The location domain is after the customer, or rather party, domain and the product domain the most frequent addressed domain for Master Data Management (MDM).
In my recent work I have seen a growing interest in handling location data as part of a MDM program.
Traditionally location data in many organizations have been handled in two main ways:
- As a part of other domains typically as address attributes for customer and other party entities
- As a silo for special business processes that involves spatial data using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as for example in engineering and demographic market research.
Handling location data most often involves using external reference data as location data doesn’t have the same privacy considering as party data, not at least data describing natural personals, tend to have and opposite to product data location data are pretty much the same to everyone.
MDM for the location domain is very much about bringing the two above mentioned ways of working with locations together while consistently exploiting external reference data.
As in all MDM work data quality is the important factor and the usual data quality dimensions are indeed in place here as well. Some challenges are:
- Uniqueness and precision: Locations comes in hierarchies. As told in the post The Postal Address Hierarchy we when referring to textual addresses have levels as country, region, city or district, thoroughfare (street) or block, building number and unit within a building. Uniqueness may be defined within one of these levels. A discussed in the post Where is the Spot? the precision and use case for coordinates may cause uniqueness issues too.
- Timeliness and accuracy: Though it doesn’t happen too often locations do change names as reported in the post MDM in LED and features on new locations does show up every day. I remember a recent press coverage in the United Kingdom over people who couldn’t get car and other insurances because the address of their newly build house wasn’t in the database at the insurance company.
- Completeness and conformity: Availability of all “points of interest” in reference data is an issue. The available of all attributes of interest at the desired level is an issue too. The available formats and possible mappings between them is a usual challenge. Addresses in both local and standardized alphabets and script systems using endonyms and exonyms is a problem as told in the posts Where the Streets have Two Names and Where the Streets have one Name but Two Spellings.