Last updated on December 8th, 2022
Starting a business can introduce you to a lot of new methods and processes across a lot of different areas.
No matter how prepared you think you are, there will be something new that you haven’t heard of or something that takes you by surprise – it’s a part of the challenges of running a business!
One thing I get a lot of queries about is data scrubbing. It’s something a lot of new business owners have never heard of and some still don’t have a great understanding of it even after doing their own research.
So, I thought I’d help out. Here is what I understand of data scrubbing and ways it can be used to help benefit businesses.
What Is Data Scrubbing?
83% of businesses globally see data as an important part of their business strategies, but a lot of businesses struggle with handling their data.
This means that it’s likely for errors and inconsistencies to occur. As a result, one study found that around 20% of businesses believe that half of their customer data is wrong, with another 30% believing that their data was also inaccurate.
The solution to this is data scrubbing.
Data scrubbing is a process involved with data management. It basically involves ‘scrubbing’ up your data clean by removing mistakes, changing inconsistencies, and updating incomplete information.
It’s all about identifying the errors in your data and taking steps to change them so your data is more accurate and correct.
Some people prefer to call data scrubbing other terms like data cleansing or cleaning, but they all mean the same thing.
Some people like to zero in and refer to data scrubbing as a specific element of data cleansing as a whole. They define data scrubbing as specifically removing data from databases because it’s old, a duplicate, or incorrect.
The reason why is because the term ‘scrub’ refers to rubbing something hard to make it disappear – but I think this is just people really splitting hairs over this.
To myself (and a lot of other business owners) data scrubbing, cleansing, and cleaning can be used interchangeably for one another. They all have the same goal and that goal is to improve the quality of a business’s data.
How Data Scrubbing Works
The data scrubbing process is made up of four basic steps, but the work you do can vary depending on the type of data and analytics you hope you perform later.
Despite this, here’s a quick rundown of the four step data scrubbing process:
- First, inspect the data and audit it to see what its current quality level is and what kind of issues need to be addressed. This step involves a lot of data profiling.
- Then comes the actual cleaning. This involves changing all the errors by either deleting them or replacing them with the correct and accurate data.
- Then, you verify that the data is clean by once again inspecting the data. Basically, double check your work before you move onto the next step.
- Finally, it’s time to report your clean data to the ones who need them. You should also keep a report on all the errors you had to fix so management can keep track of the number of human errors and issues with their data.
So, data scrubbing is not that difficult in practice. Instead, it has a ton of benefits to offer!
The Benefits Of Data Scrubbing
A lot of business now revolves around databases and the information they contain. Because of this, data quality is a huge part of a business’s success and data scrubbing can help with that. Here are some of the benefits of data scrubbing.
It Improves Business’s Decision Making
Poor data quality costs the US economy around $3.1 trillion annually. This is because the poor quality data is used in analytics, which can then produce false or inaccurate results – and these results are what influence a business’s decision making.
Businesses which use data-backed analytics for their decisions are three times more likely to see improvements than those companies who do not.
So, having accurate data is a must for businesses in order to make the right changes for their business.
It Creates More Effective Marketing Strategies
There are many benefits to personalized marketing. 20% marketers say that personalization improves email engagement with customers, and 80% of customers say that personalization makes them more likely to make a purchase.
As a result, a lot of businesses are beginning to personalize their marketing strategies – in fact, 50% say that they personalize customer experiences often with 30% going as far to say that they always do so.
However, for a personalized marketing strategy to be effective, businesses need the customer data to back it up. Data scrubbing can help ensure personalized marketing strategies are using the right data to influence customer experiences.
This is sure to help businesses see better results.
It Reduces Data Costs
I think that it’s better to avoid a problem than fix it, and so catching mistakes in your data early means you don’t have to spend money later on trying to fix it.
Data management costs billions of dollars for businesses all around the world, but catching errors through data scrubbing is a lot more affordable than trying to fix data errors later in the analysis process.
After introducing a data scrubbing process, IT and data management teams can turn their attention to other more important issues like cybersecurity or structuring data so it’s understandable.
The Cons Of Data Scrubbing
Nothing is perfect so it’s only fair I mention some of the big challenges that come with data scrubbing.
There aren’t many and in my opinion, the advantages do outweigh the disadvantages in this case, but here are some of the downsides to data scrubbing that myself and other business owners have brought up before.
Data cleaning is not a popular step in the data analysis process, with 50% of data scientists and professionals claiming it to be the worst step. But why?
The main one is how time consuming data scrubbing is. Issues and errors are more common than you may think and going through each set of data, checking and double checking, fixing the issues you do find – that can take a lot of time.
Employees waste around 61% of their time on menial, repetitive tasks like this but hiring someone to take over that responsibility can be costly. There is a solution, however, that I will expand on in just a few seconds.
Some other issues with data scrubbing include finding the right resources and support to get your data scrubbing off the ground, and fixing missing data values because trying to ‘clean’ those can completely mess up your analytics applications.
Like I said, there aren’t many cons to data scrubbing and the benefits are worth it – in my opinion, at the very least.
Data Scrubbing Tools
I mentioned that the biggest issue with data scrubbing is how time consuming it is, but there are two solutions to this that can help out businesses who are struggling.
The first is to outsource your data scrubbing. Outsourcing is pretty common with businesses as 37% of small businesses outsource at least one of their processes.
However, outsourcing your valuable data to be handled by a third party is not an attractive option to some.
The second and most popular solution is to use automated data scrubbing software.
There are tons of platforms, products, and services which all aim to help make data scrubbing easier for businesses.
They range from preparation tools, to data quality controlling software, or specialized tools bought directly from a vendor. Some are open source, others are designed specifically to scrub customer and contact data.
Here are some great data scrubbing tools and software that businesses use:
WinPure’s data cleansing tool is a very popular choice for businesses around the world, making it one of the most highly rated data cleansing tools out there.
According to WinPure themselves, they help over 5,000 businesses around the world with global reach in over 50 countries.
Look at WinPure, it’s easy to see why it’s been such a great success. It’s incredibly specialized thanks to its huge range of features.
It’s locally installed so you don’t have to worry about cybersecurity risks, and cleans large batches of data – all for a very reasonable price.
It works for a range of databases and spreadsheets, cleaning both customer and business data, and in four different languages.
There is also a free version with plenty of features to help small businesses who are not ready to opt for the paid version.
For businesses that use Salesforce systems, Cloudingo is one of the best data scrubbing tools you can use. 150,000 businesses use Salesforce globally and one of the most popular tools for data scrubbing on this system is Cloudingo.
It’s very scalable and can work with businesses big and small, catching human errors and other problems with your data to help correct it.
It even handles things like data migration and also deduplication. Duplicated records are a big problem for Salesforce users so Cloudingo can quickly solve that problem by combing through the data and merging any duplicates.
Unfortunately, Cloudingo is not a free application but there is a free trial you can utilize to see if this tool works for you.
TIBCO offers a range of softwares that are great for data management and analytics, but TIBCO Clarity is the best data cleansing software it offers.
It’s fast and easy to use, cloud-based, and allows you to clean and analyze your data all in one application for convenience.
You can automate your data cleansing so your data can be scrubbed in large quantities while you focus on other important tasks.
There’s also tools available for transforming, profiling, validating, and standardizing to help speed up the data scrubbing process.
So, if you are very concerned about how long data scrubbing can take, TIBCO Clarity is one of the best data cleansing softwares for speeding up this process.
Money is a big concern for all kinds of businesses, and small businesses(see also, ‘How to do Bookkeeping and Accounting for Small Businesses‘) have less cash to play and invest with.
This has resulted in a lot of business owners feeling like they can’t afford a good data scrubbing software, so they cannot do it – but there are free tools out there!
OpenRefine is an open source data tool that is completely free to use and to customize. You can use it to transform data, manage it, and clean it.
Although its benefits are limited because it’s a free tool, you can still clean hundreds of thousands of rows of data and use editing tools for filtering and renaming data.
So, it’s a great open source tool to use for those businesses on tight budgets.
Another great open source tool for data scrubbing is DataCleaner.
As money is such a big concern for businesses, I thought I’d cover two free, open source data cleaning tools so that there’s more choice available.
What makes DataCleaner so great is that you can also use it to profile and analyze the quality of your data, in both big and small quantities.
It can be used for CSV files, Excel spreadsheets, RDBMs, NoSQL databases – so whatever software or platforms you use, DataCleaner is likely to be applicable to it.
Again, because this is a free and open source tool, the features of DataCleaner are limited when compared to paid services. Despite this, it offers a lot for something that’s free to use!
So, I hope this article has helped you understand what data scrubbing is and how it can really benefit businesses.
As a result, I recommend that you use data scrubbing as it can have a really positive impact on your marketing and business decisions.
I do understand that data scrubbing can take a lot of time to do but with the right tools, it can be a breeze. So, check out the options above and best of luck for the future!