Data Cleansing: The Key To Effective Business Intelligence And Reporting


In 2017, Uber publicly acknowledged a significant accounting discrepancy that resulted in drivers being underpaid due to an over calculation of the company’s commission cut in its accounting system. The consequences of this accounting oversight were substantial, prompting Uber to reimburse its drivers “tens of millions” of dollars. Ultimately, this error incurred a cost of $900 per driver for the ride-sharing giant. 

This incident with Uber serves as a noteworthy example of how even major brands can grapple with data inaccuracies and the financial repercussions that ensue. 

For small and medium enterprises, the stakes are even higher. In the age of Big Data, businesses rely on information to drive critical decisions. However, this data is only as valuable as its quality. This brings us to the crucial concept of data cleansing and its indispensable role in business intelligence and reporting.

Why Does Data Cleansing Matter?

1. Accurate decision-making: Reliable data is the foundation of effective decision-making, ensuring that the analyses conducted yield actionable insights crucial for steering businesses in the right direction.

2. Improved efficiency: Analysts and BI reporting tools can work more efficiently when dealing with accurate and consistent data. This, in turn, reduces the time and effort required to generate reports and facilitates faster decision-making.

3. Enhanced customer trust: Inaccurate or inconsistent data can erode trust in the information provided by reports. Ensuring data accuracy through cleansing contributes to the credibility of business intelligence outputs, which is particularly important when presenting findings to stakeholders, investors, or customers.

4. Consistency across systems: Organizations often collect and store data from various sources. Data cleansing helps standardize and unify data formats and structures, ensuring consistency across different databases and systems. This consistency is critical for creating reliable and coherent reports.

A glimpse into the types of business intelligence reports

Business intelligence reporting serves critical roles in decision-making processes. Let’s take a closer look at the diverse types of business intelligence reports that empower businesses to thrive in today’s competitive environment. Here are the four key categories:

1. Descriptive reports 

These reports provide a comprehensive overview of past performance and current trends, incorporating data like customer demographics, sales volume, cost analysis, and market share.

2. Diagnostic reports

The report uncovers the “why” behind specific outcomes, identifying root causes and potential risk areas. Based on insights from diagnostic reports, businesses can take corrective actions and enhance performance.

3. Predictive reports

Based on historical data, these reports make forecasts and predictions about products, services, and customer behaviors. This is crucial for strategic planning and budgeting.

4. Prescriptive reports

These reports aim to guide users on what actions to take based on the analysis of historical and current data. The primary purpose of prescriptive reports is to support decision-making by offering guidance on optimal courses of action. This can include recommendations for resource allocation, process optimization, or strategic planning.

Business intelligence and reporting workflow

  1. Gathering and cleaning data
  • Collect data from diverse sources
  • Ensure accuracy and proper formatting
  1. Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Identify patterns and correlations
  • Derive actionable insights
  1. Creating the report
  • Combine insights with visuals (graphs, charts)
  • Ensure clarity and comprehension
  1. Distributing and sharing
  • Use email, Slack, Google Sheets, etc.
  • Share as PDF or in the form of presentations

When data isn’t clean, the workflow falters

Discrepancies in entered data, erroneous or missing values, and irrelevant information create confusion, hindering the attainment of useful insights and gradually diminishing trust, even within organizations with well-established business intelligence programs. Here’s how:

Flawed analysis

Inaccurate data can result in flawed analysis, which can lead to unreliable conclusions. Consider a sales report where the data includes duplicate entries for the same transaction. This could inflate the revenue figures, potentially leading to misguided decisions about inventory and marketing strategies.

Misleading visuals

Inaccurate data can distort visual representations, making it challenging to convey meaningful information through graphs and charts. Imagine a bar chart showing customer satisfaction scores. If some scores are mistakenly recorded, the chart might wrongly suggest a significant improvement or decline in satisfaction levels.

Loss of trust

Stakeholders may lose confidence in the reporting process if they encounter discrepancies or inconsistencies in the data. Consider a scenario where financial reports continuously contain errors. Investors might start questioning the reliability of the company’s financial statements, potentially leading to the loss of investor confidence.

Inefficiency in customer data distribution

Sharing flawed reports wastes time and resources, hindering effective communication and decision-making. Picture a sales team working with a CRM system that has duplicate customer entries. Sales representatives might end up contacting the same client multiple times, causing frustration for both the team and the client.

Dispelling myths: Data cleansing misconceptions

Myth 1: Data cleansing is a one-time task.
Reality: Data is dynamic and evolves. Regular cleansing is essential to maintain its quality.

Myth 2: Automated tools can do it all.
Reality: While automation is powerful, human oversight is crucial for interpreting and validating results.

Key takeaways

  • Data cleansing is pivotal for accurate business intelligence and reporting.
  • Inaccurate data can lead to costly mistakes and missed opportunities.
  • Regular cleansing efforts are necessary to maintain data quality over time.
  • Investing in maintaining data quality pays off through improved decision-making, efficiency, and customer experiences.

Final thoughts

Just as a foundation must be solid for a building to stand tall, clean data is the bedrock of successful business operations. By prioritizing data cleansing, businesses can ensure that their decisions are built on a solid foundation, ultimately leading to growth and success.

Unfortunately, the necessity of data cleansing is often overlooked by most businesses due to concerns over additional costs and resource allocation, especially when dealing with large volumes of data. However, businesses with a strategic mindset wisely choose to outsource data cleansing services to professionals to free up their resources for core business operations.