What is Data Profiling?

5 minute read

Data profiling is analyzing and examining data to gather insights and understand the quality, structure, and content of the data. It involves examining various attributes of the data, such as data types, patterns, relationships, and values. With data profiling, organizations can gain a comprehensive understanding of their data, which is crucial for ensuring data quality and making informed business decisions. Data profiling helps find data inconsistencies, anomalies, and errors, allowing organizations to take corrective actions and improve the overall data accuracy.

With the increasing volume of data generated by organizations, it becomes essential to understand the data to avoid making decisions based on inaccurate or incomplete information. By profiling the data, organizations can pinpoint data quality issues, such as missing values, duplicate records, or inconsistent formats. This helps in maintaining data accuracy, consistency, and completeness, which enables reliable reporting, analytics, and decision-making.

Data profiling also helps organizations understand the structure and content of the data, vital information in data integration projects. Companies can identify data issues, such as incompatible data types or missing values, which they must address before integrating the data.

When metadata is missing or incomplete, one data profiling method, reverse engineering, can create metadata specifications by analyzing the existing data and making assumptions about data types or minimum and maximum data sizes, for example. Data profiling can also discover outliers and anomalies when values fall outside acceptable ranges or it can uncover implicit rules that govern the data, such as relational dependencies.

5 Data Profiling Elements

Companies use data profiling to examine several key elements, gain insights, and understand the quality, structure, and content of the data. One key element scrutinized by data profiling is data completeness. Organizations must make sure all required data fields are populated with values to take full advantage of the data. For example, a customer database missing email addresses for a significant portion of the records may hinder the effectiveness of multi-channel marketing campaigns.

Another important element that data profiling examines is data accuracy. Data accuracy issues arise from data entry errors, system glitches, or data integration problems, to name a few. Analysis via data profiling allows organizations to locate and correct inaccurate data. A sales database that contains incorrect prospect information, for instance, could cause companies to waste money on ineffective marketing campaigns and misguided sales efforts.

Data profiling also focuses on data consistency. Inconsistent data can occur because of variations in data formats, naming conventions, or data values. For example, a company with customer information stored in multiple databases may find it challenging to segment and personalize their marketing communications if data formats differ among the data repositories.

Companies may examine data structure as part of their data profiling activities. This involves analyzing the relationships of data elements within a dataset. By understanding the data structure, organizations can ensure the data is organized in a logical and efficient manner, facilitating easier data retrieval, analysis, and reporting. In a customer relationship management (CRM) system, for instance, data profiling can highlight redundant or unnecessary fields. A cleansed CRM system makes the applications accessing the data work better.

Finally, data profiling examines the content of the data. Here, organizations analyze the actual values and characteristics of the data to show patterns, outliers, or anomalies. In a healthcare dataset, for example, data profiling may expose unusual patterns in patient diagnoses that could indicate potential errors or fraud.

DataRight IQ and Match IQ

Two products from Firstlogic, DataRight IQ and Match IQ are helpful to organizations that mount data profiling projects. Both these products allow companies to look closely at their data, improve it, remove duplicates, or normalize data sources so they can combine them.

DataRight IQ is ideal for data field parsing, capitalization, names and nicknames, and cleansing the data. The software can recognize patterns, so it is ideally suited for filtering and targeting purposes.

Match IQ is the tool to use after data has been cleansed with DataRight IQ. With Match IQ, companies can drop or combine duplicates, using confidence scores and weighting to tune the matching results to meet the organization’s requirements.

Enabling Informed Decisions

Data profiling provides insights into the quality, structure, and content of the data. For example, when data profiling reveals customer postal addresses are incomplete or incorrect, a company can take corrective measures to improve the data quality, such as implementing address validation or move update processes. This ensures that decisions made using the data, such as targeted marketing campaigns or delivery logistics, are based on accurate and reliable information.

By examining the data’s structure and content as part of a data profiling exercise, organizations can spot correlations, trends, and anomalies that may not be otherwise apparent. For instance, data profiling might reveal that customers with certain demographic attributes are more likely to buy a specific product or that sales tend to increase during certain seasons. Armed with this knowledge, organizations can make data-driven decisions, such as adjusting marketing strategies or inventory management, to capitalize on these patterns and improve business outcomes.

Incomplete data discovered by data profiling is particularly important when business decisions require a comprehensive view of the data. If a company relies on customer satisfaction ratings but discovers a good part of the data is missing, they may need to revise customer survey forms to gather more feedback before making informed decisions based on that data.

Use Data Profiling to Get a Handle on Your Data

With data-driven decision making, the role of data profiling becomes considerably important, acting as the first step in the broader data quality process. It not only ensures data accuracy, consistency, and comprehensiveness but also paves the way for meaningful information extraction. 

Data profiling gives organizations the ammunition they need to streamline processes, help in the elimination of redundant data, and ensure the availability of high-quality, relevant data for decision-making purposes. By employing data quality tools, businesses can adopt a more confident and informed approach towards their decision-making processes. They can synchronize their business strategies with the findings and insights generated from their data.

Firstlogic’s DataRight IQ® and Match IQ® are useful tools instrumental in the data auditing, standardization, matching, and enrichment efforts that are key elements of a data profiling project.