Using the Sharing Economy to Improve Supplier Data

Data quality assurance tends to be one of the most underestimated tasks at a company. Although unpaid invoices and unreachable suppliers cause a lot of frustration, constantly updating data is very time-consuming. The Corporate Data League (CDL), part of the sharing economy, is now providing some relief.

When it comes to customer and supplier data, companies all usually ask themselves the same questions: Is my customer and supplier data correct? Have my customers moved? How long does it take to update 1,000 data records? Can we assign geocodes or tax numbers to the records? Can we capture company legal entity forms, too? And is that possible on a global scale? Can’t we just buy the data from somewhere else?

“These questions are so common because companies are always playing catch up when it comes to addresses, entity names, tax numbers, and so on,” explains Dr. Kai Hüner, CTO of CDQ AG. “It’s no secret that an increasing number of companies are investing heavily in data quality. So why not bring these companies together to form a Corporate Data League that enables them to share their data? That way, if several of them have dealings with the same customers or suppliers, they can share the data they store and they all benefit.”

Outdated Addresses Can Damage Your Company

In fact, a Corporate Data League is long overdue. Large enterprises each employ managers who are tasked specifically with assuring data quality. To do this, they have to define global processes, observe country-specific data protection regulations, and work with external address providers and credit bureaus – all of which is essential but comes at a cost.

Having good supplier data can insure your supply chain, for instance. Knowing where your suppliers are based and tagging your records with geocodes means you can monitor any risks posed by flooding, earthquakes, and other such phenomena there. If you know which customers settle their invoices on time and which ones are in financial trouble, then you can act appropriately. It is not uncommon for a customer’s legal form or address to change. Failing to update this information can have problematic consequences: After all, the customer can’t settle your invoice if you have addressed it to a company that no longer exists. Your maintenance team cannot service the customer’s equipment if they do not have the correct address. And your sales team cannot sell your products if they are trying to reach customers on old, unused phone numbers.

Sending out communications only for them to land back in your mailbox a short while later typically indicates poor address data quality. Whether you send out your new marketing flyers by e-mail or by post, it is frustrating if half of the campaign does not reach the intended recipients. This inevitably leads to questions such as “why didn’t we know that the address had changed?” Each year, poor data quality causes companies to suffer huge financial losses that could have been avoided.

Improving Supplier data Through the Sharing Economy

High quality customer and supplier data also signals good compliance: If your company recognizes and labels data belonging to natural persons as such, then you won’t run into trouble when it comes to GDPR. The sharing economy can help here, too. After all, artificial intelligence that is trained by multiple companies learns faster and is more accurate when it comes to recognizing and labeling personal data.

“Across industries, there are large overlaps in the customer and supplier data companies hold. CDL brings the enterprises leading the way on data quality together on a cloud platform to pool their resources and exchange quality-assured data,” explains Hüner.

To date, 14 companies with outstanding data management processes have signed up: BASF, Bayer, Bosch, Dekra, Evonik, Lanxess, Lonza, Merck, Nestle, Novartis, SAP, Sartorius, Siemens, and ZF Friedrichshafen. Any company can join CDL, it just has to prove it has well designed data management processes in place.

Members access CDL’s wealth of updated customer and supplier data through an SAP connector. They are then able to save the records they need in the SAP systems they use in the cloud or on-premise. What’s more, CDQ is constantly adding information from public company registers to the data pool. Members can then compare it to their records and update legal entity forms, addresses, tax numbers, fraud alerts, and much more, where necessary. As a matter of course, CDL members do not share any sensitive information such as payment terms.

By offering companies high-quality customer and supplier data, CDL supports them in four key areas.

Companies start benefitting from CDL as soon as they sign up: “CDQ Cloud Engine saved us two to three weeks of manual work. We were about to import 4,000 new Japanese customers into our CRM system, but the source data didn’t include any post codes. CDQ Cloud Engine retrieved 93 percent of the missing post codes immediately using just the Japanese customer names and their addresses,” reports Thorsten Hähnel, master data expert at Sartorius Stedim Biotech.

Automating Data Management

The data sharing economy helps companies with their data management by encouraging automation and data industrialization. Members of CDL have developed clearly defined data models, a comprehensive set of data quality checks, and interfaces that enable technical integration.

The CDL cloud platform is designed to be more than just a database of addresses, like those offered by credit bureaus. Soon, artificial intelligence will improve data analysis and address accuracy – for marketing campaigns, sales activities, and supply chain insurance. “With CDL, companies don’t have to be experts on AI to benefit from it. As such, CDL is not just breathing new life into the sharing economy, it is also offering shared intelligence,” says Hüner.

CDL simplifies customer and supplier data management. Only one of the companies in the network needs to update a supplier’s tax number, for example, and all network members receive the new information. Of course, it is down to each company to decide whether to check the data from the platform before importing it into their systems. In the long term, excellent data quality should increase the trust in CDL, which will streamline processes even more.

“Of course, the benefits of such a sharing economy increase as the number of participants increases,” adds Hüner. “So dare to share!”

This story was originally published on the SAP News Center in German.