CATEGORY: Data Quality

REVIEWER: John Lilley, CEO of Acme Software, Inc.

BACKGROUND: Acme Software, Inc. delivers John Henry ­ a powerful visual data-programming solution ­ to corporate IT, government, database marketers and data vendors. Built on a high-performance ETL framework, John Henry not only solves the "standard" data problems (address and name quality, deduplication, householding, fuzzy data append, data mart loading and geocoding), but also provides a solution to the complex problems that would normally require custom programming (catalog and description parsing, confused data types, meta data inference, multiple data- format integration and impossibly dirty data). John Henry quickly processes 100GB+ databases using minimal hardware and personnel resources. CASS- certified address standardization is one of the visual "tools" that Acme Software offers in the John Henry visual data-programming environment, enabling users to easily combine address standardization with other operations such as format conversion, matching, sorting, cleansing, parsing and loading. CASS is the U.S. Postal (USPS) Service acronym for Coding Accuracy Support System.

PLATFORMS: John Henry uses the Melissa Data Address Object for the Microsoft Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP platforms on Intel hardware.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Acme Software needed to supply its customers with an address-standardization tool meeting the high standards imposed by the USPS CASS certification requirements for address deliverability without spending the engineering resources and time required to develop such capabilities in house. Acme required a solution that was easy to integrate and maintain, cost-effective, stable and offered good performance.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The Address Object has lived up to our expectations and provides easy-to-use address standardization and CASS reporting from within the John Henry application. Acme Software makes all the output fields of the Address Object available to users of John Henry, allowing them to generate CASS reports in HTML format.

STRENGTHS: Integrating Address Object into John Henry was a snap. We were able to obtain evaluation software and documentation very quickly, performed complete tests in less than a week and shipped the integrated product in less than a month from date of first contact. Melissa Data's documentation is excellent and their technical support proved responsive. Because the Address Object is implemented using COM, we can deliver the bimonthly component and data updates without rebuilding the software and can ship an easily installable update on CD-ROM. Performance is also quite good, coding up to 5 million records per hour on a dual-CPU workstation. While the quality of competing solutions was similar, we found that Melissa Data offered better support, ease of integration and OEM licensing terms.

WEAKNESSES: We initially found some stability problems with the Address Object but were able to resolve those issues quickly by working with Melissa Data's developers.

SELECTION CRITERIA:Because Acme Software incorporates CASS capabilities in a shrink-wrapped product, we require the ability to integrate, install and update the address standardization tool in a seamless fashion. We needed to deliver good batch performance, good quality and ease of use. We also wanted to establish a solid OEM relationship with a vendor that understands the economic and support issues of selling shrink-wrapped software. Address Object and Melissa Data fit the bill.

DELIVERABLES: Melissa Data delivers a new Address Object and data set bimonthly in order to meet CASS requirements for data currency. Updates are delivered on CD-ROM. The source of the updated information is the U.S. Postal Service and includes millions of records. Because integration is simple, Acme Software is able to quickly update its customers. Address Object is also part of a COM suite that includes Phone Object, Name Object and GeoCoder Object.

VENDOR SUPPORT:Support from Melissa Data was perhaps that best we've ever seen from a software vendor. Unlike competing vendors, Melissa Data shipped an evaluation kit to us instantly with no hassle.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is clear and delivered in a searchable PDF format. Obtaining documentation for evaluation purposes was painless.

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