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Don Burleson Blog 









Automating Oracle Data cleansing approaches

Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson

Oracle provides a wealth of data cleansing methods, and you can enforce data format:

  • Constraints - Defining Oracle constraints ensures that only columns with matching data formats can be added to a table.
  • Global Updates - A single update statement can be issued to unify all matching data formats.

For new databases, you can enforce data format at the database-level by defining "constraints" that will only allow matching entries to be added.  Consider this one where we force a patient name to only contain character values:

alter table
add constraint
     check (

The downside to using regular expressions at the database level are the DML errors. 


If you have Oracle 10g release 2, you can also use the new DML error logging feature to track DML errors.

The data unification phase is the easiest part of data cleansing because it's all about one-to-one format conversion.  This is easy low-hanging fruit, and it is normally automated after the end-user is comfortable with the results.  Here is the Oracle update statement to unify telephone numbers.  It's just this simple:

   patient_phone =
         '([[:digit:]]{3})   -- backward reference #1
           [-. ]
          ([[:digit:]]{3})   -- backward reference #2
           [-. ]
          ([[:digit:]]{4})', -- backward reference #3
         '(\1) \2-\3');   -- here, re-format string

This simple but powerful update statement will perform the following transformations, perhaps on millions of rows in your database:

800-555-1212            (800) 555-1212
800.555.1212            (800) 555-1212
800 555-1212            (800) 555-1212
1-800-eat-here    No change
011-44-23-58564   No change

But what about the "bad" non-matching telephone numbers?  As we will learn soon, "Bad" data (that which does not "Look like a phone number" will remain as-is, because the regular expression format mask did not trigger any change.

So, how does the Oracle DBA implement a complete data quality mechanism?  Let's start by examining Oracle "regular expressions", a common tool for Oracle data quality control.

For expert Oracle data cleansing support and data scrubbing consulting, use an expert from BC.  We understand the powerful Oracle data unification tools, and we can aid in improving the data quality of any Oracle database, large or small.



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Note: This Oracle documentation was created as a support and Oracle training reference for use by our DBA performance tuning consulting professionals.  Feel free to ask questions on our Oracle forum.

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