Doctoring addresses

Informatica buys Address Doctor, sowing uncertainty among those who license its data.

Most data quality vendors have their roots in name and address checking, even if their software can go beyond this. What is less well known is that the actual business of getting street level address data (to verify postal codes etc) is a tedious business that varies dramatically by country (the UK post office database covers almost every address in the UK, but Eire has no post code system, for example). Software vendors do not typically want to be in the business of updating street address databases, and there is a patchwork of local information providers that fill the gaps. If you have any international aspirations, though, just discovering who does what by country, and licensing the various data sources is in itself a non-trivial task, and so companies exist that do this. One was a UK company called Global Address, bought some time ago by Harte Hanks (who market Trillium), while the other was Address Doctor. Many data quality vendors use Address Doctor, including some that might superficially appear to compete. These include Dataflux, IBM, and even QAS. Some MDM platform vendors also use Address Doctor, who provide at least basic name and address data for 240 countries and territories.

The cat was put firmly among st the pigeons this week when Informatica bought Address Doctor. From their viewpoint this secures a key provider of address data, and follows their prior acquisitions of Similarity Systems and, more recently, Identity Systems. Informatica, via these purchases, has established itself as one of the major data quality vendors. Given its competitive position, the data quality vendors who use Address Doctor will, at the least, be feeling nervous. I spoke to an executive from Informatica this week and was told that Informatica intended to honour the existing arrangements, but who knows how long this state will last? As Woody Allen said, the lion may lay down with the lamb, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.

The problem for the other vendors is that there is no obvious place to go. Global Address is already in the hands of Harte Hanks, and while Uniserv in particular has its own name and address data, it is mainly strong in this area in Europe. Address Doctor was a convenient neutral player and is now in the hands of a major market competitor, and other vendors may have little choice but to look at building up their own networks of address data providers if they are to sleep easy. Of course it is not clear that they have to worry; for example Pitney Bowes Business Insight (who have what was Group 1 software) use Global Address, and this arrangement has continued without incident despite Harte Hanks Trillium’s ownership of them.

It will be interesting to see what measures the current Address Doctor users take, or whether they will just cross their fingers and hope Informatica plays nice.