Why you need a Data Quality Tool

Why you need a Data Quality Tool

June 19, 2024
Alon Nafta
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In today's data-driven world and more so AI, data quality is critical. With more organizations recognizing the powerful effect business intelligence has on growth and company performance, the importance of effective data quality tools and processes is clear. Due to the complexity of typical data stacks, ensuring high data quality standards requires a multifaceted approach that includes automated data lineage, data quality monitoring, and implementing strong data governance practices, ideally throughout all the development lifecycles. This blog post reviews the importance of data quality, common tools and metrics used to maintain it, and some best practices for data engineers and data leaders, focused on maximizing data quality.

The Importance of Data Quality

Data quality as a general term refers to the condition of data based on factors such as accuracy, completeness, reliability, and relevance. High-quality data is crucial for making informed business decisions and generally to allow business intelligence (BI) to act as a viable source of information for the business. High-quality BI has been shown to improve operational efficiency, customer satisfaction and even organizational alignment - All departments can reach an agreement around the key metrics and accordingly, decisions around them. Inversely, poor data quality can lead to wrong conclusions, poor efficiency, increased costs, and ultimately, lost business opportunities.

Data quality issues can arise from various sources, including source errors, bad code deployments, configuration changes etc., and are further amplified without proper data governance. Addressing these issues requires a comprehensive data quality strategy that incorporates different types of data quality mechanisms as well as processes designed to identify, correct, and prevent data quality problems.

Key Components of Data Quality Management

The following are what we consider as the key components of data quality management: 

  1. Data Monitoring: Data monitoring involves analyzing the live data to understand its structure, properties, and quality. This process helps identify delays, inconsistencies, and anomalies within datasets. By understanding the current state of data and logging the common data quality issues observed, organizations can develop targeted data quality improvement strategies.
  2. Data Cleansing: Data cleansing is the process of identifying and correcting errors in the data. It can sometimes be manual in nature but for the most part it is automated. Cleansing can include removing duplicates and occasionally bad records, correcting inaccuracies, and filling in missing values. Effective data cleansing ensures that data is accurate and trustworthy.
  3. Data Integration: Data integration involves combining data from different sources to provide a unified view. This process must ensure data consistency and integrity across systems. Data quality tools play a crucial role in maintaining data quality across the multiple systems that are storing and processing data, such as upstream databases, downstream data warehouses, and even the BI layer.
  4. Validation: Validation is the process of ensuring that data meets the required standards and criteria before it is used. This can involve checking for data type consistency, range validity, and business rule adherence. It can also include looking into the code that is driving the data, to look for issues potential issues that can only be identified in code. Data validation helps prevent the introduction of erroneous data into the system.
Pull Request Validation
Pull Request Validation

Essential Data Quality Tools

  1. Data Management Tools: Data management tools provide a comprehensive platform for managing data-related deployments, change management, and data quality processes supporting data integration, cleansing, monitoring, and validation. These tools help streamline data management tasks and ensure consistency and accuracy across data assets.
  2. Data Quality Monitoring: Data quality monitoring tools are used to measure and monitor the quality of data. Common aspects include accuracy, freshness, consistency, timeliness, and uniqueness. By tracking these metrics, organizations can obviously find and flag data issues, but also identify areas for improvement and monitor the effectiveness of data quality initiatives.
  3. Automated Data Lineage: Automated data lineage tools provide a visual representation of data flow and transformations across all systems. Effective data lineage solutions are doing this automatically across as many relevant systems as possible, including sources such as CRM, ERP and operational databases. When involved in the development stages, automated data lineage also helps data engineers identify potential quality issues before data is impacted. Data lineage is critical for maintaining transparency and traceability in data processes.

Do note that some tools, of course–Foundational included, implement all three altogether.

Best Practices for Ensuring Data Quality

  1. Implement Strong Data Governance: Data governance involves establishing policies, procedures, and standards for managing data quality. This includes defining roles and responsibilities, implementing data quality metrics, and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. Strong data governance helps ensure data quality and fosters a culture of data-driven decision-making.
  2. Invest in Strong and Capable Tools: Data quality initiatives require expertise and ongoing investment. Some capabilities can be built in-house, typically leveraging platform-specific features such as Data Metric Functions in Snowflake. However, best-in-class tools are typically worth the investment and tend to be ROI-positive over time, unless you’re Uber or Airbnb.
  3. Monitor Data Quality Continuously: Continuous monitoring of data quality is essential for identifying and addressing issues in real time. Data quality tools with automated monitoring capabilities can help detect anomalies and trigger alerts when data quality metrics fall below acceptable thresholds. This proactive approach helps prevent data quality issues from impacting business operations.
  4. Continuously Improve Data Lineage: Data lineage is the foundation of effective data management. It supports collaboration between data engineers and business users and aligns everyone in the organization on how and what datasets should be used. Data lineage should cover all parts of the organization, from upstream to downstream.
Data Lineage
Data Lineage

Challenges in Data Quality Management

  1. Data Volume and Complexity: The sheer volume and complexity of data can make data quality management challenging. Large datasets with diverse formats and sources require advanced tools and techniques to ensure quality. Data quality tools that scale efficiently and offer scalability and automation are crucial for managing data at scale.
  2. Data Silos and Fragmentation: Data silos occur when data is isolated within different departments or systems, making it difficult to integrate and ensure consistency. Breaking down data silos requires effective data integration strategies and tools that can unify disparate data sources.
  3. Changing Data Landscape: The data landscape is constantly evolving, with new data sources, technologies, and regulatory requirements emerging regularly. Keeping up with these changes requires flexibility and adaptability in data quality processes and tools.

Trends in Data Quality Management

  1. AI and Machine Learning: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are increasingly being used to enhance data quality management. These technologies can automate data quality processes, identify patterns and anomalies, and provide predictive insights. AI and ML can help organizations achieve higher levels of data quality with less manual effort.
  2. Shift-left Data Quality: While existing solutions have relied on live data monitoring, many organizations have realized that proactiveness and prevention are as effective in improving data quality and are consequently investing in data quality solutions that allow developers and engineers to identify issues at the code stage. Many mechanisms which exist in software engineering such as CI and code checks are being introduced to data.
  3. Real-Time Data Quality Monitoring Real-time data quality monitoring is becoming more prevalent as organizations seek to make data-driven decisions faster. Tools that offer real-time monitoring capabilities can detect and address data quality issues as they arise, ensuring that data remains reliable and accurate.
  4. Data Quality as a Service: Data Quality as a Service is an emerging trend where organizations outsource their data quality management to third-party providers. It offers scalability, expertise, and advanced tools that may be cost-prohibitive for organizations to develop in-house. This approach allows organizations to focus on their core competencies while ensuring high data quality.


In summary, data quality is a critical component of effective data management. Ensuring data quality requires a combination of robust data quality tools, well-defined processes, and a strong commitment to data governance. By implementing best practices for data profiling, data cleansing, data integration, and data validation, organizations can improve data quality and achieve better business outcomes. Continuous monitoring and leveraging advanced technologies such as AI and automated data lineage can further enhance data quality management efforts. As the data landscape continues to evolve, staying ahead of trends and challenges in data quality will be essential for maintaining a competitive edge. Embracing comprehensive data quality solutions and fostering a culture of data excellence will empower organizations to harness the full potential of their data assets.

Learn how Foundational proactively improves data quality by preventing issues across the entire data stack.

Schedule time with us to see this in action for your own data tools.

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