How to Reach the Apex of Data Preparation

Data Basics, Featured Marie Merveilleux du Vignaux

Data preparation is a crucial step in the data science lifecycle, as it involves tasks such as gathering, cleaning, aggregating, structuring, and exploring data. Despite advancements in tools and automation, it still consumes a significant portion of a data scientist's time. The blog post will suggest ways to accelerate your data preparation process with solutions to the top five most common mistakes.

What Is Data Preparation?

Efficient data preparation involves gathering data from various sources, cleaning and enriching it, aggregating relevant information, structuring it for analytical models, and exploring patterns through visual analysis or statistical modeling. While there's no one-size-fits-all strategy, a well-defined process can significantly enhance the quality of insights derived from data.

Data preparation is indispensable for accurate analyses and is even more critical for machine learning (ML) models. The accuracy and robustness of a model depend on the quality of the training data. Efficient data preparation processes empower analysts to accelerate this crucial step, leaving more time for analysis and insights.

Now, let's explore the top five most common mistakes in data preparation and their solutions.

1. Using Spreadsheets to Prepare Large Volumes of Data

Spreadsheets, once a staple in data preparation, have become limiting due to issues like data accuracy, siloed work, security concerns, and human errors. Recent findings from a Dataiku survey of 375 line of business leaders around the world reveal that, for many, the spreadsheet struggle is all too real. This survey found that one in every two business leaders has experienced serious issues with spreadsheets. 

Solution: Transitioning From Spreadsheets to End-to-End Platforms

Collaborative data science platforms like Dataiku centralize data preparation, allowing teams to work seamlessly on complex datasets. This transition eliminates silos, enhances transparency, and fosters collaboration. By consolidating efforts in one platform, organizations can achieve enterprise-level data projects efficiently.

→ Watch This Webinar to Move Beyond the Spreadsheet

2. A Lack of Context of the Use Case

Data democratization is essential for leveraging AI at scale. A lack of context arises from insufficient documentation and storing data in silos across different departments.

Solution: Inclusive Advanced Analytics

Collaborative platforms like Dataiku extend AI benefits to all users, promoting inclusive advanced analytics. By providing clear documentation and facilitating collaboration, these platforms address the challenges of context and inconsistency in data usage.

colleagues pointing at dataiku on a screen

3. Failing to Account for Data Quality Issues

Ignoring data quality issues can lead to flawed ML models and inaccurate business decisions. This is why it’s all the more important to identify and address issues such as missing values, duplicates, and inaccuracies early in the data preparation process.

Solution: The 4 C’s and Predefined Processors

To improve data quality, teams can follow the 4 C’s — Consistency, Conformity, Completeness, and Currency. Dataiku's library of processors offers tools like Find and Replace, Parse to Standard Date Format, Split Column, and Rename Columns to efficiently handle data quality issues.

→ Download This Ebook for Best Practices on How to Ensure Data Quality at Scale

4. Preparing (and Re-Preparing) Data Manually

Manual data preparation is time-consuming, error-prone, and lacks transparency and repeatability.

Solution: Automated DataOps

Automating data preparation with DataOps involves defining automated processes triggered by specific events. This not only saves time but also ensures consistency and repeatability, minimizing human error.

5. Stopping at Data Preparation

Data preparation is just the beginning of the data science lifecycle. Failing to move to the next step and engage in data visualization or predictive modeling limits the potential insights derived from clean, structured data.

Solution: Put Your Data to Work

Dataiku enables users to build predictive models or create data visualization dashboards to drive valuable insights. By combining descriptive analytics with predictive analytics, organizations can make informed decisions based on their data.

man pointing at dataiku dashboards on a screen

Data preparation and data quality are integral to the data workflow alongside ML, deep learning, and AI. Investing in end-to-end platforms can free up time for high-value work and also instills confidence in data-driven decisions — all of this is then brought one step further with the addition of Generative AI.  

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