Do low customer retention rates and slow growth have you at your wits end? 

Are you sick of looking at disjointed and disorganized information in your contact databases and ready to take back control? 

Simply migrating to a new CRM isn't the solution. At least not with your data in its current state. If you're pulling together datasets from different platforms and lists, then they won't be standardized, and your CRM will end up just as messy.

Data preparation tools can help you pull together all your data, assess it, clean it and enrich it. These advanced tools will increase the value of your data, and make sure that everything is in its place for sophisticated automation.

We make cleaning and preparing your data easy.  Request a demo today.

What are data preparation tools?

Data preparation tools are software products that help organizations consolidate, process, standardize, and enrich their data. They allow you to take your messy, unorganized data and transform it into something usable.

If you're trying to analyze a contact database without preparing it first, your insights won't be accurate. Before you analyze data or use it for marketing campaigns, use data quality tools so that you're confident your data is in its best form.

Here are some of the ways that data preparation software can prep your data.

1. Compile

Data preparation tools can access data regardless of the origin or format, extracting data from both structured and unstructured data sources. So, whether your data lists are in Excel spreadsheets, word documents, or CRMs, data prep tools will use automation to pull it all together for you.

2. Improve data quality

Entering data into lists manually creates a high possibility for human error. As does attempting to clean your list manually. Manual data prep is notorious for being  inefficient and costly. 

Any automation of your sales and marketing processes relies on clean data. 

“Sometimes you just can’t trust the CRM”...followed by time-consuming, manual and messy ways of managing relationships with customers, is an unnecessary but common response to your data being left unkempt.

 Data preparation tools will clean up your data for you, improving the quality so you can start working with it faster. That includes:

  • Standardizing formats

  • Removing inaccurate data

  • Removing duplicates

  • Flagging incomplete data

3. Validate

Once your data is compiled and cleansed, data preparation tools will validate the details to ensure it's all accurate. For example, say a staff member entered an email address incorrectly. 

The software may standardize it to fit the correct format, but that doesn't mean the email itself is valid. Data preparation tools will validate all your data for you to ensure optimal data quality.

What features to look for when choosing tools for data preparation

examples of how to ensure data integrity.

While every organization has different needs when it comes to data preparation, there are some key features you should look for when choosing data preparation tools.

1. Data access and discovery from any datasets

One of the most important features you should be looking for when choosing your ideal tool is data accessibility. You want to have the flexibility to pull data from any source with no limitations, regardless of where you store your data. You likely have staff working from different workflows, and they may have been storing their data individually up to this point. With everyone storing data in different forms, it's essential that your data preparation tool can pull from:

  • Excel sheets

  • CSV files

  • Word documents

  • Data warehouses

  • Cloud apps

  • Other CRMs

 

2. Data cleansing features

Look for data preparation tools that have data cleansing features. Cleaning up your data sources is an essential part of data management and ensuring your database contains valid information. Data cleansing steps include:

  • Removing extra spaces

  • Spell check

  • Standardizing cases (lower/upper case)

  • Flagging blank cells

  • Converting numbers stored as text into numbers

  • Converting dates to the same format

  • Removing or merging duplicates

Here is an example of what an unclean data source might look like and how it would look after being cleansed with data cleansing tools.

Name

Email

Subscription Date

Job Title

Bradley Harper

bharper@gmail.com

10/04/2020

sales

J. smith

johnsmith@gmail.con

January 2nd, 2020

Business Analyst

sara m. johnson

SarahJohnsongmail.com

08-07-2020

Marketing consultant for Hello Consulting

Name

Email

Subscription Date

Job Title

Bradley Harper

bharper@gmail.com

10/04/2020

Sales

John Smith

johnsmith@gmail.com

02/01/2020

Business Analyst

Sara Johnson

sarahjohnson@gmail.com

08/07/2020

Marketing Consultant

3. Data enrichment features

Data enrichment features will help you to better segment your lists and personalize your marketing campaigns even more! Personalization is the key to the success of both your sales and marketing efforts, so the more information you have on your contacts, the better. There are some key differences between data cleansing vs. data enrichment. Data enriching involves combining internal data with data populated using additional internal and external sources. It could include sourcing details like:

  • Job title

  • Title (i.e., Mr. Mrs. Miss. Dr., etc.)

  • Complete postal address

  • Company

Data enrichment will make your raw data more valuable and useful.

Want to see how powerful data enrichment can be? Enrich your first 100 data points for free.


4. Export functions

After using a data preparation tool, you need to export it in the format that is best for you. Depending on what you choose to use to store and manage your data, you will require your datasets to be in a specific file format. Look for export features to file types that are relevant to your organization, such as Excel, cloud, or data warehouses.

If you’ve never touched your contact lists then they are likely full of bad #data. Data prep tools make the process of optimizing your contact lists easy. Check out our roundup of the top 10 data preparation tools and software of 2021!

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The best data preparation tools of 2021

With hundreds of different data preparation tools available, it can be challenging to know what to look for or where to start. Depending on your business, how you store your data and what you use it for you will require a different range of features and capabilities. 

We've compiled a list of the top 10 data preparation tools on the market this year. Some are great for SMBs needing to prep their data for email and sales campaigns. Others are more suited for enterprises needing standardized datasets for business analytics. They are packed with comprehensive and easy-to-use features, so even non-technical users can get their data under control.

1. tye

tye is a data cleansing and data enrichment software that is designed with SMBs in mind. Our hassle-free system can merge and clean your large databases automatically, reducing the strain on your staff. tye combines databases and machine learning to get the best results, providing you with clean and enriched data. 

We remove invalid and inaccurate email addresses and enrich your contacts, enabling you to improve your email marketing and sales pipeline automation. tye recognizes the importance of email hygiene for the success of your campaigns, and our software is optimized accordingly. 

Best features:

  • Data normalization

  • Data discovery

  • List merging

  • Data enrichment

  • De-duplication

Pricing: tye offers a free, self-service data prepping for a small data set, and further services cost between $0.05 – $0.24 per data set, depending on your database's size and your unique needs.

2. Dataladder

Screenshot of Dataladder

Data Ladder is a data quality and cleansing software that makes the data preparation process simple. There is no intensive training required to operate the software, so you don’t need to be a data scientist to take advantage of the benefits. Data Ladder is machine learning enabled and the more data you input, the more it learns. It can merge your datasets quickly and with accuracy from almost any source. 

Data Ladder has advanced matching algorithms, which are a result of many years of research and development matching various data fields from over 4000 global installations. 

Best features:

  • Deduplication

  • Geocoding capabilities 

  • Address validation

  • Data quality firewall 

  • 4000+ deployments 

Pricing: Pricing is based on the number of data records. You can contact them for a quote.


3. Microsoft Power Bi

Screenshot of 03_Microsoft Bi screenshot

Microsoft Power Bi is a data preparation software for business analysts and business users, rated 4.5/5 stars on Gartner. It has business intelligence capabilities and data visualization through its user-friendly interface. 

It generates high-quality reports based on data analytics, which data scientists can use to gain insight into their datasets. It's best for those looking to use their data for analysis and make informed business decisions as a result. Microsoft Power BI enables users to turn this data into a visual format that you can share with your team or clients.

Best features:

  • Customizable reports and dashboard

  • Data visualization

  • Collaborative reporting features

  • Built-in security features

  • Real-time dashboards

Pricing: Microsoft Power BI premium provides advanced analytics, big data support, and on-premises and cloud reporting. It runs organizations $4,995 per month.


4. Tableau Prep

Tableau screenshot

Tableau Prep combines, shapes, and cleans data for data analysts, data engineers, or business people working with datasets. It connects with data both on-premises and on the cloud, regardless of format. Smart features make data prep easy, allowing you to complete traditionally repetitive tasks with one single click. 

It's one of the best self-service data preparation tools on the market, allowing you to streamline the process of fixing common problems in your datasets. Its collaborative interface means that more people in your organization can access the data they need to make data-driven decisions.

Best features:

  • Connects to datasets on-premises and in the cloud

  • Visual feedback

  • Scalable

  • Restructures ill-formatted data

Pricing: The Tableau Prep Creator package costs $70 per user per month.


5. Infogix Data360

Infogix screenshot

Infogix Data360 is a suite of data governance tools for use in the data preparation process. The suite includes data cataloging, metadata management, advanced automation, which help get your complex data into a business-ready format. 

Many organizations that use Infogix do so for risk, compliance, and data value management. The software creates a visual graph, called 3D lineage, which helps users to get the most value out of their datasets, regardless of if they are proficient in data science or not. They have automated data quality checks to ensure consistency and accuracy at each touchpoint.

Best features:

  • Data catalog

  • User-friendly visual reporting

  • Smart business glossary

  • Automated data quality checks

Pricing: Free version available for limited records, and then priced based on volume. 


6. Tamr Unify

Tamr Unify screenshot

Tamr Unify is a machine learning-based data preparation software. It is built for enterprise-scale data blending and data transformation. It enables enterprises to connect data from any tabular format and publish it anywhere. Users can normalize and standardize data formats using SQL and spark, optimizing it for business intelligence use. 

Using algorithms and machine learning, Tamr Unify can catalog and connect thousands of data sources, including external and internal records. Tamr Unify is a good choice for enterprises and large companies, though it may be overly robust for solopreneurs or SMBs.

Best features:

  • Uses advanced machine learning algorithms to curate data

  • High-level security and access control

  • Large scale data unification

  • Patented feedback system built for analytics

Pricing: Pricing is calculated based on your needs and the size of your database.


7. Talend

Talend screenshot

Talend is another machine learning-based, self-service data preparation tool. It's an excellent tool for developers, data analysts, and business analysts to collaborate to clean and enrich their data sets. Different teams can re-use the same rules across datasets, using knowledge of the most common errors to reduce the amount of time your teams spend in data analysis. The software gives automatic suggestions that help users navigate the entire data preparation process.

Talend allows users to easily share their prepared datasets or embed them into live data integrations. It also integrates with cloud services like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, Microsoft Office products, and data warehouses. Gartner has classified Talend as a leader in the 2020 Magic Quadrant for data integration tools.

Best features:

  • Role-based access

  • Data compliance features

  • Automated workflows

  • Smart mapping

Pricing: Talend Open Source is free to all users with limited capabilities. Talend Cloud Data Integration costs $1170 per month, per user. The cost for the full Talend Data Fabric depends on the size of your database and your unique business needs.


8. Alteryx Analytics

Alteryx screenshot

Alteryx Analytics is a self-service analytics and data preparation tool that helps users to automate manual work. Their intuitive user interface features drag-and-drop visual workflows, which make the data preparation process much more straightforward. 

Alteryx Analytics automatically delivers your data analysis outcomes to 70+ sources, including SQL, Oracle, XML, Spark, Microsoft Excel, PDF, and more. You can compile data from both on-premises and cloud apps, including social sources, spreadsheets, databases, and unstructured data. Rather than relying on data scientists for data blending and data wrangling, this simple analysis tool is easy for anyone to learn.

Best features:

  • In-database processing (Spark, Oracle, Microsoft SQL, Cloudera Impala, and more)

  • Advanced machine learning capabilities

  • User-friendly data profiling

  • Drag-and-drop visual workflow

Pricing: Alteryx's main package is $5195 per user/per year, with optional upgrades available.


9. Altair Monarch

Altair Monarch screenshot

Altair Monarch is a self-service data preparation tool that helps organizations working with data to reduce their manual data entry requirements. The desktop-based software can connect to various unstructured data sources such as PDFs, spreadsheets, text files, and more to blend, clean, and prepare them. 

It is also compatible with cloud-based data sources and big data. The click-based interface is code-free, meaning that you don't have to be a data scientist or have tons of training to use the software effectively. Over 80 pre-built functions are available to help to optimize your datasets and make it error-free.

Best features:

  • 80+ pre-built data preparation functions

  • Intuitive, wizard-driven interface

  • Automated, repeatable processes, scheduled to run at predetermined times and frequencies

Pricing: Altair Monarch annual subscription costs $1995 per user.


10. Paxata

screenshot Paxata

Paxata is an adaptive, self-service data prep tool for business analysts and IT leaders. The software has three application layers, including a data management layer, which allows it to retain data in the HDFS (Hadoop Distributed File System). It's especially useful for organizations at an enterprise-level who require large scale data profiling, transformation, and cleansing. 

The software relies on AI applications and machine learning models to convert unstructured and semi-structured datasets into data that is usable for analytics, sales, and marketing. Embedded algorithms give AI assistance to users during the data prep process, including profiling, segmenting, and cleansing data.

Best features:

  • Point-and-click interface

  • Visual profiling and transformations

  • Apache Spark engine, specifically designed for large scale data prep

  • Smart algorithms to standardize values quickly

Pricing: Paxata professional plan pricing is determined by database size, not charged by the number of users.


10. Trifacta

Trifacta screenshot

Trifacta is a data wrangling software for data analysts and organizations to explore, transform, and integrate their unstructured datasets. It takes raw data from all your data sources, including files on your desktop, spreadsheets, data on the cloud, and more, and compiles it into one source. 

Once all the data is in the software, Trifacta structures, cleans, enriches, and validates it so that it's organized and ready to use. The software will automatically suggest transformations and aggregations based on machine learning algorithms. Trifacta is feature-rich, although you may need some knowledge of data science to take advantage of the full range of features.

Best features:

  • Automated, visual representations of data

  • On-going monitoring and management of data quality

  • Machine learned, predictive data transformation

  • Multiple methods of clustering values

Pricing: Trifacta is free for up to 100MB. After that, the Pro versions start from $419 per month, per user.


Which is the best data preparation tool?

Each organization has a different motive when it comes to data preparation. Some businesses need optimized datasets for accurate data analysis, where others want to use their data for email marketing campaigns or sales. While most data preparation tools have similar features, they are each built for a different user type. Some data prep tools are best for business analysts or data scientists who want a more efficient way to structure, clean, and enrich their datasets. Others are highly intuitive or completely hands-off and perfect for SMBs who have no experience in data analysis.

When choosing your data prep tool, consider how you currently collect and store data. Ensure that your chosen data preparation tool is compatible with your datasets and has integrations that you will benefit from. There is an option for every business, from enterprise-scale software like Paxata to simple and effective tools like tye.

We make cleaning and preparing your data easy.  Request a demo today.
Markus Beck

Markus Beck - January 26, 2021

CEO with a passion for data relationships. Markus is half Finnish, half Austrian & fully committed to helping businesses keep bad data from ruining great relationships. Process Engineer by training, with digital marketing & project management skills from previous jobs.