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What is Data Transformation? Techniques and Uses

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Every company is on the lookout for the next significant innovation.

In a modern business environment, data transformation is essential for everything from customer service to supply chain management but what is data transformation? Data transformation is the process of organizing and analyzing data to reveal insights for decision-making. 

Without data transformation, companies would be forced to rely on old-fashioned analysis methods such as manually filled-out spreadsheets or charts – tools that are limited by what they can do with raw data. For example, raw data in a spreadsheet is unable to tell you why one customer has started buying less; it can just reveal that they are indeed purchasing less.

Data transformation tools help businesses get past these limitations by giving them access to insights based on numerous variables and calculations. This exposes specific reasons for a drop in purchases such as a price increase leading to a reduction in the total number of items sold.

The Key Steps in Data Transformation

Data transformation involves various techniques, including cleaning, filtering, and aggregating data while applying mathematical and statistical operations to transform the data into a more usable form. By modifying data, organizations can gain valuable insights and make more informed decisions based on the data they are collecting.

Data discovery

Data discovery is the first step in the data transformation process. It involves identifying what kind of data you have and where it lives. 

You might be surprised to learn how many different places data can be stored! Once all of it has been found, you’ll want to map it so everyone can see how everything fits together.

Data mapping

Mapping out how your data is structured is a process referred to as data mapping and allows you to correctly transform the data into a format that will work for your business needs. 

Once you have mapped out the path you want your data to take, the data is ready to be extracted from each source and loaded into easily readable tables. 

The process begins with executing code and reviewing your results. Each step must be checked to ensure data is transformed correctly and everything is running smoothly.

Code generation

Once you’ve got a handle on the types of information you have and where it lives, code generation is next up on the list of steps for transforming that raw data into something useful. 

This step involves creating code that will allow your newly transformed data set to be executed on various platforms like Hadoop or Spark. Code generation also includes building reusable functions that you can use throughout your organization. 

Code execution

This step involves running the code on the original data, which can be done using various methods, including online code execution services like Google Cloud Dataproc or Amazon Web Services EMR.

When you execute code during your data transformation process, you run a program that reads the file and changes it to fit a specific format.

Review

After you’ve coded the transformation, it’s time for a review! Check your work carefully before moving to step three (where we run the code). Make sure there are no errors and that everything makes sense.

Advantages of Data transformation

There are several advantages to data transformation in data analysis and data science. Some of the main benefits include:

  1. Data transformation improves data quality by cleaning it, removing inconsistencies, and filling in missing values. It makes data more accurate and trustworthy, leading to more reliable results and insights.
  2. Data transformation makes data more easily understood and usable by end-users. For example, by aggregating or summarizing the information it can be presented in a more concise and intuitive form that is easier to understand and interpret.
  3. Data transformation enables the use of advanced data analysis techniques that require data to be in a specific format. For example, some machine learning algorithms only work with data formatted in a certain way, so data transformation is necessary to prepare data so that it can work in needed algorithms.
  4. Data transformation helps to uncover hidden trends, patterns, and relationships in data that would not be apparent without transforming it. By applying various mathematical and statistical operations, data scientists can uncover valuable insights to help organizations make better decisions.
  5. Data transformation reduces the time and effort required to analyze data. By automating the data transformation process, data scientists can save time and focus on more critical tasks, such as interpreting the results and generating insights.

Challenges of data transformation

Several challenges can arise during the data transformation process. Some of the main challenges include the following:

  1. Data quality issues can make data transformation difficult and time-consuming. If the data is incomplete, inconsistent, or contains errors, it can be challenging to clean and prepare for further analysis.
  2. Identifying the appropriate data transformation techniques and methods can take time and effort, especially for large and complex datasets. Data scientists must deeply understand the data and the analysis goals to choose the most effective transformation methods.
  3. Applying data transformation techniques can be computationally intensive, especially for large datasets. It can require significant computing resources and take a long time to complete, depending on the complexity of the transformation methods and the size of the dataset.
  4. The data transformation process can take time to automate and scale. As data volumes grow, it can become a timely endeavor to develop automated data transformation processes that can handle data’s increasing volume and complexity.
  5. Data transformation can introduce errors and biases if not performed carefully and accurately. For example, applying the wrong transformation methods or using incorrect assumptions can result in inaccurate or misleading results. It is essential to carefully validate the results of the data transformation process to ensure their accuracy and reliability.

Data transformation techniques

Manipulation

Data manipulation is the process of changing the form of an existing dataset to gain a better understanding of its content. It is often performed by combining datasets with different characteristics into one dataset.

Revising

Data revision is a technique that involves changing the format of an existing dataset to make it more useful for analysis purposes. You can do it by adding new fields, removing unimportant information, or just changing the structure and layout of your data set.

Separating

Separation is splitting a single dataset into smaller subsets based on standard criteria. It allows you to focus on specific parts of your data at any given time without worrying about missing information from other components.

Combining/Integrating

Combination/integration refers to merging multiple datasets that have been split up into individual subsets using separation techniques such as those described above so that you can view them simultaneously instead of separately (for example, merging multiple tables).

Data Smoothing

Data smoothing involves averaging values across groups to smooth out outliers or reduce statistical noise from large swings between groups over time (for example, by taking averages over several years rather than just one).

Data Aggregation

Data aggregation involves combining similar values to get a complete picture of the underlying phenomena. For example, if you have sales records that include both dollar amounts and the number of units sold, you can aggregate them so that they are represented by just one value: total revenue or total units sold.

Discretization

Discretization is when you turn continuous variables into categorical variables by splitting them into discrete ranges (such as turning age into fields like 0-5 years old or 6-10 years old). 

The process of discretizing data is helpful because it allows you to use algorithms that don’t work well with continuous variables (like regression) but do work well with categorical variables (like decision trees).

Generalization

Generalization is transforming a set of values into a more generic form. A single value or group of values will represent all your data points. It’s a way of ensuring that all of your data points have similar characteristics.

Attribute Construction

Attribute construction is the process of creating new attributes for existing data points. It involves splitting existing columns into multiple columns so that each represents a different aspect of the original data point. 

By applying attribute construction data can be organized ensuring each column only represents one feature instead of many rolled-up features, making the data easier to work with.

Why do businesses need data transformation?

Data transformation is essential for any business that wants to understand the data they possess. 

It’s no secret that the world is moving quickly. From technology to globalization to the rise of new markets and industries, it’s a challenging time for any company that wants to stay competitive and make a lasting impact in its respective industry. 

But the critical thing about data transformation: it can help you stay ahead of the curve.

Transforming your data into something usable, accessible, and actionable means, you can make intelligent decisions about your business. 

Data transformation allows you to find out what is happening in real-time and respond accordingly before your competitors do!

What are data transformation tools?

In today’s data-driven world, companies are scrambling to find ways to get their hands on the correct data, in the proper format, at the right time.

Hand coding is often used as a way to accomplish this task. It’s tempting because it seems like a quick and easy solution. But hand coding is also costly, error-prone, and slow.

The costs of using custom code can be hard to quantify. But the actual costs become apparent when considering how much time goes into writing and debugging code that you can only use once. Beyond cost savings, ETL tools provide other benefits as well. An easier way to understand a data flow is through visual representations.

Custom-coded integrations can hinder scale and innovation because the skills necessary for working with them are hard to come by. It is usually impossible to scale, and the maintenance costs make up for any upfront savings achieved by hand coding.

When considering options for data transformation tools, it’s also essential to understand how complicated hybrid data processing environments have become.

Conclusion

In conclusion, data transformation is an essential process in data science and analysis involving converting data from one format to another to make it more usable and understandable. Data transformation can help improve the quality of the data, uncover hidden trends and patterns, and enable advanced data analysis techniques. 

However, data transformation can also be challenging and requires careful planning and execution to ensure accurate and reliable results. By understanding the key elements and challenges of data transformation, organizations can effectively prepare their data for analysis and gain valuable insights from their data.

FAQs

What are two types of data transformation?

There are many different data transformation techniques, and the appropriate methods will depend on the specific data and analysis goals. Some of the most common types of data transformation include:

  1. Data cleaning and preprocessing: This involves removing errors, inconsistencies, and missing values from the data, as well as formatting the data in a way that is suitable for further analysis. 
  2. Aggregation and summarization: Combining or summarizing the data in various ways, such as calculating averages, sums, or counts or grouping the data by specific attributes. 
  3. Normalization and scaling: The processes can make the data more comparable and easier to analyze while also enabling the use of specific machine-learning algorithms that require data to be in a particular range.
  4. Feature engineering involves creating new features or attributes from existing data or transforming the current components. 

What are the key elements in planning data transformation?

Some of the most important elements include:

  1. Identify the data sources and the types of data that will be transformed.
  2. Define the goals and objectives of the data transformation process. 
  3. Select the appropriate data transformation techniques and methods.
  4. Develop a plan for implementing the data transformation process.
  5. Determine the resources and infrastructure needed to support the data transformation process. 

What is the ETL process?

The ETL process is a way to extract data from its source, transform it, and load it into another.

It is also known as extract-transform-load or ETL.

This process is used in many industries, such as banking, insurance, and healthcare.

The purpose of the ETL process is to move data from one system to another. It allows you to use one system for analysis while using another for reporting purposes.

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