Ricoh Americas: ‘Unstructured knowledge’ is the challenge of our time

by Andrea Alstad

Leveraging goldmine of untethered, unorganized information Leveraging goldmine of untethered, unorganized information will drive organizations’ success in 2013 and beyond. Despite the power of increasingly advanced databases, the overwhelming majority of valuable business information remains adrift in the form of unstructured knowledge – any information that is not captured or easily searchable.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in America, Ricoh Americas Corporation today predicts this untapped asset – unstructured knowledge – will be a key factor in the next five years and beyond. Unstructured knowledge consists largely of conversations, communications, unsearchable documents, processes, practices, strategies and cultural norms. Organizations are generally unable to harness these assets today, says Ricoh.

Those organizations with the ability to capture and provide structure to this knowledge will wield a huge advantage in the future. The challenge of seizing unstructured knowledge, already complex, will be further complicated by stark generational differences in work style and by the majority of baby boomers retiring by 2021 – taking valuable, undocumented information with them.

Terrie Campbell, Vice President, Strategic Marketing, Ricoh Americas Corporation said

Quoting  begins Capturing unstructured knowledge is especially important as baby boomers retire and Gen Y turns first to the search window to attack every new business problem, and to create further complexity, the velocity of change in communication technology is unprecedented ... Organizations that don’t adequately capture unstructured knowledge will risk the chance their customers will find more nimble companies with which to do business. Quoting  ends

Ricoh believes this knowledge capture imperative will reveal itself in a compelling range of trends, technologies and practices. Among them:

The next big thing: Voice capture.

Ever notice how the details of important business meetings and conference calls start fading from memory the moment you step out of the room? And how it’s virtually impossible to fully brief someone who didn’t attend? Over the next five years, companies will use speech-to-text technology to capture, tag and organize the things we talk about in meetings, conference calls and customer support interactions. These conversations, which are unstructured knowledge, will all become searchable business information.

This use of voice capture will have legal ramifications as these recorded conversations become part of the "workflow," virtually everything will be "on the record." That means organizations will need legislation that permits this capture, and will need to negotiate consent from employees and partners. Expect litigation over what, if anything, remains off limits.

Technology-enabled Collaboration. Emerging technologies in communication will mean smart phones won’t just connect. They’ll create. Cloud boards and unified communication systems as well as virtual workspaces will add dimension to where knowledge originates. This technology will enable that content to be captured, searched and shared.

Security concerns mount. Gen Y has redefined "teamwork." Today, it may include vetting ideas on social networks, and the boundaries may be even broader in the years to come. Organizations will need reliable new ways of securing enterprise information without constraining the open access that spawns solutions.

New ways of working drive new architectures. New personal devices, mobility levels and social computing techniques will create the need for different architectures, many relying on the cloud. Security and access will be paramount – and more challenging than ever.

Bidirectional mentorship.

Gen Y will comprise over 50% of the workforce by 2020.[1] Baby boomers and Gen Y work quite differently, but each has much to teach the other. Decades of experience have given baby boomers a feel for what strategies, processes and approaches succeed or fail in business. Capturing their knowledge in searchable content that adds value to the organization is imperative. At the same time, Gen Y, however, has startling insights into the workings of social computing, which is well on its way to becoming synonymous with business. Baby boomers will mentor Gen Y, as might be expected, but smart organizations will enlist Gen Y to mentor boomers on the new ways of being effective.

The ultimate goal: Monetizing captured knowledge. Capturing the new goldmine of unstructured knowledge will be a good move for any company – and a great one if you can figure out early on how to process it effectively, and distribute the right output to the right worker at the right time to profit from it.

Campbell said

Quoting  begins The vast opportunity that is unstructured knowledge is a big challenge for the next few years ... Successful companies will find a way to get their arms around it. Others will see their fundamental value erode. Information is our core focus at Ricoh, so we think we’ll play a major role in helping companies exceed their goals. It will be exciting to see how all this plays out because you can roadmap technology, but you can’t roadmap human behavior. Quoting  ends

Ricoh’s predictions are based on in-depth analyses of the major business challenges facing enterprises today, trends and emerging technology. Furthermore, Ricoh bases these predictions in part on its half century of innovation in America, during which time it delivered:

  • The first high-speed digital facsimile machine for office use (1974).
  • The first solar-powered SLR camera (1981).
  • The first mass-produced CD-rewriteable drive (1996).
  • The first biomass toner as a genuine manufacturer’s supply item (2009).
  • A 100-percent solar-powered electronic billboard, in New York’s Times Square (2010).

GO Ricoh’s Half Century of Innovation in America

Ricoh is a global technology company specializing in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems and IT services. Headquartered in Tokyo, Ricoh Group operates in more than 200 countries and regions. In the financial year ending March 2012, Ricoh Group had worldwide sales of 1,903 billion yen (approx. 23 billion USD).

The majority of the company's revenue comes from products, solutions and services that improve the interaction between people and information. Ricoh also produces award-winning digital cameras and specialized industrial products. It is known for the quality of its technology, the exceptional standard of its customer service and sustainability initiatives.

Under its corporate tagline, imagine. change. Ricoh helps companies transform the way they work and harness the collective imagination of their employees.

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