What is Data Transformation?

Malcolm Tatum

Data transformation is the process of converting information or data from one format to another format. While the strategy is often thought of in terms of converting documents from one format to another, data transformations may also involve converting programs from one type of computer language to a different format in order to allow the program to run on a specific platform. The actual transformation may involve converting multiple data streams into a common format, or converting a single format into multiple different forms for use across a wide spectrum of platforms.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

The process of data transformation involves the use of what is known as SQL, or structured query language. SQL is the computer language that is responsible for managing the information that resides in some type of data management system. One of the oldest languages used in modern program design, SQL data transformation makes it possible to relate the data across several programs by managing the efficient conversion of the data into formats that each of the associated programs can recognize.

In actual use, data transformation involves the use of an executable program that is capable of reading the base or original language of the data, and identifying the language or languages that the data must translate into in order to be used by other programs. Once the mapping for the transformation is accomplished, the program then converts the data into the single or multiple formats desired, and distributes the converted data accordingly. With many applications, this takes place in a matter of seconds.

A similar process is known as data mediation. Like data transformation, the idea is to make data in one format to be usable in another format. One difference with mediation is that the data mapping process involves the creation of what is known as a data model, serving as an intermediary between the two formats involved, rather than the direct translation that occurs with the transformation of information.

As with many types of computer technology, data transformation is process that is continually evolving as new programs help to increase the efficiency and scope of how information can be translated. As more programs and formats are included in this process, the ability to share data across many different platforms that were once totally incompatible has increased significantly. In a global setting where collaborators may not always make use of the same programs or languages as the foundation for their data systems, these continual improvements mean significantly less time devoted to manually translating and entering data between systems.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


My company started using a product to transform our IBM DB2 data to Excel spreadsheets. It is a life saver and runs automatically! We were happy to have something that could talk with IBM and Windows machines without programming. The software is GoAnywhere Director, but I forget the company name.

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