What Is Data Wrangling?
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What are the Steps in Data Wrangling?
It is often said that while data wrangling is the most important first step in data analysis, it is the most ignored because it is also the most tedious. To prepare your data for analysis, as part of data munging, there are 6 basic steps one needs to follow.
- Data Discovery: This is an all-encompassing term that describes understanding what your data is all about. In this first step, you get familiar with your data
- Data Structuring: When you collect raw data, it initially is in all shapes and sizes, and has no definite structure. Such data needs to be restructured to suit the analytical model that your enterprise plans to deploy
- Data Cleaning: Raw data comes with some errors that need to be fixed before data is passed on to the next stage. Cleaning involves the tackling of outliers, making corrections, or deleting bad data completely
- Data Enriching: By this stage, you have kind of become familiar with the data in hand. Now is the time to ask yourself this question – do you need to embellish the raw data? Do you want to augment it with other data?
- Data Validating: This activity surfaces data quality issues, and they have to be addressed with the necessary transformations. The rules of validation rules require repetitive programming steps to check the authenticity and the quality of your data
- Data Publishing: Once all the above steps are completed, the final output of your data wrangling efforts are pushed downstream for your analytics needs
Data wrangling is a core iterative process that throws up the cleanest, most useful data possible before you start your actual analysis.
What are the Tools and Techniques of Data Wrangling?
It has been observed that about 80% of data analysts spend most of their time in data wrangling and not the actual analysis. Data wranglers are often hired for the job if they have one or more of the following skillsets: Knowledge in a statistical language such as R or Python, knowledge in other programming languages such as SQL, PHP, Scala, etc.
They use certain tools and techniques for data wrangling, as illustrated below:
- Excel Spreadsheets: this is the most basic structuring tool for data munging
- OpenRefine: a more sophisticated computer program than Excel
- Tabula: often referred to as the “all-in-one” data wrangling solution
- CSVKit: for conversion of data
- Python: Numerical Python comes with many operational features. The Python library provides vectorization of mathematical operations on the NumPy array type, which speeds up performance and execution
- Pandas: this one is designed for fast and easy data analysis operations.
- Plotly: mostly used for interactive graphs like line and scatter plots, bar charts, heatmaps, etc
- Dplyr: a “must-have” data wrangling R framing tool
- Purrr: helpful in list function operations and checking for mistakes
- Splitstackshape: very useful for shaping complex data sets and simplifying visualization
- JSOnline: a useful parsing tool
Why the Need for Automated Solutions?
How Machine Learning can Help in Data Wrangling
- Supervised ML: used for standardizing and consolidating individual data sources
- Classification: utilized to identify known patterns
- Normalization: used to restructure data into proper form.
- Unsupervised ML: used for exploration of unlabeled data
As it is, a majority of industries are still in the early stages of the adoption of AI for data analytics. They face several hurdles: the cost, tackling data in silos, and the fact that it is not really easy for business analysts – those who do not have a data science or engineering background – to understand machine learning.
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The use of open source languages
Image by Sarah Lötscher from Pixabay
How Express Analytics Can Help With Your Data Wrangling Process
Our years of experience in handling data have shown that the data wrangling process is the most important first step in data analytics. Our data wrangling process includes all the six activities enumerated above like data discovery, etc, to prepare your enterprise data for analysis.
Our data wrangling process helps you find intelligence within your most disparate data sources. We fix human error in the collection and labeling of data and also validate each data source. All of this helps place actionable and accurate data in the hands of your data analysts, helping them to focus on their main task of data analysis. Thus, the EA data wrangling process helps your enterprise reduce the time spent collecting and organizing the data, and in the long term helps your business seniors take better-informed decisions.
Click on the banner below to watch our three-part webinar – Don’t wrestle with your data: the what, why & how of data wrangling. In each of these webinars, our in-house analysts walk you through topics like, “How to craft a holistic data quality and management strategy” and “The trade-off between model accuracy and model processing speed”.