Data profiling provides the deep understanding of data quality that is necessary to truly trust information and exploit data to deliver value. This article explores how data profiling provides the unbiased, accurate understanding of data needed to harness its full potential.

Data Profiling -a true, view of your data

The Significance of Data Discovery and Profiling

In the modern business landscape, data has become a strategic asset that can drive growth, innovation, and competitive advantage. However, without a comprehensive understanding of your data, it becomes challenging to unlock its full potential.

This is where data discovery and profiling play a vital role.

By delving deep into the characteristics, structure, and relationships within your data, data quality analysis provides crucial insights that can empower organizations to make informed decisions and maximize the value of their data assets.

What is Data Profiling?

Data profiling, or data quality analysis, involves analyzing real data to understand its structure and meaning. It involves evaluating the structure, content, and relationships within the data to identify patterns, anomalies, and potential data issues. Data quality analysis goes beyond merely assessing the data; it aims to uncover hidden insights and provide actionable recommendations for data improvement.

It is a critical step in various IT initiatives, including data warehousing, MDM implementation, metadata repository population, data migration, and data integration.

Effective data quality management relies on successful data discovery and profiling.

The Benefits of Data Profiling

Improved Data Quality

Data quality is paramount for any organization relying on data for decision-making.

Data quality analysis helps identify data inconsistencies, errors, redundancies, and gaps, allowing businesses to rectify issues and improve the overall quality of their data. Data profiling tools, like Precisely Trillium, expose previously unknown data risks and issues for analysis while providing accurate, quantified metrics for known data issues.

By ensuring clean, reliable data, organizations can minimize the risk of faulty analyses and make more accurate and informed decisions.

Enhanced Decision-Making

Accurate and reliable data is the foundation of sound decision-making.

Data quality analysis provides organizations with a comprehensive view of their data, enabling them to identify trends, patterns, and correlations. By understanding the strengths and limitations of their data, businesses can make data-driven decisions with confidence, driving operational efficiency, innovation, and growth.

Effective Data Governance

Data profiling plays a critical role in data governance initiatives.

By understanding the characteristics and quality of their data, organizations can establish data governance frameworks, policies, and processes that ensure data integrity, security, and compliance. Data discovery and profiling help to identify potential data risks, such as sensitive information exposure or regulatory non-compliance, enabling proactive mitigation measures.

Mitigating Risks

Data discovery and profiling help organisations identify and address potential risks associated with their data.

By uncovering inconsistencies, inaccuracies, or data gaps, businesses can take proactive measures to mitigate risks and prevent costly errors or compliance violations. Data quality analysis also assists in identifying data dependencies, ensuring that changes or updates to data sources are properly managed to minimize the impact on downstream processes and systems.

The Process of Data Profiling

Data quality analysis typically involves several key steps to thoroughly understand and analyze data. These steps include:

Data Discovery

The first step is data discovery, where organizations identify and locate their data sources. This could include databases, files, APIs, or any other systems containing relevant data. By understanding the data landscape, businesses can effectively plan and prioritize their data profiling activities.

Data Assessment

Once the data sources are identified, the next step is to assess the data's quality and relevance.

This involves understanding the data's purpose, its stakeholders, and the specific requirements for analysis. Data assessment helps establish a clear scope and objectives for the data profiling process.

Data Analysis

Data analysis is the heart of data profiling.

It involves examining the data in detail, evaluating its structure, content, and relationships. Various profiling techniques and algorithms are applied to identify patterns, outliers, duplicates, missing values, and other data characteristics. Data quality analysis provides insights into data quality, consistency, completeness, and accuracy.

Data Cleansing

Based on the findings from data analysis, organizations can initiate data cleansing activities to rectify identified issues.

Data cleansing may involve processes like data standardization, data transformation, deduplication, or data enrichment. By improving data quality, organizations ensure that their data assets are reliable and trustworthy.

Data Profiling Tools

Data discovery and profiling can be performed using a combination of automated tools and manual techniques.

Here are some commonly used approaches:

Automated Data Profiling Tools

Automated data profiling tools offer advanced capabilities to analyze large volumes of data efficiently.

These tools can automatically scan and profile data sources, generate statistical summaries, identify anomalies, and visualize data quality metrics. Examples of popular data profiling tools include Precisely Trillium, Data360 and Spectrum

Manual Data Analysis Techniques

In addition to automated tools, manual data analysis techniques can provide valuable insights, especially when dealing with unstructured or complex data.

Manual techniques involve hands-on exploration, data sampling, and domain knowledge expertise to identify data patterns, anomalies, and potential issues.

Our Data Quality training curriculum includes a comprehensive course on data discovery and profiling - check it out.

Best Practices for Data Quality Analysis

To ensure effective data quality analysis, organizations should follow these best practices:

Define Clear Objectives

Clearly define the objectives and goals of profiling activities. Determine what insights or outcomes you aim to achieve and align them with your business objectives.

Data quality analysis can be a rabbit hole - once begun it is typical to pick up additional issues, and in following these, pick up more. A clear scope and business goal are essential to maintain focus.

Understand Data Sources and Formats

Thoroughly understand the data sources, formats, and characteristics.

Identify any data dependencies or constraints that may impact the profiling process or subsequent data operations.

Access to data can also be a challenge - so the earlier data sources are identified the earlier you can request the required access.

Establish Data Quality Metrics

Define appropriate data quality metrics based on your business requirements. These metrics could include completeness, accuracy, timeliness, consistency, and validity, but could also include business-specific metrics that are directly relevant to achieving your business goals.

Regularly Monitor Data Quality

Data quality analysis is an ongoing process. Data is not static and key metrics may shift over time.

Regularly monitor data quality metrics to ensure continuous improvement and identify any emerging issues or patterns. Add data quality dashboards to your standard reporting stack, ideally with integration to your data governance tool.

Collaborate with Business and IT Stakeholders

Data quality assessments require collaboration between business and IT stakeholders.

Engage subject matter experts, data owners, data custodians, and other relevant stakeholders to gain a holistic understanding of the data and its significance.

Challenges in Data Profiling

While data discovery and profiling offer significant benefits, they are not without challenges.

Some common challenges include:

Data Inconsistency

Data inconsistency is a prevalent challenge in data discovery and profiling.

Different data sources may have varying data formats, naming conventions, or data entry practices, leading to inconsistencies that need to be addressed during the profiling process. A major benefit of automated tools is that they make no assumptions about consistency.

Data Privacy and Security Concerns

As any data quality assessment involves analyzing sensitive and personal information, data privacy and security are critical considerations. Organizations must ensure compliance with data protection regulations, like PoPIA, and implement appropriate security measures to safeguard data during profiling activities.

Scalability Issues

Large and complex data environments may pose scalability challenges for data profiling.

Profiling massive volumes of data within limited time frames requires efficient techniques, proven tools, and infrastructure to handle the scale and complexity effectively.


In the age of data-driven decision-making, data quality analysis has emerged as a crucial practice for organizations seeking to leverage the full potential of their data assets.

By gaining a deep understanding of data quality, completeness, and relevance, businesses can make informed decisions, enhance data governance, mitigate data risks, and drive operational efficiency.

Implementing data discovery and profiling best practices and leveraging appropriate tools will empower organizations to harness the power of their data and stay ahead in today's competitive landscape.


How often should data quality analysis be performed?

Data quality analysis should be performed regularly to ensure ongoing data quality and reliability. The frequency may vary based on the organization's needs and the rate of data changes.

Can data profiling help with compliance and regulatory requirements?

Yes, data discovery and profiling play a crucial role in compliance and regulatory requirements. It helps identify potential risks, ensure data integrity, and demonstrate adherence to data protection regulations.

Is data discovery and profiling only applicable to structured data?

No, data quality analysis can be applied to both structured and unstructured data. While structured data is easier to profile, techniques like text analysis and data sampling can be used to profile unstructured data.

How can data profiling help with data migrations?

Data discovery and profiling help to identify data inconsistencies and issues that pose significant risks to any data migration. By uncovering these unknown risks early in the migration process your project team can plan appropriately to mitigate these before they become issues. Read our white paper on how to Improve Data Migration with Automated Data Profiling

What are the potential benefits of data profiling for marketing and customer analytics?

Data quality assessments help to ensure the accuracy and completeness of customer data, enabling effective segmentation, targeting, and personalization in marketing campaigns. It also improves the reliability of customer analytics, leading to more accurate insights and better decision-making.

Can data profiling be automated?

Yes, profiling can be automated using specialized tools that streamline the process, save time, and provide comprehensive insights. However, manual techniques may still be necessary in certain scenarios where human expertise is required.

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