REVIEWER: Brian Keith Stepp, business analyst for the City of Tempe, Arizona.

BACKGROUND: The City of Tempe, Arizona, is a municipal government with a city population of approximately 160,000 people. Tempe is Arizona’s seventh-largest city and is located in the center of the Valley of the Sun. The city is bordered by Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler.

PLATFORMS: Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The City of Tempe has two major problems associated with managing addresses. The first is a lack of consistency in how addresses are stored in application databases. Much of this is the result of either very little rules enforcement or none at all. The second is that the City of Tempe conducts mass mailings of thousands of pieces of mail on a weekly basis. Address labels are produced from the address information maintained in the application database, but because the addresses have no rules applied against them, they are often improperly spelled, abbreviated and have the wrong or incomplete ZIP code. The post office prefers that our mailings conform to Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) standards.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The City of Tempe uses Melissa Data’s Address Object to scrub addresses. There are several different versions of Address Object - the one we use is the Microsoft Component Object Model (COM) object. Basically, we integrated Address Object into our custom application to build a data warehouse. We use the tool to apply CASS standards to all addresses as they are being loaded into our data warehouse. The result is that with consistent addresses, it is possible to establish relationships between applications that were not previously possible.

STRENGTHS: The Address Object application development tool is very easy to use. The tool is also successful at handling the various addresses in the City of Tempe, including addresses with Spanish-named streets.

WEAKNESSES: There are two weaknesses with the product. The first is that the application development tool - the Address Object - is a COM object, which is a legacy Microsoft technology. A .NET solution would be much more appropriate in our case. It is not a huge problem, because it is possible to call COM objects from a .NET application, but ideally it would be a .NET solution entirely. This issue has been addressed with the company’s Windows Standard library version of Address Object, which allows for a much tighter integration with .NET. The second weakness is that the tool does not handle all addresses correctly. The success rate is well over 98 percent, but a 100 percent success rate is very desirable. Again, Melissa Data is currently working on increasing the validation rate with a new intelligent parsing engine.

SELECTION CRITERIA: This product was chosen more or less by default, because at the time of selection, which was several years ago, there was no other product available that met our selection criterion, which was that it needed to have an application interface that could be used with Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0.

DELIVERABLES: The output from the solution is typically a custom data structure containing the original address, the parsed address that has had CASS standards applied to it and an error/status condition. On occasion, a dBase file is updated with parsed addresses that have had the CASS standards applied, which is then used to update an application database.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Support for the product has been very good. Initially, the product did not handle Spanish-named streets very well, but after reporting the issues to their technical support staff, a solution was provided relatively quickly. Over the years, I have had very little contact with the technical support for the product, simply because there has been no demand for it.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation provided is fair. The Address Object documentation is very terse but contains all of the pertinent information required to build a solution. It is written for a highly technical person, however. The most useful documentation that comes with the Address Object is sample projects that demonstrate how to use the tool. With these, the provided documentation is really not even necessary.

Address Object
Melissa Data Corp
22382 Avenida Empresa
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
(949) 858-3000
http://www.melissadata.com/

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