What is in a business directory?

When working with Party Master Data Management one approach to ensure accuracy, completeness and other data quality dimensions is to onboard new business-to-business (B2B) entities and enrich such current entities via a business directory.

While this could seem to be a straight forward mechanism, unfortunately it usually is not that easy peasy.

Let us take an example featuring the most widely used business directory around the world: The Dun & Bradstreet Worldbase. And let us take my latest registered company: Product Data Lake.

PDL at DnB

On this screen showing the basic data elements, there are a few obstacles:

  • The address is not formatted well
  • The country code system is not a widely used one
  • The industry sector code system shown is one among others

Address Formatting

In our address D&B has put the word “sal”, which is Danish for floor. This is not incorrect, but addresses in Denmark are usually not written with that word, as the number following a house number in the addressing standard is the floor.

Country Codes

D&B has their own 3-digit country code. You may convert to the more widely used ISO 2-character country code. I do however remember a lot of fun from my data matching days when dealing with United Kingdom where D&B uses 4 different codes for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as mapping back and forth with United States and Puerto Rico. Had to be made very despacito.

Industry Sector Codes

The screen shows a SIC code: 7374 = Computer Processing and Data Preparation and Processing Services

This must have been converted from the NACE code by which the company has been registered:  63.11:(00) = Data processing, hosting and related activities.

The two codes do by the way correspond to the NAICS Code 518210 = Data processing, hosting and related activities.

The challenges in embracing the many standards for reference data was examined in the post The World of Reference Data.

Five Product Classification Standards

When working with Product Master Data Management (MDM) and Product Information Management (PIM) one important facet is classification of products. You can use your own internal classification(s), being product grouping and hierarchy management, within your organization and/or you can use one or several external classification standards.

Five External Standards

Some of the external standards I have come across are:


The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code® (UNSPSC®), managed by GS1 US™ for the UN Development Programme (UNDP), is an open, global, multi-sector standard for classification of products and services. This standard is often used in public tenders and at some marketplaces.


GS1 has created a separate standard classification named GPC (Global Product Classification) within its network synchronization called the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN).

Commodity Codes / Harmonized System (HS) Codes

Commodity codes, lately being worldwide harmonized and harmonised, represent the key classifier in international trade. They determine customs duties, import and export rules and restrictions as well as documentation requirements. National statistical bureaus may require these codes from businesses doing foreign trade.


eCl@ss is a cross-industry product data standard for classification and description of products and services emphasizing on being a ISO/IEC compliant industry standard nationally and internationally. The classification guides the eCl@ss standard for product attributes (in eClass called properties) that are needed for a product with a given classification.


ETIM develops and manages a worldwide uniform classification for technical products. This classification guides the ETIM standard for product attributes (in ETIM called features) that are needed for a product with a given classification.

pdl-whyThe Competition and The Neutral Hub

If you click on the links to some of these standards you may notice that they are actually competing against each other in the way they represent themselves.

At Product Data Lake we are the neutral hub in the middle of everyone. We cover your internal grouping and tagging to any external standard. Our roadmap includes more close integration to the various external standards embracing both product classification and product attribute requirements in multiple languages where provided. We do that with the aim of letting you exchange product information with your trading partners, who probably do the classification differently from you.

Happy Old New Year in Reference Data Management

Today the 14th January in our times calendar used to be the first day in the new year when the Julian calendar was used before different countries at different times shifted to the Gregorian calendar.


Such shifts in what we generally refer to as reference data is a well-known pain in data management as exemplified in the post called The Country List. Within data warehouse management, we refer to this as Slowly Changing Dimensions.

Master Data Management (MDM) and Reference Data Management (RDM) are two closely related disciplines and often we may use the terms synonymously and indeed sometimes working with the same real world entity is MDM in one context but RDM in another context.

I have worked in industries, as public transit, where the calendar and related data must be treated as master data. But surely, in many other industries this will be an overkill. However, I have seen other entities treated as a simple List of Values (LoV) where it should be handled as master data or at least more complex reference data. Latest example is plants within a global company, where the highest ambition is proposed to be a mark for active or inactive, which hardly reflect the complexity in starting or buying a plant and closing or selling the same and the data management rules according to the changing states.

So happy 14th of January even if this is not New Year to you – but hey, at least it is my birthday.

The Country List

It’s the second day of the MDM Summit Europe 2013 in London today.

The last session I attended today was an expert panel on Reference Data Management (RDM).

Country ListI guess the list of countries on this planet is the prime example of what is reference data and today’s session provided no exception from that.

Even though a list of countries is fairly small and there shouldn’t be everyday changes to the list, maintaining a country list isn’t as simple as you should think.

First of all official sources for a country list aren’t in agreement. The range of countries given an ISO code isn’t the same as the range of countries where for example the Universal Postal Union (UPU) says you can make a delivery.

Another example I have had some challenges with is that for example the D&B WorldBase (a large word-wide business directory) has four country codes for what is generally regarded as the United Kingdom, as the D&B country reference data probably is defined by a soccer fan recognizing the distinct national soccer teams from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The expert panel moderator, Aaron Zornes, went as far as suggesting that a graph database maybe the best technology for reflecting the complexity in reference data. Oh yes, and in master data too you should think then, though I doubt that the relational database and hierarchy management will be out of fashion for a while.

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