3 out of 10

Just before I left for summer vacation I noticed a tweet by MDM guru Aaron Zornes saying:

This is a subject very close to me as I have worked a lot with business directory matching during the last 15 years not at least matching with the D&B WorldBase.

The problem is that if you match your B2B customers, suppliers and other business partners with a business directory like the D&B WorldBase you could naively expect a 100% match.

If your result is only a 30% hit rate the question is: How many among the remaining 70% are false negatives and how many are true negatives.

True negatives

There may be a lot of reasons for true negatives, namely:

  • Your business entity isn’t listed in the business directory. Some countries like those of the old Czechoslovakia, some English speaking countries in the Pacifics, the Nordic countries and others have a tight public registration of companies and then it is less tight from countries in North America, other European countries and the rest of the world.
  • Your supposed business entity isn’t a business entity. Many B2B customer/prospect tables holds a lot of entities not being a formal business entity but being a lot of other types of party master data.
  • Uniqueness may be different defined in the business directory and your table to be matched. This includes the perception of hierarchies of legal entities and branches – not at least governmental and local authority bodies is a fuzzy crowd. Also the different roles as those of small business owners are a challenge. The same is true about roles as franchise takers and the use of trading styles.

False negatives

In business directory matching the false negatives are those records that should have been matched by an automated function, but isn’t.

The number of false negatives is a measure of the effectiveness of the automated matching tool(s) and rules applied. Big companies often use the magic quadrant leaders in data quality tools, but these aren’t necessary the best tools for business directory matching.

Personally I have found that you need a very complex mix of tools and rules for getting a decent match rate in business directory matching, including combining both deterministic and probabilistic matching. Some different techniques are explained in more details here.

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