Getting a single customer view in business-to-business (B2B) operations isn’t straight forward. Besides all the fuzz about agreeing on a common definition of a customer within each enterprise usually revolving around fitting multiple purposes of use, we also have complexities in real world alignment.
One Number Utopia
Back in the 80’s I worked as a secretary for the committee that prepared a single registry for companies in Denmark. This practice has been live for many years now.
But in most other countries there are several different public registries for companies resulting in multiple numbering systems.
Within the European Union there is a common registry embracing VAT numbers from all member states. The standard format is the two letter ISO country code followed by the different formatted VAT number in each country – some with both digits and letters.
The DUNS-number used by Dun & Bradstreet is the closest we get to a world-wide unique company numbering system.
The common structure of a company is that you have a legal entity occupying one or several addresses.
The French company numbering system is a good example of how this is modeled. You have two numbers:
- SIREN is a 9-digit number for each legal entity (on the head quarter address).
- SIRET is a 14-digit (9 + 5) number for each business location.
This model is good for companies with several locations but strange for single location companies.
Treacherous Family Trees (and Restaurants)
The need for hierarchy management is obvious when it comes to handling data about customers that belongs to a global enterprise.
Company family trees are useful but treacherous. A mother and a daughter may be very close connected with lots of shared services or it may be a strictly matter of ownership with no operational ties at all.
Take McDonald’s as a not perfectly simple (nor simply perfect) example. A McDonald’s restaurant is operated by a franchisee, an affiliate, or the corporation itself. I’m lovin’ modeling it.