What Is Data Scrubbing and Why Do You Need It?

If there’s one thing businesses have a lot of, it’s data. Your budget? Data. Your product inventory? Data. Your marketing metrics? You guessed it—data.

With so much data floating around your company, it takes a rigorous effort to keep it all accurate and organized. But even when you go out of your way to manage your data efficiently, inconsistencies and inaccuracies can still pop up. So, when that happens, what do you do?

The answer is data scrubbing. Scrubbing your data is the best way to get it in tip-top shape. But what is data scrubbing? The answer is that it’s the process of cleaning up your data. Keep reading to find out more.

What is data scrubbing?

Data scrubbing is a process that involves going through your company’s data and rigorously modifying or removing errors as you find them. Those errors could have to do with inaccuracy, inconsistency, duplication, or something else altogether.

Data scrubbing vs. data cleaning

You might have heard the term “data cleaning” before. If so, you may wonder if it’s the same thing as data scrubbing. The answer is sort of.

Data cleaning is where you run through your data and fix any obvious errors you see. Sounds like data scrubbing, right? The difference, though, is that data scrubbing is far more involved. When you scrub your data, you’re extremely thorough, deliberately seeking out and eliminating even the smallest errors.

In that way, data scrubbing is a form of data cleaning, but it’s much more in-depth than other cleaning methods. 

Why do you need data scrubbing?

You might be wondering what makes data scrubbing so necessary. The answer is that without it, your data will be far less useful to you.

No matter how meticulous you are about gathering and organizing data, mistakes are still bound to slip through. There will inevitably be certain data entries that aren’t accurate. And one inaccurate piece of data is enough to mess up everything, particularly if you use that data point to calculate other metrics.

Plus, even where there aren’t outright mistakes, there could be formatting issues that cause data to get calculated differently, or not at all, by the tools you use. Basically, data mistakes can cause huge problems for your company.

But data scrubbing gives you a way to root out all of those mistakes and save yourself countless amounts of trouble.

What is data scrubbing used to fix?

There are several types of mistakes you can use data scrubbing to fix. Here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Outright mistakes: Sometimes, data points simply aren’t accurate. Maybe these points were mistyped, miscalculated, or weren’t measured properly to begin with.
  • Formatting issues: Sometimes, you might enter data points accurately but with the wrong formatting. For instance, if you’re entering percentages, you might enter one as “75%” but then enter another one as “0.84” instead of “84%.”
  • Old data: There may be times when you enter a data point, and at the time of entry, it’s accurate. But then, later on, something changes, but no one thinks to alter that data entry, so it becomes outdated.
  • Duplicate data: It’s not uncommon for data to be inadvertently entered more than once into a database. Having repeat data can mess up a lot of calculations—for instance, a sale might get logged two different times, making you think you’ve earned more than you have.

There are potentially other types of data discrepancies out there in addition to those listed above. With those sorts of issues hiding in your databases and spreadsheets, it’s definitely worth taking the time to purge those issues and improve the reliability of your data.

Data scrubbing tools

Odds are, your company has a vast amount of data to deal with. Given that fact, manually sorting through every single data entry would be an enormous pain. Thankfully, not everything has to be done manually.

There are several different data scrubbing tools you can find online which can automate a decent bit of the process. Here are three of the best data scrubbing tools out there!

1. OpenRefine

Price: Free

OpenRefine is a free, open-source tool for cleaning and altering data. Not only can it help you peruse your data for mistakes, but you can also use it to edit existing data as needed, changing names and adding additional elements.

Another useful feature of OpenRefine is that it can translate numbers into numerical data. Often, numerical data is simply translated as text rather than being specifically recognized by your tools as numerical data that can be used in charts and whatnot. OpenRefine can identify numbers separately from other text, though.

Openrefine homepage

2. Winpure

Price: Based on custom quote

Winpure is another useful data scrubbing tool, one of the more popular ones available. The great thing about Winpure is its flexibility. It can work with a wide variety of programs and software, from Excel spreadsheets to advanced databases.

You can use Winpure to scrub data or to do lighter data cleanings. Another helpful feature of Winpure is that it can manage data across multiple languages. So, if you operate in languages other than English, Winpure has you covered. 

Winpure homepage

3. Cloudingo

Price: $2500+ per year

The final data scrubbing tool on our list is Cloudingo. Cloudingo can perform all the same data scrubbing tasks as Winpure and OpenRefine, with the added benefit of being totally compatible with Salesforce.

The tool is extremely smart, easily spotting errors it thinks might be due to human error. It can quickly and effectively delete duplicates it discovers without negatively affecting the data itself. Cloudingo even offers additional support for application programming interfaces (API).

Cloudingo homepage

Nutshell can help you organize and analyze your customer data

Ready to clean up your data? Great! But before you get started, you’ll need a place to store that data. When it comes to your customer data, there’s no better tool than a customer relationship management (CRM) platform like Nutshell.

Nutshell is the perfect place to store your customer data because it can easily import and categorize it, plus it can compile that data into reports for you to learn more about your audience. Want to try out Nutshell for yourself? Start your 14-day free trial today!


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