Wash your stinkin’ data

Cleaning, contextualizing, and making information consistent is crucial for useful analytics and profitable decisions. Here’s how the experts do it.

By Jim Montague from Control Global

Many of us clean up nicely. It’s a polite way to say we’re unrecognizable until we shower, shave and comb what’s left of our hair. The same transformation is usually needed for information before it can be analyzed—not to mention the preparation most endeavors require for success. We may be looking right at what we want to see, but if it’s obscured or blurry, we might as well be blind in the dark—until some effort brings it into focus.

For instance, anyone who’s painted a room or a house knows most of the labor goes into scraping, spackling and taping before any paint is applied. Because the Boy Scouts’ “Be prepared” mantra echoes in this and most situations, many engineers and managers seek data they can trust, but it usually has to be cleaned, contextualized, formatted, resolved or otherwise aligned, so their subsequent analytics can produce better decisions and more productive and profitable operations.