Applications need data to run. That used to require relational tables. Later, that expanded to unstructured data—things like e-mail, forum threads and PowerPoint presentations. And as businesses began to collect more and more of these, the next problem became Big Data. How does an organization deal with the massive amounts of data—we’re talking terabytes here—to make good use of it all? Business decisions rely on finding the appropriate data and then gleaning insight from it.

In SharePoint, there’s a similar problem. Here, though, you can call it the Big Content problem. This is what Jignesh Shah, chief strategy officer of Metalogix, and I were discussing at the recent Microsoft SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas. Metalogix has evolved its Migration Manager software into Content Matrix, responding to the need of organizations to continue to manage and move documents within SharePoint even after the migration is complete. “Big Content creates its own set of challenges,” Shah said, “including findability, and pushing management capabilities down to the end users” so control moves closer to the point of origin of the content.

This, of course, was a topic near and dear to the hearts of the folks at Kofax, who are focused on case management and business-process management for SharePoint and other major ECM platforms. By having the software automate capture (eliminating both scanners and end-user input), the content can be rolled into the same business process regardless of the format it arrived in, such as postal mail, e-mail, fax or XML data streams. “A touchless process is less error-prone and gets the content into the process faster,” said Dean Misenheimer of Kofax.

Those are but two parts of the data/content picture. In a conversation with Steven Wong and Eric Riz of Canadian software company Concatenate, they explained that their RealTime asset and life-cycle management solution helps companies create corporate strategies and execute against them. Concatenate is putting no small effort into work management, the definition of content types and taxonomies for data that underlies an organization’s business processes.

“It’s about how you use data in the business process to make faster, better decisions,” Wong said. “Then you optimize the processes to gain insight from the data.” Then, if you can drill back from the decision point to the source data, you can gain a tremendous amount of insight into how you got where you are.

And as we all know, you can’t tell where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.

David Rubinstein is editor-in-chief of SD Times.