May 2024 | Data Quality | Data Preparation

Data preparation plays a pivotal role in facilitating strategic decision-making by ensuring that the data used for analysis is accurate, consistent, and relevant.

If you work in a data management role for your organisation then you will have no doubt heard of the term ‘Data Preparation’. If you are new to data management then ‘Data Prep’ (the more commonly referred to name for Data Preparation) might be something of a mystery.

In this article, we’ll quickly cover what Data Preparation is (just in case you’re in the second camp) but move quickly to thinking about its benefits and practical applications.

What is Data Preparation?

Data Preparation (or Data Prep) encompasses all the data management activities that you need to undertake to ensure your data is fit for purpose for the tasks for which it is required. And when we say fit for purpose, we mean good levels of accuracy, completeness, enrichment, and accessibility in order to support activities such as strategic planning, business intelligence and system migrations.

The essential steps of Data Preparation are gathering, merging, structuring, and arranging data so that you can leverage it as a strategic asset. This breaks down into tasks such as the collection, profiling, cleansing, validation, and transformation of data, often requiring the amalgamation of data from diverse internal and external sources.

Why is Data Preparation Useful?

Data Preparation is an incredibly powerful exercise that fundamentally supports your wider data management objectives. Performing Data Preparation ensures your organisation has accurate and timely data to utilise in your processes and decision making.

In particular, performing data preparation offers several key benefits:

  • Improved Data Quality: Data preparation involves cleaning, profiling, and validating data, leading to improved accuracy, consistency, and completeness of datasets, thereby enhancing overall data quality.
  • Enhanced Decision Making: By ensuring that data is properly structured and organised, Data Preparation enables more accurate and insightful analysis, empowering decision-makers to make informed and strategic choices.
  • Increased Efficiency: Automating Data Preparation tasks and employing self-service tools streamline the process, reducing the time and effort required to prepare data, thus increasing operational efficiency.
  • Data Integration: Data Preparation facilitates the integration of data from various sources, enabling organisations to create a unified view of their data ecosystem, which fosters better collaboration and understanding across departments.
  • Support for Advanced Analytics: Well-prepared data serves as a solid foundation for advanced analytics techniques such as machine learning and predictive modelling, allowing organisations to derive actionable insights and gain a competitive edge in their respective industries.

Three Common Use Cases for Data Preparation

We’ve outlined some of the benefits of performing Data Preparation and now we’ll explore three core use cases.

Strategic Decision Making

Data preparation plays a pivotal role in facilitating strategic decision-making by ensuring that the data used for analysis is accurate, consistent, and relevant. By meticulously gathering, structuring, and organising data, businesses can derive meaningful insights that inform their strategic initiatives. Effective data preparation enhances the quality of analytics and enables decision-makers to identify trends, patterns, and correlations with greater precision.

Moreover, it allows for the integration of data from multiple sources, providing a comprehensive view of the business landscape. Ultimately, by empowering decision-makers with reliable data, data preparation enables them to make informed and strategic choices that drive the organisation forward.

Advanced Analytics

Data preparation serves as a critical prerequisite for advanced analytics by laying the groundwork for accurate and meaningful insights. Through meticulous cleaning, structuring, and validation of data, data preparation ensures that the datasets used in advanced analytics are reliable and consistent. Well-prepared data enables more precise analysis, allowing data scientists and analysts to uncover hidden patterns, trends, and correlations with greater confidence.

Moreover, data preparation facilitates feature engineering, a crucial step in building predictive models and deploying machine learning algorithms. Ultimately, by providing high-quality data, data preparation optimises the performance and efficacy of advanced analytics initiatives, driving informed decision-making and innovation within organisations.

System Migration

Data preparation is instrumental in supporting system migration by ensuring a smooth transition of data from one system to another. By systematically preparing and structuring data beforehand, potential inconsistencies and errors can be identified and rectified, minimising disruptions during migration. Additionally, data preparation facilitates mapping data fields between old and new systems, ensuring compatibility and integrity throughout the process.

Comprehensive data cleansing and validation procedures help mitigate risks associated with data loss or corruption during migration. For example, read more about how to deal with disposable phone numbers, here. Ultimately, effective data preparation streamlines the migration process, reducing downtime and ensuring the continuity of business operations.

Take Your First Steps to Better Data

Experian has been supporting organisations with their data management ambitions for decades. Our team of data experts work tirelessly with businesses to ensure their data is accurate and fit for purpose.

Our products enable self-service Data Preparation. Whether that be through the ability to profile and analyse your data more closely, or identifying where you have gaps or errors.

Aperture Data Studio is a self-service data management solution that allows you to interrogate your data, build validation rules, and enrich your data with authoritative third party information.

Our range of real-time and bulk validation tools (for cleaning data such as addresses, emails and phone numbers) offer you the ability to build a data management strategy that has data quality (accuracy, validity, completeness, and consistency) sitting right at the heart.

If you’d like to discuss how Experian can support your Data Preparation journey then please get in touch today.


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