By Jonas Shaefer of Service Objects
Everybody is talking about “Big Data.” From analytics to big data management to “The Golden Record,” companies are obsessed with new ways to store, filter, and compile data. But what about the quality and integrity of the data going into the database? Ted Friedman, Gartner vice president and analyst, recently argued “it’s not possible to be successful with data integration without addressing data quality.”
If you oversee data management for your company, Friedman’s comment is one to think about, as many are of the opinion that companies would greatly benefit from performing data validation on incoming contact information and online transactions in order to reduce waste and fraud. Why? Well, you have to consider that each piece of customer data that enters your CRM, ecommerce, or other data management systems has the potential to hinder internal processes like network security, website performance, or sales efforts. According to research, performing data verification on incoming contact information helps companies weed out fraudulent information, thus reducing wasted time, paper and money.
Now, let’s say that you’ve been tasked with finding a data validation solution or you’re taking the initiative to develop and implement a plan that will help your company’s data quality. Where do you start? What do you look for?
Here are six of the most important features that a data validation service provider should offer:
1. Data Quality: There are two major factors to consider when it comes to data quality. First, learn if the data is up-to-date. Find out from the provider how frequently its data is updated and refreshed. While off-the-shelf software packages are affordable and provide the data on a CD-ROM, this software isn’t updated regularly and might not be the best alternative if you are looking for address validation or an IP validation option. This type of data is constantly changing, and will most likely be stale by the time you open the CD. An API service provider that offers real-time validation will generally update their master databases frequently – even daily.
2. Accuracy: You should look for a data validation company that proves it has authentic data, as well as legitimate relationships with reputable data sources. Trustworthy providers will offer sample testing of data accuracy and matching techniques so you can measure results.
3. Ease of Integration: Look for a data validation provider that uses open industry standards and supports REST, SOAP, GET, and POST requests over HTTP/S outputting in XML or JSON formats. Additionally, ensure the company you choose supports your programming language whether it’s .NET, PHP, C# or Java. Ask if they offer sample code and access to a testing platform, and then setup a free trial to test how the company’s API will integrate into your internal systems and programming language. Upon testing, you can make sure you are getting the outputs that you’re expecting.
5. Uptime and Redundancy: This is a MUST! If the data validation provider you’re leaning towards doesn’t offer a published Service Level Agreement (SLA) and failover plan, you might want to continue your search. The SLA should clearly state network availability and uptime standards and the failover plan must detail what you need to program so that in the event there is a downtime with a primary service, a backup server will kick in. The provider may also deliver a written network and server redundancy diagram. If you need further details, don’t be afraid to speak to an IT manager or system administrator.
6. Flexibility: When implementing a data quality program for the first time, you might find that you have issues to solve. First, an existing database of contact data needs to be verified, cleansed, and standardized. Secondly, you will need to confirm any new data is accurate and complete. To clean up existing data, look for a service provider who offers batch validation, and then follow-up with a real-time, API integrated contact validation solution as a secure, available way to verify each new contact at the point-of-entry. Finally, it is important to the bottom line to get the best pricing model for your company’s needs. Do you need month-to-month or an annual contract? Can they create a custom plan that meets your needs and budget? Don’t be afraid to ask for the best deal.
If you keep these six features in mind when doing your research, you’ll undoubtedly select the right partner for your data validation needs.
About the Author:
Jonas Shaefer is the Manager of Engineering for Service Objects, a data validation and data quality company. He manages the R&D and Applications Engineering departments, and oversees all product-related development. Shaefer holds a degree in Computer Engineering from the University California, Santa Barbara.