REVIEWER: Keith Mortier, staff vice president of plans and development for the National Association of Home Builders.

BACKGROUND: The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is a federation of more than 800 state and local builders' associations throughout the United States. Based in Washington, D.C., the association's mission is to enhance the climate for housing and the building industry and to promote policies that will keep housing a national priority. The organization has 203,000 member companies representing 1.7 million individual members.


PROBLEM SOLVED: NAHB decided to overhaul our membership database for two reasons. The 500,000 member records in NAHB's existing FoxPro database had become corrupt with duplicated and flawed name and address information. The result was thousands of dollars wasted each month on erroneous mailings. Secondly, our FoxPro database only allowed us to view member companies by one local association at a time even though companies can hold multiple memberships in associations throughout the United States. For these reasons, we wanted to develop consolidated views of individual member companies across all state and local associations, enabling us to quantify their national contribution in membership dues. With this knowledge, we could make revenue projections, improve member services and support local and state associations' recruitment and retention efforts. The first 90-day phase of this three-part project would involve cleansing, matching and consolidating member records before migrating them from the old database to an interim Oracle database.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We utilized Innovative Systems, Inc. (ISI) Innovative-Analyzer Service to diagnose the extent of the data quality problem. We next used the Innovative-Dictionary System's built-in 2.5- million word and 100,000+ word-pattern knowledge base to speed identification and correction of name and address errors, anomalies and misspellings in member records. The Innovative-Match System helped us identify duplicate records, in spite of misspellings, character transpositions and missing entries. Finally, the Innovative-CorpMatch System allowed us to match one corporate entity to the various state and local associations in which it maintained memberships.

STRENGTHS: The strength of the ISI solution was the granular level of detail for data cleansing and matching. Most of the business rules needed for data quality processing were already built into the software, which saved the time and expense of hand coding.

WEAKNESSES: Because the reporting formats of the products were not compatible with the applications used by our organization, we had to reformat information.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The NAHB team overwhelmingly selected ISI because of its 30-year history in data quality management and its proven track record built on thousands of implementations in more than 30 countries. Just as important, ISI's software could perform the data quality functions necessary for completing all three phases of the project. Due to our time constraints, we especially appreciated the depth of experience offered by ISI's staff and the user-friendly nature of the tools, both of which would allow us to forego a lot of training and save time. The other products that we evaluated didn't offer the user support, robustness or total functionality required.

DELIVERABLES: ISI helped us to significantly improve the data quality of members' information. Records are now 98 percent accurate, up from 88 percent. The duplication rate was reduced from 9 percent to 1.7 percent, and name-related errors were cut in half ­ from 3 percent to 1.5 percent. In my estimation, the organization has already saved $170,000 in postage by reducing duplicate and erroneous mailings. As a result of the Innovative-Analyzer audits, NAHB has also modified its business processes to capture cleaner data.

VENDOR SUPPORT: At our very first meeting, the ISI representative immediately understood our data quality problems and was able to recommend the appropriate data quality and matching reports on the spot. Once the product was in production, the ISI team worked side by side with NAHB technical staff. They offered a wealth of knowledge that we could not have acquired on our own in such a short time.

DOCUMENTATION: ISI provided very thorough product documentation.

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