Going Global With Supplier Data — A Conversation with D&B (Part 1)

A few weeks back, I had the chance to catch up with D&B's David Clarke, who leads D&B's Global Information Services group (with previous responsibility for sales and marketing). David has a strong focus on expanding the global database and, a healthy appreciation for the needs of companies looking at supply data -- especially on a global basis. In fact, the main focus of our talk quickly turned to understanding D&B's strategy for helping companies access better global supplier information, rather than just the data contained in our own backyard. For D&B, the main challenge in helping customers leverage global supplier demographic and risk information lies within emerging markets (established markets in Europe and Asia are less of a problem, as existing data sources from D&B and others already exist).

In a series of posts examining D&B's perspectives on building a global data business (as well as our research findings that suggest what customers actually hope for in terms of global supply information), we'll provide an overview of how this market is rapidly evolving. In this first column, we'll begin by sharing D&B's perspective and ambitions.

D&B's basic goal seems simple enough (the challenge is obviously in the execution): to provide content on every commercial entity around the globe. Today, David suggests that D&B has 168 million commercial entities in their database, but that they want to exceed 250 million by the end of 2012 and 350 million by the end of 2014, with nearly all of the growth coming from global expansion.

Part of the challenge in defining a specific number of entities to include (or not) comes down to how we establish definitions for businesses, especially in emerging markets. For some organizations, any non-consumer entity with access to electricity is considered a business. While D&B did not share specific thresholds for inclusion within their global database, it seems reasonable that there will most certainly be a material percentage of smaller organizations included (given their growth ambitions) to "cover the world and provide a form of score" to help businesses evaluate both sales and supply risks in their potential and current customer and supply base. Or, put more succinctly, D&B "wants to score the world," as David suggests.

For 2010, China and India are D&B's major focus of expansion. This will grow even further in future years to other regional focus efforts including Russia, Brazil and other large developing markets. Interestingly, D&B plans to implement a largely organic growth strategy to achieve these goals. According to David, D&B's "plan is to cover the world from a data perspective organically." Still, they do leave the door open for acquisition activity: "D&B will have business acquisitions, but these are normally where we are looking for revenue, market share, etc. [rather than just content]."

Even though the expansion strategy is quite ambitious, D&B understands that global data will most likely not approach the quality of Western data, in many cases, any time soon. Take the case of China. In China, "the quality of data will not approach the US anytime soon, as it is dependent on the quality of the [underlying] businesses and business processes driving the data acquisition and scoring processes," David suggests. Still, "as processes and traditions mature, etc. then the data will get better and better."

How is D&B looking to maximize data quality in its efforts to expand its global database of commercial entities, and how will this information potentially benefit procurement organizations looking to make supply decisions? Stay tuned for the next post in this series, where we'll look at D&B's approaches to data quality. We'll also begin to share some thoughts from our research from talking to current D&B customers on when D&B data is most likely to hit the mark -- or not.

Jason Busch

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