Business Benefits of Data Profiling

Business Benefits of Data Profiling

Data Profiling – What’s in It for the Business?​

Let’s face it, “data profiling” sounds like IT jargon to many people in the business. Data profiling is not something anyone does in their personal life, and it rarely is a defined task in any business unit.  The result is that businesspeople who are not familiar with what value data profiling can provide tend to think that it is some kind of overhead activity of IT that they are expected to pay for.

How we communicate profiling is important

The reality is that data profiling can provide tremendous benefits to business teams who understand how to take advantage of it.  However, this often fails to happen because the IT staff explain to the business how data profiling works – in excruciating technical detail – rather than how they can use profiling to help them solve problems and gain insight. 

We do not need to know the physics of an internal combustion engine (or an EV charging station) to drive a car.  The same is true for the business who do not need to know how data profiling works to gain benefits of its insights.  Businesspeople are already stressed – even more so today with Covid, inflation, and supply chain issues.  They are also overloaded with information that they cannot make sense of easily.  The last thing they want is to be asked to pay attention to some discourse with a lot of technical jargon they are not familiar with.  But if the business benefits of data profiling can be shown to them, then they will pay attention.

Data is critical to business decisions, profiling data gives meaning and context

The starting point to try to gain adoption of data profiling across an organization is to realize that everyone in the business works with data.  Yes, data is a means to a further business end, but it is the raw material that goes into business decisions and much of operations. 

Introducing a data profiling capability must be based on first getting the business to appreciate that they are working with data.  This should not be presented as an abstract concept, but it must always be related to what the particular business unit does.  The IT staff must seek to understand what a business unit does so they can frame a context for presenting data profiling.

Data Profiling Example

Let’s suppose you work with a marketing unit within a bank and your team needs to create a new campaign to market a Bitcoin savings account product to wealthy individuals.   You go into a planning meeting, and the first task is to compile a list of wealthy existing customers.

Does the bank have a list of  customer contacts with their correct names, mailing address, emails, and social media handles?  Most banks may not store this information all in one place which is ready to use and accurate. But with data profiling you can find where this information is stored – maybe databases handling deposits, credit cards, personal loans, and so on and determine the best source to use.  So now you know where to pull the data from. 

The next step is to find out if the data can be used.  

Data profiling can quickly show the marketing team how complete the first and last name fields are.  Let’s say they are complete.  Potentially the email addresses have a lot of null values, and perhaps the social media handles are almost completely missing.  Now the team realizes that its plan to reach out via social media is not going to be effective– even though they had been told that columns had been put in many databases to hold social media information. The time spent looking at the profiling results first quickly gave them direction on the best approach to reaching customers, avoiding lost time and dollars spent to run an ineffective campaign with poor quality data.

This example shows how data profiling should be used – as part of normal business operations.  Everyone in the business works with data, and data profiling supports their work. 

Evangelizing Data Profiling

The way to get adoption of data profiling is not assume the business understands its value and knows how to use it.  Instead, IT staff should first take time to sit with key people in the business and explore their data with them using data profiling.  A good exercise is to profile data that was used for a past initiative, and show how profiling could have improved efficiency or helped get better results. 

Once key people understand – and can use the tool set – they will drive further adoption in their business unit. It also helps business people who design operational processes to understand the importance of standards in collecting data to drive business value for future growth and servicing. 

Realizing the Benefits of Data Profiling

Businesspeople want to know what data profiling can do for them specifically, in their job.  Technical jargon and lists of abstract benefits that imply businesspeople have to figure out how to make it work for themselves are not helpful.  

At Global IDs, we work directly with the business to help them use data profiling for their specialized needs.  We find that once they use data profiling for a specific need, they see the results and understand the benefits – and become the advocates to help to drive adoption across the business.  

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