In the future, data quality will be more social

Every time I walk in and out of a plane at London-Gatwick Airport I always nod at an advert from the HSBC bank saying that in the future, selling will be more social:

Selling will be more social

A natural consequence of this will also be that data quality improvement (and master data management) will be more social.

One example is how complex sales, being sales processes typically in business-to-business (B2B) environments, will be heavily depended on integrating the exploitation of professional social networks as discussed on the DataQualityPro interview about the benefits of Social MDM.

Traditional Master Data Management (MDM) and related data quality improvement in B2B environments has been a lot about a single view of the business account and the legal entity behind. As Social Customer Relation Management (CRM) is much about the relations to the business contacts, the people side of business, we need a solid master data foundation behind the people being those contacts.

The same individual may in fact be an important influencer related to a range of business accounts being the legal entity with who you are aiming for a sales contract. You need a single view of that. So many sales contracts are based on a relation to a buyer moving from one business account to another. You need to be the winner in that game and the answer to that may very well be your ability to do better social MDM and embrace the data quality issues related to that.

Social selling of course also relates to business-to-consumer (B2C) activities and in doing that we will see new data quality issues. When exploiting social networks, both in B2B and B2C activities you need to link the traditional attributes as name and address with new attributes in the online and social world as explained in the post Multi-Channel Data Matching.

Besides exploiting social networks we will also see social collaboration as a mean to improve data quality. Social collaboration will go beyond collaboration within a single company and extend to the ecosystems of manufacturers, distributors, resellers and end users. A good example of this is the social collaboration platform called Actualog, which is about sharing product master data and thereby improving product data quality.

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Psychographic Master Data Management

As told in the post Psychographic Data Quality marketers are moving from demographic marketing to psychographic marketing where a lot more data than before are used to getting the right message, to the right suspect at the right time. This affects the way we are working with data quality around customer master data and eventually how we do multi-domain master data management.

Using data for building psychographic profiles not only deals with lead generation. It’s usable throughout the whole customer master data life cycle by for example:

  • psychographic MDMFinding the best suspects at the right moment
  • Keeping the prospects on the optimal track coordinated with the prospects need
  • Ensuring a well received customer experience and facilitating up-sell and cross-sell.
  • Preventing churn
  • Making win-back possible

These opportunities apply to business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) as well.

Location master data management is essential in this quest as well, because we are not abandoning the basic demographic attributes in the physiographic world. We are building a deeper data universe on top of the traditional demographic (and firmographic) data. Having accurate location master data only helps here.

Mastering product master data is essential in the psychographic world too. This does not only apply to having your product hierarchies well manages for your own products, but will eventually also lead to a need for handling data on your competitors products and services in order to listen to social data streams.

Master Data Management (MDM) will extend to Social Master Data Management and must support wider exploitation of big data sources by being the hub for the psychographic customer profiles and the reference for descriptions of the product and service realm related to the psychographic attributes.

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Call me on Phone, Mobile or Skype

When calling people in order to have a long distance conversation there are three main ways today:

  • The landline phone, which have been around since the 19th century and penetrated most homes and businesses in the last century
  • The mobile phone, which came around in the 70’s and spread rapidly in the 90’s
  • Skype, a voice over internet service that grew in the 00’s

Using these services involves and identifier which may be stored in customer tables and other party master data repositories with some implications for data management and identity resolution:

TelephoneThe Landline Phone Number

The landline phone number is a very common attribute in databases around and is often used as the main identifier of a customer in ERP and CRM solutions around.

Using a landline phone number for identity resolution has some challenges, including:

  • As with most attributes they may change. Depending on the country in question they may change during relocation and most phone number systems gets and upgrade over the years.
  • In business-to-business (B2B) a company typically has more than one phone number.
  • In business-to-consumer (B2C) the landline phone number merely belongs to a household rather than a single individual. That may be good or not good depending on purpose of use.

The Mobile Phone Number

Mobile phone numbers also piles up in databases around. In relation to identity resolution there are issues with mobile phone numbers, namely:

  • They change a lot.
  • It’s not always clear to who a number actually belongs:
    • A company paid phone may be used for both business and pleasure and may be transferred to another individual
    • In a household a person may be registered for a range of mobile phones used by individual members of the household including children

The Skype ID

I seldom see databases with Skype ID’s. In my experience Skype ID aren’t used a lot in internal master data. They reside in Skype and social network profiles like for example LinkedIn.

A final rant

Today I hardly ever use a landline phone, I use my mobile once in a while and I use Skype a lot. Not because it’s convenient, but because the telecom companies has decided to charge international mobile calls in ways so greedy that it make Somali sea pirates look like honest business men.

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Names, Addresses and National Identification Numbers

When working with customer, or rather party, master data management and related data quality improvement and prevention for traditional offline and some online purposes, you will most often deal with names, addresses and national identification numbers.

While this may be tough enough for domestic data, doing this for international data is a daunting task.


In reality there should be no difference between dealing with domestic data and international data when it comes to names, as people in today’s globalized world move between countries and bring their names with them.

Traditionally the emphasize on data quality related to names has been on dealing with the most frequent issues be that heaps of nick names in the United States and other places, having a “van” in bulks of names in the Netherlands or having loads of surname like middle names in Denmark.

With company names there are some differences to be considered like the inclusion of legal forms in company names as told in the post Legal Forms from Hell.

UPU S42Addresses

Address formats varies between countries. That’s one thing.

The availability of public sources for address reference data varies too. These variations are related to for example:

  • Coverage: Is every part of the country included?
  • Depth: Is it street level, house number level or unit level?
  • Costs: Are reference data expensive or free of charge?

As told in the post Postal Code Musings the postal code system in a given country may be the key (or not) to how to deal with addresses and related data quality.

National Identification Numbers

The post called Business Entity Identifiers includes how countries have different implementations of either all-purpose national identification numbers or single-purpose national identification numbers for companies.

The same way there are different administrative practices for individuals, for example:

  • As I understand it is forbidden by constitution down under to have all-purpose identification numbers for individuals.
  • The United States Social Security Number (SSN) is often mentioned in articles about party data management. It’s an example of a single-purpose number in fact used for several purposes.
  • In Scandinavian countries all-purpose national identification numbers are in place as explained in the post Citizen ID within seconds.

Dealing with diversity

Managing party master data in the light of the above mentioned differences around the world isn’t simple. You need comprehensive data governance policies and business rules, you need elaborate data models and you need a quite well equipped toolbox regarding data quality prevention and exploiting external reference data.

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Is the Holiday Season called Christmas Time or Yuletide?

Johansen_Viggo_Radosne_Boże_NarodzenieIn English we have these two different terms for the coming holiday season: Christmas Time or yuletide. Christmas Time has a religious touch while yuletide is old English and resembles the term juletid still used in Scandinavia. Also notice that Christmas Time is two words (unless written as Christmastime) while yuletide is a compound word like common in Germanic language. And oh, Christmas Time must be written with upper case as first letters while yuletide doesn’t have to (unless maybe in a blog post title). I still struggle a lot with English grammar.

The holiday season may be seen as a religious celebration or, which I think has become prevailing, a special occasion for business. Yuletide is high activity in Business-to-Consumer (B2C) both for brick and mortar shops and for eCommerce, while Christmas Time is almost a stand still for Business-to-Business (B2B) as no one is able to make any decisions because it is the holiday season.

By the way: The only thing I wish for xmas is that people start to standardize on the terms used for the same concept. Not at least at Christmastide it is so disturbing when we don’t have any form of standardisation.

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Hierarchical Single Source of Truth

Most data quality and master data management gurus, experts and practitioners agree that achieving a “single source of truth” is a nice term, but is not what data quality and master data management is really about as expressed by Michele Goetz in the post Master Data Management Does Not Equal The Single Source Of Truth.

Even among those people, including me, who thinks emphasis on real world alignment could help getting better data and information quality opposite to focusing on fitness for multiple different purposes of use, there is acknowledgement around that there is a “digital distance” between real world aligned data and the real world as explained by Jim Harris in the post Plato’s Data. Also, different public available reference data sources that should reflect the real world for the same entity are often in disagreement.

When working with improvement of data quality in party master data, which is the most frequent and common master data domain with issues, you encounter the same issues over and over again, like:

  • Many organizations have a considerable overlap of real world entities who is a customer and a supplier at the same time. Expanding to other party roles this intersection is even bigger. This calls for a 360° Business Partner View.
  • Most organizations divide activities into business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C). But the great majority of business’s are small companies where business and private is a mixed case as told in the post So, how about SOHO homes.
  • When doing B2C including membership administration in non-profit you often have a mix of single individuals and households in your core customer database as reported in the post Household Householding.
  • As examined in the post Happy Uniqueness there is a lot of good fit for purpose of use reasons why customer and other party master data entities are deliberately duplicated within different applications.
  • Lately doing social master data management (Social MDM) has emerged as the new leg in mastering data within multi-channel business. Embracing a wealth of digital identities will become yet a challenge in getting a single customer view and reaching for the impossible and not always desirable single source of truth.

A way of getting some kind of structure into this possible, and actually very common, mess is to strive for a hierarchical single source of truth where the concept of a golden record is implemented as a model with golden relations between real world aligned external reference data and internal fit for purpose of use master data.

Right now I’m having an exciting time doing just that as described in the post Doing MDM in the Cloud.

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instant Data Quality at Work

DONG Energy is one of the leading energy groups in Northern Europe with approximately 6,400 employees and EUR 7.6 billion in revenue in 2011.

The other day I sat down with Ole Andres, project manager at DONG Energy, and talked about how they have utilized a new tool called iDQ™ (instant Data Quality) in order to keep up with data quality around customer master data.

iDQ™ is basically a very advanced search engine capable of being integrated into business processes in order to get data quality for contact data right the first time and at the same time reduce the time needed for looking up and entering contact data.

Fit for multiple business processes

Customer master data is used within many different business processes. Dong Energy has successfully implemented iDQ™ within several business processes, namely:

  • Assigning new customers and ending old customers on installation addresses
  • Handling returned mail
  • Debt collection

Managing customer master data in the utility sector has many challenges as there are different kinds of addresses to manage such as installation addresses, billing addresses and correspondence addresses as well as different approaches to private customers and business customers including considering the grey zone between who is a private account and who is a business account.

New technology requires change management

Implementing new technology into a large organization doesn’t just go by itself. Old routines tend to stick around for a while. DONG Energy has put a lot of energy, so to say, into training the staff in reengineering business processes around customer master data on-boarding and maintenance including utilizing the capabilities of the iDQ™ tool.

Acceptance of new tools comes with building up trust in the benefits of doing things in a new way.

Benefits in upstream data quality 

A tool like iDQ™ helps a lot with safeguarding the quality of contact data where data is born and when something happens in the customer data lifecycle. A side effect, which is at least as important stresses Ole Andres, is that data collection is going much faster.

Right now DONG Energy is looking into further utilizing the rich variety of reference data sources that can be found in the iDQ™ framework.

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Return on Investment in Big Reference Data

Currently I’m working with a cloud based service where we are exploiting available data about addresses, business entities and consumers/citizens from all over the world.

The cost of such data varies a lot around the world.

In Denmark, where the product is born, the costs of such data are relatively low. The joys of the welfare state also apply to access to open public sector data as reported in the post The Value of Free Address Data. Also you are able to check the identity of an individual in the citizen hub. Doing it online on a green screen you will be charged (what resembles) 50 cent, but doing it with cloud service brokerage, like in iDQ™, it will only cost you 5 cent.

In the United Kingdom the prices for public sector data about addresses, business entities and citizens are still relatively high. The Royal Mail has a license tag on the PAF file even for government bodies. Ordnance Survey is given the rest of AddressBase free for the public sector, but there is a big tag for the rest of the society. The electoral roll has a price tag too even if the data quality isn’t considered for other uses than the intended immediate purpose of use as told in the post Inaccurately Accurate.

At the moment I’m looking into similar services for the United States and a lot of other countries. Generally speaking you can get your hands on most data for a price, and the prices have come down since I checked the last time. Also there is a tendency of lowering or abandoning the price for the most basic data as names and addresses and other identification data.

As poor data quality in contact data is a big cost for most enterprises around the world, the news of decreasing prices for big reference data is good news.

However, if you are doing business internationally it is a daunting task to keep up with where to find the best and most cost effective big reference data sources for contact data and not at least how to use the sources in business processes.

Wednesday the 25th July I’m giving a presentation, in the cloud, on how iDQ™ comes to the rescue. More information on DataQualityPro.

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Beyond Address Validation

The quality of contact master data is the number one data quality issue around.

Lately there has been a lot of momentum among data quality tool providers in offering services for getting at least the postal address in contact data right. The new services are improved by:

  • Being cloud based offering validation services that are implemented at data entry and based on fresh reference data.
  • Being international and thus providing address validation for customer and other party data embracing a globalized world.

Capturing an address that is aligned with the real world may have a significant effect on business outcomes as reported by the tool vendor WorldAddresses in a recent blog post.

However, a valid address based on address reference data only tells you if the address is valid, not if the addressee is (still) on the address, and you are not sure if the name and other master data elements are accurate and complete. Therefore you often need to combine address reference data with other big reference data sources as business directories and consumer/citizen reference sources.

Using business directories is not new at all. Big reference sources as the D&B WorldBase and many other directories have been around for many years and been a core element in many data quality initiatives with customer data in business-to-business (B2B) environments and with supplier master data.

Combining address reference data and business entity reference data makes things even better, also because business directories doesn’t always come with a valid address.

Using public available reference data when registering private consumers, employees and other citizen roles has until now been practiced in some industries and for special reasons. Therefore the big reference data and the services are out there and being used today in some business processes.

Mashing up address reference data, business entity reference data and consumer/citizen reference data is a big opportunity for many organizations in the quest for high quality contact master data, as most organizations actually interact with both companies and private persons if we look at the total mix of business processes.

The next big source is going to be exploiting social network profiles as well. As told in the post Social Master Data Management social media will be an additional source of knowledge about our business partners. Again, you won’t find the full truth here either. You have to mashup all the sources.

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Mashing Up Big Reference Data and Internal Master Data

Right now I’m working on a cloud service called instant Data Quality (iDQ™).

It is basically a very advanced search engine capable of being integrated into business processes in order to get data quality right the first time and at the same time reducing the time needed for looking up and entering contact data.

With iDQ™ you are able to look up what is known about a given address, company and individual person in external sources (I call these big reference data) and what is already known in internal master data.

From a data quality point of view this mashup helps with solving some of the core data quality issues almost every organization has to deal with, being:

  • Avoiding duplicates
  • Getting data as complete as possible
  • Ensuring maximal accuracy

The mashup is also a very good foundation for taking real-time decisions about master data survivorship.

The iDQ™ service helps with getting data quality right the first time. However, you also need Ongoing Data Maintenance in order to keep data at a high quality. Therefore iDQ™ is build for trigging into subscription services for external reference data.

At iDQ we are looking for partners world-wide who see the benefit of having such a cloud based master data service connected to providing business-to-business (B2B) and/or business-to-consumer (B2C) data services, data quality services and master data management solutions.

Here’s the contact data:

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