solution?

The means of unlocking the value of unstructured data, while challenging, does exist. The evolution of artificial intelligence and cloud computing over recent years has given rise to insights that were previously unobtainable being brought to the surface and transforming business operations.

Enterprise content management (ECM) systems continue to be the most popular solution for organisations looking to get a better handle on their data, unstructured or otherwise. However, traditional ECM solutions can often be difficult to implement, more expensive than more cloud-based infrastructure and lacking the means to offer sufficient integration with other parties.

Box, in partnership with IBM, aims to remove these roadblocks by offering what Forrester call a SaaS Cloud Content Platform, which can help organisations mine that data for strategic business value, while seamlessly improving collaboration in real-time with internal and external stakeholders.

Box Skills is a framework and developer toolkit that makes it easy to leverage powerful AI services to enhance the content already stored within a Box environment. Users are then able to leverage the artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities offered by third-party providers, such as IBM Watson, to enrich content and  extract untapped value from it when it resides in Box.

From customised document insights which enable you to better search for files and navigate within them, to natural language understanding capabilities that can analyse and transcribe audio files, uncovering this previously inaccessible information can make it faster and easier for employees to find content in the cloud, and work with it within Box. At the same time, this same approach can help organisations automate and accelerate outdated business processes, and reduce security and compliance risk.

Beth Smith, general manager of IBM Watson AI, sums it up by saying. “With unstructured data growing at an exponential rate, businesses have a tremendous source of valuable insight. However, this data is untapped largely due to the shortcomings of traditional methods of analysis," she says.

"Box Skills with Watson uses AI to help organisations unlock these insights and ultimately reimagine how work is done.”

Learn more about how Box and IBM are helping clients unlock insights and transform their businesses