Data Analysis - Process
Data Analysis is a process of collecting, transforming, cleaning, and modeling data with the goal of discovering the required information. The results so obtained are communicated, suggesting conclusions, and supporting decision-making. Data visualization is at times used to portray the data for the ease of discovering the useful patterns in the data. The terms Data Modeling and Data Analysis mean the same.
Data Analysis Process consists of the following phases that are iterative in nature −
- Data Requirements Specification
- Data Collection
- Data Processing
- Data Cleaning
- Data Analysis
Data Requirements Specification
The data required for analysis is based on a question or an experiment. Based on the requirements of those directing the analysis, the data necessary as inputs to the analysis is identified (e.g., Population of people). Specific variables regarding a population (e.g., Age and Income) may be specified and obtained. Data may be numerical or categorical.
Data Collection is the process of gathering information on targeted variables identified as data requirements. The emphasis is on ensuring accurate and honest collection of data. Data Collection ensures that data gathered is accurate such that the related decisions are valid. Data Collection provides both a baseline to measure and a target to improve.
Data is collected from various sources ranging from organizational databases to the information in web pages. The data thus obtained, may not be structured and may contain irrelevant information. Hence, the collected data is required to be subjected to Data Processing and Data Cleaning.
The data that is collected must be processed or organized for analysis. This includes structuring the data as required for the relevant Analysis Tools. For example, the data might have to be placed into rows and columns in a table within a Spreadsheet or Statistical Application. A Data Model might have to be created.
The processed and organized data may be incomplete, contain duplicates, or contain errors. Data Cleaning is the process of preventing and correcting these errors. There are several types of Data Cleaning that depend on the type of data. For example, while cleaning the financial data, certain totals might be compared against reliable published numbers or defined thresholds. Likewise, quantitative data methods can be used for outlier detection that would be subsequently excluded in analysis.
Data that is processed, organized and cleaned would be ready for the analysis. Various data analysis techniques are available to understand, interpret, and derive conclusions based on the requirements. Data Visualization may also be used to examine the data in graphical format, to obtain additional insight regarding the messages within the data.
Statistical Data Models such as Correlation, Regression Analysis can be used to identify the relations among the data variables. These models that are descriptive of the data are helpful in simplifying analysis and communicate results.
The process might require additional Data Cleaning or additional Data Collection, and hence these activities are iterative in nature.
The results of the data analysis are to be reported in a format as required by the users to support their decisions and further action. The feedback from the users might result in additional analysis.
The data analysts can choose data visualization techniques, such as tables and charts, which help in communicating the message clearly and efficiently to the users. The analysis tools provide facility to highlight the required information with color codes and formatting in tables and charts.