An Overview to Data Conversion System with Munging and Wrangling

IT has its own language. The more obscure the terms, the bigger the probability you’ve uncovered something that makes even seasoned IT workers wonder what’s going on. For example, ‘data conversion’ is the combination of two well-known words that remains intuitively obvious. But ‘munging’ and ‘wrangling’? Unknowingly, you may have to perform both actions if you’re dealing with legacy system makeovers, database migrations, or other forms of data conversion. The good news is that automation of the conversion process may save you precious effort, temper, and time, freeing you up to do other things (like looking up munging and wrangling in an online dictionary, for example).

Data conversion with easy (well, easier) munging thanks to SQL standard data manipulation.

Data Conversion Definitions

Let’s take ‘munge’ first of all: it’s the consolidation of mutually exclusive data sets to avoid having to write complex computer code, like SQL joins (see image above). By comparison, data that are already ‘munged’ may refer to content that lacks structure and may be difficult to process. So if you are going to munge data, aim to preserve structure where appropriate, or at least keep the original files in a safe place. ‘Data wrangling’ is used in a similar way to data munging, with a hint of rounding up them pesky data sets to guard against loss or damage.

Automated Munging to Reduce Conversion Time

Suppose, for example, you had to transfer 30 years of medical data from old Unix systems to new electronic medical records (EMR) systems. You’ll do data wrangling to ensure that all the data are copied over without fail; and data munging to organize and combine them as required by the new system and legal requirements. Manually, this could take a long time (one user estimated over 2,000 hours). Automating the process with good automation software can however dramatically reduce the time required, when that software allows users to easily script the actions and run different data migration tasks in parallel (the same user ended up completing the data conversion task in just 24 hours).

Funky File Formats

For data conversion to happen the right way, you may need to deal with a variety of file or data formats. Simplification is the watchword, whenever this is possible without sacrificing data detail. Pulling data correctly out of PDF files may already be a challenge; dealing with proprietary file formats for specific applications may mean resorting to screen scraping in order to make sense of what’s inside. On the other hand, being able to use or move to standard formats such as those used in SQL database or Excel files will make your munging more manageable. Automation Anywhere, for instance, lets users access legacy data directly from screens, manipulate Excel files and content, and also automatically recognize web-formatted data, among other possibilities.

Teaching Your System to Do Data Conversion by Itself

Any repeated manipulation within data conversion is a prospect for automation. Approaches include using a smart macro recorder to record mouse events and keystrokes of a process as a script to be followed by your PC; or writing such a script directly to make use of programming constructs like conditional loops and running tasks in background. These automation solutions can be enormously helpful, when you consider that otherwise data wrangling and data munging can be up to 70 percent of overall project time and budget.

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