It's all about location...
On the 1st January 2009 Pitney Bowes will launch a new division called Pitney Bowes Business Insight (PBBI). This is effectively a merger of the data quality software Group 1 and the geographic information software Mapinfo, which were both previous acquisitions. In the past few days they have released 5.6 of the CDQ Platform, PBBI's data quality software, with three primary areas of focus.
First there is the opening up of the previously black-box parser. A visual editor allows customers to define domains and parsing grammar at an abstract level by culture and language and bundles these up into processes to generate structured tokens. Critically, there is no restriction here to customer data: in principle parsing can be done, very similar to their matching process, for any type of data, a departure for Group 1, which like most data quality vendors has hitherto concentrated on customer name and address data. International geocoding support is extended beyond the US to Canada and Australia, with twenty plus countries to follow.
Next, they've added support for data governance with the release of monitor plus, allowing trend analysis of data quality and alerts to be set—say, if a particular threshold of data quality is reached. Finally, new CRM & MDM connectors are provided for Siebel Business & Industry Apps 8, Siebel UCM and mySAP CRM 2007. Both data governance and the ability to deal with data beyond customer name and address are important trends in the industry, though there is a lot more to being able to handle particular kinds of data (such as product data) than just opening up the parser. That is evident with their continued partnership with Silver Creek Software to provide best of breed data quality for organizations looking for more sophisticated product domain knowledge along with PBBI's current focus on the customer and location domain. Still, this is an important first step.
The most interesting aspect of all this is the potential to link data quality to geographic information. With Mapinfo's data assets, customers are able to query all kinds of aspects of their spatial data within the PBBI platform. For example, given a particular geocode, it is possible to ask questions like "show me how many ATMs are within a mile of this spot" or "show me houses within five miles of the coastline". Actually making use of customer name and address data in this way, rather than just making sure that mail shots get sent to the correct address, is the kind of higher value activity that data quality vendors have traditionally struggled to get recognition for. The new software division, with 1,700 employees and USD 500 million of revenues, is a potentially beefy player in the market.
Critical to how well growth targets are met will be clear positioning of the new organisation. Group 1 and Mapinfo have both been around for some time, and so it is important that PBBI clearly articulate what the combined offering brings to customers i.e. why the combined group is more than just the sum of its parts. If it can make more of the geospatial connection than it currently does in its marketing then it could be interesting, since clearly the kind of value queries like "tell me all the houses in this area that lie within a flood plain" will only work properly if you have good quality data, and the combination of GIS capability and strong data quality software could be a compelling proposition.