September 21, 2022
Why Does Test Data Management Matter for Your Business?
Unlocking the secrets contained in your data is a powerful way to discover new opportunities for your business. However, if a company analyzes its data in the wrong way, it can lead itself down the wrong path and waste valuable time and resources, and perhaps even risk the company’s future. Test Data Management serves as a practical control on the process to help companies ensure that the conclusions they draw from their data are grounded in reality—and are thus more likely to return positive benefits.
What is Test Data Management?
Test Data Management is the process of preparing data for analysis. This process reduces defects in the data, such as misleading or missing edge cases, and ensures there is enough data to produce meaningful conclusions. The Test Data Management process also involves securing data to protect user privacy through various means such as masking, anonymization, or pseudonymization. It also delivers the prepared data to the testing environments and generally incorporates automation where possible to reduce mistakes and speed up the overall process.
Why do Companies Need to Manage Test Data?
Companies need Test Data Management for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is the fact that you need good quality data to produce useful results. Good analyses run on bad data produce bad outcomes. In practice, improving the quality means cleaning the data.
In most cases, your data analysts can clean data manually. However, anything you can do to automate this part of the process can save time and help your analysts spend more time on more valuable activities.
Second, data needs to be accessible. In a modern enterprise environment, data can be fragmented across various databases, possibly managed by different service lines. For example, customer data about use may be in one database, with billing in another, and customer service info—such as help requests—might live in a third. Managing your test data will include finding ways to speed up the consolidation process or developing a Single Source of Truth where all relevant data can be found.
Finally, Test Data Management involves security and compliance. There are an ever-increasing number of data privacy laws, and failure to comply can result in steep fines. Properly managing your test data requires taking steps to ensure that users’ privacy is protected during analysis. It also means ensuring that actions you take with data, such as moving them between countries, comply with all relevant laws.
What is the Test Data Management Process?
Companies generally build the Test Data Management process that works for them, meaning there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, there are a few general buckets that most actions tend to fall into.
The planning stage is extra important because developing a solid plan for your Test Data Management can save a ton of time. During this phase, it’s essential to understand the full scope of data required for analysis and develop plans for how that data will be accessed, backed up, and stored during analysis. Companies should also prepare a communication plan for departments that will be affected, such as in situations where a system will be inaccessible or have downtime. Finally, a written version of the plan should be created, which improves communication and helps ensure all stakeholders are aligned on the plan.
Once the plan has been finalized, the next step is to extract the necessary data. Extraction may be a one-time action, but often it is ongoing per the plan to support long-term business objectives. Generally, companies use test data management tools to help make extraction easier. These tools can simplify and sometimes automate the extraction of data based on an analyst’s criteria.
Security and compliance actions may be taken before or after extraction, but it’s essential to take them before running analysis or taking other actions that risk exposing the data. Securing data may involve masking or a more complicated process like anonymization or pseudonymization based on the security needs of the particular use case.
Now that the data has been secured, it’s time to provision it into a test environment so analysts can begin their work. Generally, analysts provision the data depending on the question they’re trying to answer. However, in some cases, it may make sense to automate this question for repeating events, such as monthly reports.
Companies are constantly generating more data, so analysts need to keep working. Maintaining test data management systems to ensure continued compatibility and functionality and updating systems to align with new business objectives is an integral part of the process.
What Do You Do When You Don’t Have Enough Data?
In some circumstances, you may discover that your company doesn’t have enough data to answer certain questions. For example, the company could be starting a new product line and have only limited information to work with, or the question might be related to a very limited subset of customers.
In these situations, synthetic data comes to the rescue. Synthetic data is an entirely new data set that preserves the statistical relationships between data points in an original data set. Consequently, it can be used to expand the pool of available data in situations where there isn’t enough available for analysis.
However, it’s also ideal for data security and privacy, as it doesn’t just mask identities or create a risk of reidentification like anonymization or pseudonymization. Instead, because the data is entirely new, there’s no underlying user whose data can be exposed, making it ideal for most kinds of analysis while remaining in compliance with privacy laws.
How Mage Helps with Test Data Management
Ultimately, test data management is something that companies could do manually. However, doing these things by hand can be very time-consuming and keep employees away from higher-value activities. Mage has the tools you need to automate most data management processes and a world-class synthetic data generation tool.
But Mage is built for more than just test data management. It provides a complete top-to-bottom platform for data privacy and security, taking care of your data so that you can focus on more important things. To learn more about what Mage can do for your business, schedule a demo today!