Five Self-service Data Prep Mistakes to Avoid

Given the growing amount of data being created in various locations and formats, it’s no great surprise that there’s also a growing need for data analysts to quickly capture and examine that data in order to make better business decisions. And since patiently waiting for a specialist to create and run a report is rapidly becoming an outdated luxury, many non-IT experts are seeking a data prep solution that offers the ability to capture, combine and cleanse all types of data – from structured to unstructured – across a variety of internal and external sources in a self-service manner. With the right solution, data analysts can recover a significant amount of their time, but it’s important to ensure the solution meets not only their needs, but the needs of their organization as well.

If you’re in the process of evaluating solutions to help with data preparation, take care to avoid these five mistakes that can sometimes occur during the selection process:

Mistake #1: Limiting yourself. How much time do you waste re-typing data that lives in a variety of document formats (not to mention the risk of introducing errors)? You need to be able to access a range of relational sources and quickly and easily capture and model data from multi-structured sources (PDFs, log files, telemetry data, print spools, text, EDI, HTML, etc.), all while effortlessly filtering out any data that you don’t need. And don’t forget about streaming data so you’re getting up-to-date information at all times.

Mistake #2: Over-exposure. Data prep tools can be extremely helpful in building and sharing information, but it’s critical – and in certain cases a legal imperative – for data prep analysts to be able to protect sensitive or personally identifiable data such as medical-related information, social security numbers or commercially sensitive intelligence. Save yourself – and your company – from the risk and high costs associated with data breaches by choosing a data prep solution that provides you with the ability to mask your data, either by hiding it altogether or obfuscating it so that it is still usable for analytics but unreadable by unauthorized users.

Mistake #3: Manual efforts. Think about how much time you would save if you could automate data prep routines wherever possible. Your data prep solution should offer you the ability to create a reusable load plan that can then be automated based on a scheduled time or when source data changes become available. An intuitive visual process flow interface will allow you to deliver data to role-based users or to other systems like data warehouses or multiple relational sources. And don’t forget to find out how easy it will be to share your work, which will result in higher levels of efficiency, consistency and productivity.

Mistake #4: Killer commutes. Data prep can often be a highly iterative process. Rather than having to constantly travel back and fourth between your data prep tool and your visualization tool while making changes, your data prep solution should allow you to simultaneously prepare and visualize data throughout every leg of the processing journey, saving you time…and eliminating report rage.

Mistake #5: Getting risky. Speed and agility are the common benefits that result from self-service data prep, but they shouldn’t come at the expense of security. Be sure your solution allows you to introduce some form of governance that accounts for non-managed data sources like CSV extracts, PDF reports or third-party data. Ask about options for secure storage, management and controlled access to things like source data used by analysts that doesn’t reside in a database, prepared data sets, reusable models for data extraction and prep routines, visualizations and dashboards. A complete audit log of document versions, edits and usage along with the ability to drill down into any underlying data source should be available to ensure both transparency and compliance.

Make no mistake – having the right information at the right time is critical for businesses to keep up and even surpass the competition. The right self-service data prep solution will empower data analysts to provide valuable insights while mitigating any governance risks, all without compromising speed and agility.