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Unstructured data still poses problems

From the National Computing Centre, Manchester, UK
For issue: 22nd November 2010

It is becoming increasingly important for companies to access information in whatever form it is held. But managing and accessing unstructured data is still a major headache for many organisations, according to the latest survey from the Evaluation Centre, a procurement service from the National Computing Centre.

Companies have invested in a range of technologies, such as document management, records management and electronic content management, to handle unstructured data more effectively. Yet despite this, the majority of organisations (76%) still find unstructured data difficult to retrieve. Only 18% of companies are experiencing little or no difficulty.

Steve Fox, Managing Director of NCC, commented: “Companies should have easy access to information in whatever form it is created, both from a business point of view and to ensure that regulatory or legal requirements are met as efficiently as possible.”

Companies were asked to rank their reasons for adopting document management and workflow technologies, using a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 stands for ‘not important’ and 5 for ‘very important’.

Increasing the overall efficiency and productivity of the business is seen as the key driver (rated 4.1), followed by the need to improve customer service levels (4.0) and to streamline administration and core business processes (4.0) across the organisation.

These technologies are also viewed as a way to reduce operational costs and overheads (3.8) as well as allow the integration of, and access to, all types of information, whether structured or unstructured (3.7). The ability to develop a more proactive rather than a reactive organisation is also rated relatively highly (3.7), while being able to save on physical storage space is rated at 3.3.

The biggest challenges in introducing document management and workflow systems is not so much the technology, but convincing the organisation of its benefits. The major obstacle is ensuring that sufficient budget is made available to implement the solution effectively (4.1). This is followed by the difficulty of developing a corporate document classification scheme and information policies across the organisation (3.7) and persuading end users of the advantages of the new approach (3.4). Convincing management of the need to change business processes to make them more efficient is also seen as a major hurdle (3.6).

In comparison, the more technical issues such as configuring the software correctly (3.1), choosing suitable software (2.9) and managing the technical details of the implementation (2.9) are relatively straightforward.

We asked the respondents how successful they think their document management and workflow systems have been - and the perception is that they have yet to deliver all the expected benefits. The largest number (36%) say these systems have been successful and delivered benefits to the organisation, but 28% see them as being only partially successful with limited benefits accruing to the business. Only 1% feel they have been very successful and delivered all the anticipated benefits.

Survey statistics

We spoke to a broad cross-section of over 100 organisations for this year’s survey. The public sector comprise 24% of the sample, followed by business services (12%), IT & telecoms (10%) and banking & finance (9%).

The organisations vary in size, from those with an annual turnover of between £5 million and £10 million (17%) to the very largest: 10% of the sample report a turnover of between £1 billion and £5 billion, while 4% exceed the £5 billion mark.

In the middle of the scale, 11% have a turnover of between £10 million and £50 million, another 17% fall into the £50 million to £100 million bracket, 32% between £100 million and £500 million and 9% have a turnover in the range £500 million to £1 billion.

The survey is available from


About The National Computing Centre (NCC)

The National Computing Centre (NCC) helps IT decision makers deliver effective solutions to business problems by bringing together users, experts and vendors to share experiences and develop best practices.

About the Evaluation Centre

The Evaluation Centre ( is a free to use, interactive service for end users and consultants to assist them in the procurement process for software, services and technology.

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National Computing Centre
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