Is Web Scraping Leaving You Hungry For More?
How Complete Web Data Integration Can Separate You
from The Competition
In many organizations, incorporating external web data into intelligence and business processes is a matter of survival. The speed and accuracy at which data is acquired, processed, and distributed across a company's business ecosystem can make the difference in being first to market with a product, service or a competitive bid. It’s where market and customer trends are immediately identifiable, where fraud activity is detected, background checks are performed, where financial and market research information drives ideas, and more.
But what if your business has outgrown its current web scraping or harvesting efforts? Instead of “force feeding” data that is incomplete, noisy and outdated to satisfy business and regulatory needs, companies are looking to acquire and integrate relevant, accurate and fresh web data by taking a more intelligent and integration-based approach.
Extraction is Everything
Harvesting and collecting web data can be performed manually via humans “cutting and pasting” or using any number of web data scraping, mining and harvesting tools. Essentially, extracting data from the web involves capturing what you see in your web browser. However, the dynamic nature of the web requires a web browser enabled approach to extracting data.
When defining web data, most people focus on well-known consumer and social media sites such as Google, Amazon, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter, but the most valuable data is usually located somewhere else. It could be in industry or location specific sites, password protected B2B portals, cloud apps, government sites and even your competitor’s site. It also includes data locked in applications that lives inside your firewall. Once you expand the extraction to include data from all relevant sources and understand how easy it is to collect and make available to your employees, you begin to realize the enormous potential real-time web data offers.
The quality of your data is also important during the extraction phase. With web data constantly changing, automatically detecting changes is key to ensuring data reliability. A simple change to a website can alter your data or disrupt vital data delivery. This can result in costly hours or days of researching and resolving the issue.
The breadth and diversity of data creates a huge integration challenge. Some internal and external data sources can be readily integrated, while others lack APIs or use complex formats that require costly, time-consuming development to access and integrate. In the most competitive of environments, companies must be able to adapt all of this valuable information with flexibility and confidence.
Flexibility and Transformation of Data:
One might attempt to use basic web scraping tools and writing custom scripts, but over time these low-cost tools are not able to navigate and extract data efficiently, quickly modify or add new website data sources to deliver complete, accurate data with no break in the data stream. With incomplete or inaccurate data, your business analysts are left to clean it up. In fact, industry reports suggest that 60-70% of an analyst’s time is spent on pulling data together from multiple data sources, cleansing the data, before analyst can begin analyzing the data.
When it comes to working with enterprise applications, partner and supplier portals, and public web applications, integration across the business ecosystem is very complex and for many processes that data integration between internal and external applications, websites, and web portals is still very manual. Business users move between websites, web portals, internal systems, and application like Microsoft Excel, manually looking up data, copying and pasting, all of which is time consuming and costly. By leveraging quality web data integration technologies that does not rely solely on APIs, you can easily and quickly deploy and customize data integrations—regardless of whether existing APIs are available. You can build intelligence into processes so that automated decision making can occur—even with real-time, high volume and unstructured data. You can also implement new business initiatives or automate business processes that once were considered not possible or just too costly.
Complete Data Delivery:
Your business is sitting on a goldmine of information just waiting to be transformed and deployed for strategic use. Depending on how your data will be used, you’ll need to be able to output the extracted data into multiple formats, including SQL databases, Excel files, a vendor hosted database, SOAP or REST web services, CSV or XML. This vital data can be made available across your enterprise, providing a “big picture” view or critical business insights integral to decision making.
The reality is, low-cost web scraping tools and other incomplete data collection tools are simply not designed for business-critical web data integration projects. At first glance, they look cost-effective and easy-to-use. But upon closer look, they involve costly unreliable scripting, can be highly dependent upon the structure of a website, and simply cannot support larger scale web data integration projects.
Whether your data is being used to transform industries, grow market share, defend brands, or protect citizens, it takes a collective and intentional approach to extracting, transforming and delivering your web intelligence far beyond the reach of traditional web scraping. The only questions left to be asked are, how important is your data to you, and how big is your appetite?