The Internet changes everything, even data quality assurance. The old- fashioned approach to providing data quality involves cleansing data that preexists in a database, using tools that run as scheduled batch processes. Although data-quality functions in batch mode will remain in demand for the foreseeable future, Internet-based applications such as those found inside e- businesses or behind e-commerce Web sites are driving a need for real-time data quality assurance, provided on a transactional basis at the time of data acquisition.
For example, browser-based forms are "garbage-laden" by nature. Online shoppers enjoy filling their virtual shopping carts, but then find the check-out process tedious. So, they rush through the browser-based forms they must fill out, omitting information or making typographic errors, which makes delivering their orders difficult or impossible. A few online consumers intentionally misrepresent themselves to perpetrate credit card fraud.
In situations where the user must fill out a form online before being allowed access to something valuable (such as a software download or a white paper), users regularly enter false information, just to get past the form quickly. These forms feed sales-lead databases, which are all too often loaded with records under bogus names like Mickey Mouse or Homer Simpson.
A new category of application service provider (ASP) has emerged to address the data quality problems of browser-based forms and other Internet data sources. A data quality service provider (DQSP) offers data-quality functions via an ASP environment, handling data one record at a time on a transactional basis over the Internet in real time. Currently available DQSPs include Firstlogic's eDataQuality, Group 1's DataQuality.net, HotData.com, and Sagent's Centrus.com.
Note that DQSPs do not yet offer the full range of data quality technologies. For instance, matching and consolidating redundant customer records does not lend itself readily to the transaction-based approach of most DQSPs. (HotData.com is an exception; it hosts complete databases specifically for this purpose.) The base level of DQSP functionality is cleansing and verification of address and telephone information. This first step may also involve adding additional information (such as ZIP+4 or a telephone number) that helps ensure the delivery of packages. The second step, which some DQSPs have already implemented, is to enhance cleansed data with demographics or geospatial data.
THE HURWITZ TAKE: E-businesses are finding an increasing amount of important data coming from Internet sources. When data originates outside your enterprise, it is outside your quality controls. E-businesses should protect themselves and assure quality standards by cleaning incoming data before it enters critical databases. Integrating with a DQSP is a quick and easy way to achieve data quality for Internet data. As with all data quality software, a DQSP has an easily justified return on investment, because it can reduce shipping errors, improve sales-lead databases, and minimize credit card fraud.
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