Going Global With Supplier Data — A Conversation with D&B (Part 3)

In the first two posts in this series (Part 1 and Part 2), we provided significant background about D&B's approach to cover the corporate information world, including suppliers in developing markets. We'll continue the analysis today, diving right back into the emerging market for global supplier data. When I questioned D&B about who they saw as their major customers in developing markets, they suggested that large global companies -- rather than regional in-country players -- are driving the need for their expansion and the overall demand for global company information. And, these organizations are looking to consume information in multiple ways. Some, according to D&B, want to pull information (e.g., supply risk scores) into "internally created solutions." These types of companies will want to invest in developing internal reporting systems and technologies.

For D&B, the challenge to best serve this market with global information is to develop web services and to work with other third parties to help provide information "the way companies want to consume it." I've personally observed this trend with various spend analysis and data warehousing initiatives that a number of large global companies I've spoken and worked with are pursuing. The fact that vendors such as Ariba, Aravo, Emptoris, BravoSolution, Ivalua and SAP are looking to serve as information OEMs via their spend analysis and/or supplier management platforms supports the notion that D&B will need to offer information directly into customer and customer third-party systems the way they want to consume it. Incidentally, D&B notified me that they are not currently providing data to SAP as part of SAP's Spend Performance Management.

But D&B also believes that "a large number of companies will want content as a requirement for getting the insight they need to take appropriate action" in a real-time manner, requiring that they buy data as part of a broader package that includes decision tools. And this is "just as true internationally as it is in the US," according to D&B's David Clarke. Still, when it comes to global data, D&B wants to remain agnostic, providing both content and hybrid content/tools based on how customers want to consume them.

From a data acquisition and information sharing perspective, D&B has embarked on a number of new global efforts, including identifying ways of leveraging the power of "wikis" and other types of "crowd-sourcing" derived information where individuals contribute to a broader whole. Granted, D&B does not intend this information to replace traditional financial indicators, but they do intend it will provide additional insight on suppliers (e.g., for small suppliers in emerging markets where other government or company-derived information is not readily available or accurate).

To expand its available information sources, D&B is also using a Mechanical-Turk-like approach to crowd-source information from global users. They're also leveraging extensive web mining technology -- like a Jigsaw -- to mine contact information inside companies in compliance with anti-spam laws. Still, none of this is a substitute for the traditional updating of information for U.S.-based companies that occurs in the D&B database on an average of every 2.8 months. Today, this information comes in part from 4,500 trade participants in the US and 12,000 globally, who provide information on their customers.

The key, especially in a global context, is obviously the accuracy of this information. In the final post in this series, I'll provide insights on how D&B and others are performing when it comes to supplier information on a global basis today.

Sheena Moore

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