Data exchange

The data file exchange checklist: How to choose the ideal solution for your needs

The data files you need to run your company are everywhere. Unfortunately, they’re probably not perfectly structured, organized and ready to use. Getting all of the different data files and file types that you need into your system can be a constant and painful challenge, but they contain key information that can drive the health and success of your business. 

By now, you've discovered that traditional tools aren't an efficient solution for your needs, and you're probably spending time and resources on complicated workarounds. Data exchange (sometimes referred to as “data file exchange,” "data import," "data collection," or "data onboarding") is the solution that can help you safely and efficiently import all the highly variable data files you need. Even if your files come from tons of different sources in a wide variety of formats and need manual mapping, review, cleanup and validation before you can import them, a data exchange solution will help you deal efficiently with all of the real-world data that you have.

If you want to be able to make strong, data-driven decisions, a data exchange solution is an efficient, secure and scalable solution that can help your company thrive. Instead of creating and maintaining inefficient workarounds or building costly and complex customizations of traditional tools, your organization can have the functionality and reliability it needs without building and maintaining in-house tools.

When you're evaluating your options, make sure to find a solution that will support your specific requirements and use case and can easily fit into your tech stack and development tooling. Choosing the best data exchange and collaboration solution for your needs is critical because it directly impacts the outcome and success of your operations. 

How do you choose the ideal data exchange solution for your use case?

Here are the key factors you should keep in mind as you make your decision:

(To simplify your decision-making process, we also have a free data file exchange checklist you can download anytime!)

  1. Expertise and focus

Data import and collaboration platform providers specialize in creating solutions for data management and are committed to resolving problems and ensuring your solution operates smoothly. The right solution will invest in research, development, and ongoing improvements and maintenance to deliver robust, feature-rich products.

2. Security, compliance and reduced risk

Modern data exchange platforms typically have built-in security features and may already comply with industry-standard regulations. The right solution will reduce the risks associated with software development, offering the assurance of established security measures and compliance adherence. These tools are thoroughly tested, refined, and continually improved based on the experiences of numerous other businesses that have used them.

3. Ease of use and accessibility

For most businesses, it makes sense to select a data exchange and collaboration solution that comes equipped with user-friendly interfaces that offer value for a broader range of employees, customers and use cases. A familiar and intuitive spreadsheet-type interface that people immediately understand how to use can make the process more streamlined and efficient. It should offer real-time validation, error handling, and transformation capabilities, empowering you to easily collaborate across diverse stakeholders and take control of your data.

4. Excellent data transformation, quality and cleaning capabilities

Consider solutions that offer sophisticated data cleaning and validation features. These functionalities can help identify and fix inconsistencies, errors, and missing values within datasets, which ensures the imported data's accuracy and reliability. Here are some some key capabilities to look for:

  • Parsing data: Parsing is the process of aggregating information (in a file) and breaking it into discrete parts. Essentially, data parsing is the separation of data. You'll want to have a data parsing feature that not only allows you to transform a file into an array of discrete data but also streamlines this process for your users.

  • Structuring: Most product teams want to make sure that data flows seamlessly into their application database via their API. Proper data structuring ensures that data is received and labeled appropriately in your system. APIs expect a certain format of data and will fail without it.

  • Validation: Data validation checks the data to make sure it matches an expected format or value. Having this feature in place prevents issues from occurring down the line. Data validation eliminates the need for your users to remove and re-upload data.

  • Transformation: Data transformation makes changes to data as it flows into the system to ensure it meets an expected or desired value. Rather than sending data back to users with an error message, data transformation makes small, systematic tweaks to ensure the data is usable.

  • Data mapping: Mapping and matching are often used interchangeably and refer to taking previously unknown source data and matching it to a known target. It's an absolute requirement that your data importer do this very well. Without data mapping, imports will fail when data elements like column headings don't match exactly.

5. Workflow flexibility and customization

The workflows needed for importing, validating, editing and approving data are often complex and different from organization to organization. How do you ensure the right people manage the right data at the right time with appropriate access control? Choose a data exchange solution that offers customization to accommodate your unique business needs. This flexibility means that the solution you choose will be able to adapt to changing requirements and workflows within your organization.

6. Developer tooling

Data import and exchange requirements are usually part of software applications, integration projects, and other system needs. A data exchange solution must be easily usable by your IT team and software engineers, integrate into your tool stack, and support your software development processes. Software developers also need in-depth technical documentation, public API references and easy access to the full data exchange tool set.

7. Third-party integrations

Modern platforms offer integrations with other software applications, such as databases, analytics tools, and business intelligence platforms. These integrations will streamline your data workflow, enhance data analysis capabilities, and provide seamless connectivity between various data-related tasks.

8. Support and maintenance

Assess each vendor's support services, including response times, availability of updates, and maintenance plans. Reliable support will ensure timely help if there are issues or concerns, minimizing disruptions in the data import process.

By carefully considering these aspects, you'll clearly understand how the right solution will align with your unique needs now and in the future.

Whether used on its own or as a complement to traditional ETL solutions, a data exchange solution provides the missing piece in your data stack. It offers the agility to wrangle a variety of data types, the power to derive insights on the fly and the flexibility to navigate an evolving data landscape seamlessly. With the right solution in place, businesses can harness the true potential of their data, transforming it from a simple asset into a competitive advantage.

If you need to choose the ideal data file exchange solution for your use case, we have a handy checklist you can download for free today!

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