Before data analysis can take place and business intelligence acquired, information needs to be prepared appropriately. Data preparation has become a recognised term and practice, and some very large companies are offering it as a service.
Here, we speak to Derek Munro, Head of Product Strategy at Experian Data Quality, explains some aspects of data preparation and its application.
Q. Can you explain what the term “data preparation” means?
Derek Munro: Although the term itself is quite new, Data Preparation is a familiar activity for most businesses people. When you need to quickly transform data in some way (combine, standardise, compare, calculate, cleanse, filter) making it suitable for an urgent request or purpose (a new report, an application, so send to a colleague or partner, to provide insight that drives decisions) that’s what I’d call Data Preparation.
What’s new is the emergence of self-service solutions offering more sophistication, collaboration and scalability. Trustworthy data is clearly a cornerstone of Data Preparation, yet a recent Experian study shows that organisations believe 23 per cent of their data is inaccurate and 60 per cent of them see missing and incomplete data as the most common data problem.
Q. When did Experian start offering data preparation as a service and how has take-up been? How can data preparation benefit companies?
Experian Pandora customers have been using its ad-hoc Data Preparation capabilities since 2013, though such activities have been associated with Data Quality and Data Migration tasks. Without the 10x productivity gains of Experian Pandora, such Data Preparation tasks would probably not have been carried out at all.
With half of all organisations now storing customer data in more than ten different databases, the task of preparing trustworthy data is becoming more difficult, however the effort does seem justified as businesses leaders estimated a 29 per cent increase in sales if they could achieve fully accurate customer data.
Q. What were the main alternatives to data preparation in previous circumstances?
Before now, when business people couldn’t wait for a formal IT project to prepare their data using a technically challenging Data Integration tool, they used their own desktop tools such as MS Excel. But increasing volumes and complexity combined with desired improvements in Governance, Security and trustworthiness have made such approaches increasingly unsuitable.
The arrival of Experian Pandora, allowing non-technical people to understand, transform, enrich and restructure their data, is driving responses within minutes and hours instead of weeks and months. Furthermore, Pandora provides the ability to automatically repeat the Data Preparation work whenever needed.
Q. How do you see the practice of data preparation developing going forward?
84 per cent of organisations see data as an integral part of their business strategy, and 79 per cent believe responsibility for data quality should lie within the business, so I believe the self-service preparation of trustworthy data is unavoidable and will become a major market, similar in size to the existing software markets in Data Governance and Data Quality.
The quality, governance and security of the data will become increasing important ingredients of every solution and the optional enrichment of customer data with rich, reliable business data from trusted suppliers such as Experian will, I believe, further differentiate the vendor offerings.
With options for both on-premise and SaaS delivery , I expect the right Data Preparation technology will make a real difference to the flexible provision of trustworthy data for every organisation.