Magazine Article | April 1, 2002

Don't Leave Data Dirty

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Has a recent acquisition or upgrade left you disconnected from disparate data systems? A data warehousing solution may solve your problem and offer other benefits as well.

Integrated Solutions, April 2002

We often hear about how ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) solutions automate business tasks and save money. But sometimes these software solutions can create new problems of their own.

Take Oki Data Americas, Inc. (Mount Laurel, NJ), for instance. Oki Data, a manufacturer of printers and fax machines, is a division of $5.8 billion Oki Electric Industry Company, Ltd. (Tokyo). Previously, Oki Data migrated its financial data to an SAP R/3 system, which runs on a Windows NT operating system. Some of Oki Data's other data, including some of its customer information from dealers, distributors, and product registration, resided in legacy systems running on Windows 95, SQL Server 6.5, and UNIX operating systems. Because these systems operate on different platforms, Oki Data's data could not be automatically shared among the systems.

Make A Data Warehouse Wish List
Oki Data looked into a solution to help it consolidate its data and eliminate any duplicate customer records. An IT team, led by John Burlage, Oki Data systems analyst, was assembled to check out data warehousing solutions. "After compiling a list of 30 requirements and researching several vendors, we selected Trillium Software's (Billerica, MA) Trillium Software System for data quality," says Burlage. "Besides operating on any platform, the Trillium solution allowed us to automatically correct postal records for our U.S. and Canadian customers." The solution features four modules that can be implemented as a suite or individually, depending on the need.

Four Steps To Cleaner Data
The first module in the Trillium suite is called the Converter. This module is designed to scan multiple data sources and to re-code the data into one common format. "The software recognizes patterns or pieces of data and converts the data to a common format," says Burlage. "For instance, one database may record a customer's telephone number using parentheses around the three-digit area code and a dash between the first three digits of the number and the last four digits. Another database may record telephone numbers using spaces instead of parentheses." Without the aid of conversion software the databases could not communicate because of differences in format. Using the Converter module, Oki Data is able to automatically format all telephone numbers the same way to eliminate this problem.

The second module in the data warehousing suite is called the Parser. "The Parser breaks down clusters of data into their basic components," says Burlage. "For instance, it separates and distinguishes among street names, house numbers, mailbox numbers, boulevards, and directions (e.g. North or South)." This module is useful for companies that rely on bulk mailings as part of their business strategy. The Parser module works with the Geocoder module (i.e. module three), which takes the segmented data, verifies its existence with the current postal database, and assigns a complete zip code (i.e. four additional digits) along with a delivery-point code. These modules save companies from having to manually sort mail and help automate the process of grouping mass mailings.

The fourth module, called the Matcher, identifies duplicate records within the various databases and alerts the user to the problem along with three possible levels of matching called "match," "possible match," or "no match."

Clean Data Yields Clear Rewards
Oki Data ships up to 1,000 packages per day from its Mount Laurel facility. With carrier surcharges ranging from $5 to $10 per incorrectly addressed package, mislabeled packages could become costly very quickly. "It's hard to say exactly how much the data warehousing solution has saved us," says Burlage. "How can you put an exact cost on a customer's dissatisfaction when a shipment arrives late?" Besides retaining its current customers by delivering products in a timely fashion, Oki Data plans to use the Trillium software suite for its e-commerce data management in the near future. "Our site ( is set up to do B2C (business-to-customer) e-commerce and B2B (business-to-business) e-commerce," says Burlage. "By extending our data warehousing functionality to these e-commerce data sources we will be able to ensure our online data is accurate by the software's data cleansing functionality, which is performed in real time." Besides gaining the ability to verify and correct customer information instantly during an online transaction, the Trillium software will enable Oki Data to automatically code online orders with a complete zip code and a delivery-point code, just like it does now with orders placed over the phone.