Address information, in particular customer address information, is a core asset of any business. It plays a pivotal role in two fundamental business operations; revenue assurance and revenue generation.
Without valid, deliverable customer address information collecting payment for services or products is often a process that, at best, requires repetitive efforts that cost the business labor and resources (and dollars). At worst, the process fails to collect, creating an obvious issue costing time and resources (and dollars).
Without valid, deliverable customer address information marketing to existing and potential customers is not possible and will, again, cost the business labor and resources (and dollars).
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So what exactly needs to be validated in order to prevent the failure of revenue collection and generating events?
While it is not harmful to have the full compliment of customer address data collected, stored, and validated, there are a few pieces of address information that are essential.
Postal Code is an absolute must have in order to ensure the mailer be delivered. Postal Code is the core element that the United States Postal Service uses to route mail. Without it deliverability is unachievable.
Street Number and Street Name are also essential pieces of information to collect and validate in order to ensure mail deliverability. Logically, this information is required to know where within the postal code to deliver the mail.
It is also required, where applicable, to collect and validate additional address location information such as apartment number, suite number, building number, etc. This enables getting the mail to correct destination within a multi-dwelling residence.
In my opinion, this is the required data to validate and ensure deliverability. Most address validation services can derive accurate and valid city and state information from the postal code which can be augmented and utilized moving forward.
Who should be responsible for address validation?
As I eluded to earlier, address information is a corporate asset which plays a pivotal role to many essential business operations.
For this reason, address validation belongs in a centralized group made up of representatives from those dependent parties. In other words, address validation is the responsibility of a corporate data governance group that is aware of all the required aspects of useful address data management.
Typically there are, at a minimum, two levels to this group. On one level there are business stakeholders that manage and advocate functional business requirements involving address information. On the other level are the data processors that manage data sourcing, scrubbing, validation and integration of the address information.
Due to the technical requirements in managing such information, Information Technology should be responsible for management of the physical data stores that house the address information. However, it is crucial to note that this management is around the software and hardware resources that house the data.
It is imperative that data ownership be the responsibility of the business owners on the governance group.
Although there are various implementations of MDM, I believe address information belongs in a a centralized hub that feeds dependent systems clean and valid address data. This model ensures the delivery of consistent and valid address throughout the enterprise.
This centralized hub needs to be managed in such a way that it is independently supported ensuring failover, redundancy and archival. This eliminates the failure scenarios described earlier that interfer in revenue collection and generation.
How often does address data need to be validated?
There are various factors such as an annual change of address of 17% and quarterly marketing campaigns that influence when address information should be validated. In the end, the answer to when should address data be validated depends on the lowest level of granualarity that the data is used to support business operations that either collect or generate revenue.
If marketing conducts campaigns on a quarterly basis but billing occurs monthly, than validating address data should be done on a monthly basis to support accurate and efficient billing operations.
How can address validation be implemented in order to support all the benefits described?
In order to validate address information on a periodic basis, manage it across various dependent business units and integrate it into a centralize hub you need to be able to develop validation routines, business rules, a mechanism for business stakeholder review and integration routines that can be executed in a scheduled format.
Within the domain of address validation there are several varieties of output. For instance, it possible to develop an address validation process that transforms address information into the correct formatted address lines that would appear on the envelope. Another implementation could be the parsing, augmenting and obtaining validation status of address information. Yet another implementation could be to take the address information input and transform it into the valid delivery address information.
With various business units consuming address information, there will likely be various business unit specific rules to process the address information. For example, marketing operations might require the “vanity” city name be specified. Vanity city names are usually preferred by customers due to their perception and reputation. One such example of a vanity address is using Beverly Hills over the validate city name of Los Angeles. However, billing operations may not have the same requirement. In this case, and others like it, you need an address validation process that enables the building of business specific rules that can handle variability on the same data element.
In order to enable business stakeholder ownership and help business users define and validate data specific rules, you need to have a mechanism that presents data to these users. Since these business stakeholders are not typically technically inclined, this mechanism needs to be built in such as a way that minimizes technical effort and enables data review and validation.
Ultimately this address information needs to be integrated into a centralized hub and distributed to the various consuming applications. This dictates the need for enterprise capable data extraction and load features such as scheduling, monitoring and tracking.
How do you deliver on such a complex set of criteria?
It’s a challenge. In fact, it’s such a broad topic with many details that it is not feasible to do in one blog post. I plan on addressing (no pun intended) each of these areas in more detail over the coming weeks.
So stay tuned to The Data Quality Chronicle for more!