Bringing Unstructured Data Into D&B Products

Posted: Jan 14 2014, 11:26am CST | by , in News

Bringing Unstructured Data Into D&B Products
Photo Credit: Forbes

Business data stalwart Dun & Bradstreet has been delivering business intelligence to corporations for well over 100 years but until now that information was made up from highly structured data – market analytics, competitor analysis etc. Their solutions haven’t captured the growing wealth of information from the social world – the so-called unstructured data that we keep hearing about. Today D&B is changing that situation by way of a deep partnership it is announcing with business analytics vendor First Rain.

D&B is integrating the First Rain data into its Hoovers, D&B360, D&B Direct and First Research products meaning that D&B’s customers can access both structured data about the 220 million company, 100 million people and three million corporate family tree records that D&B holds, but also the unstructured social data around those entities. In a move that Laura Kelly, senior vice president and chief product officer at D&B admitted to me was a competitive response to an increasing corporate awareness of the value of unstructured data, the integrated products will be available to existing D&B customers at no-extra cost. D&B are calling this a “value-add” for customers, but it’s likely that internally it is seen strongly as a defensive move.

It’s not the first foray into this space to come from D&B, three years ago I covered the hyped partnership and the company – that integration saw D&B information flowed through to Salesforce’s product, a service that verifies company address and contact information. At the time it was heralded as a combined solution that would:

provide complete customer data to build out social customer profiles, powering the social enterprise

While that partnership is apparently still extant, we’ve not seen much talk of it from either the Salesforce or the Dun and Bradstreet side of the table.

I spent some time talking to Kelly and First Rain’s CEO Penny Herscher about the news. Herscher was very bullish about the move saying that it continues First Rain’s focus on delivering relevant insights gleaned from unstructured data directly to where customers need them – social data is now firmly part of the value proposition for customer intelligence more generally, integrating that alongside structured data and avoiding a compartmentalized approach towards data makes sense. I quizzed Herscher about whether the move is an admission that enterprises aren’t buying into the idea of unstructured data’s value proposition on its own. Her response was that sales and marketing applications are very broad and hence integrating unstructured data directly into those tools and delivering it in real time and in the context of what a user is doing adds far more values than when it stands alone.

This comment made me wonder about the long term strategy for a company like D&B. As more and more of the data they’re able to capture comes from the social web, I questioned Kelly as to whether this was the first step to D&B acquiring an unstructured data offering to become a core part of what they do. While she naturally demurred on answering that question directly, she did agree that combining structured and unstructured data will increasingly be  a non-negotiable requirement for market intelligence vendors.

First Rain already has partnerships in place with GE CapitalFidelity Investments and Interactive Data among others, but this is the first time we’ve seen unstructured data integrated into what is perhaps the preeminent database of structured corporate data.

In practice it’s an interesting integration – having social data such as tweet content and volume surfaced as part of the broader D&B offering adds color to the corporate profiles that customers are being delivered. It’s a logical additional value point for customers but perhaps more importantly it allows D&B to deliver an answer to the glaringly obvious questions about delivering unstructured data directly within its products – the risk of starting to seem less relevant in a world enamored with unstructured data are lessened. And for First Rain it a logical corporate development strategy – it broadens the market awareness they have, and it is potentially step one in an exit path for them.

Source: Forbes

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