Wednesday, October 29, 2008

DHL, welcome to the club

It didn't take long after writing the entry below about Barnes & Noble to find a further example of a company failing to effectively make its data quality initiative(s) continuous.

DHL has a list of country codes and postal code formats here.

Apart from missing a number of countries which have recently (and not so recently) created postal code systems, the list still contains Serbia and Montenegro, a country that hasn't existed since 2006;
it has the pre-1999 postal code format for Argentina, and the pre 2006/2007 formats for Armenia and Malta.

Postal code and addressing systems change at a surprisingly speedy rate, and information resources such as this one from DHL decay over time if they are not maintained. I don't know whether DHL's systems expect the same formats as are listed in this document (which I acknowledge has been posted on the Singaporean DHL site and may simply have been overlooked), but it would be, to say the least, commercially damaging if they did.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Barnes, Noble and hoops ...

I recently came across this page on the Barnes & Noble online shop:

Entering international postal codes

explaining how they expected their customers to enter international postal codes so that their systems can validate the order.

One of the most obvious, but most overlooked, aspects of data quality is that it is a process and, importantly, that it is a continuous process. I'm all in favour of providing information, and lots of it, so that customers know what you expect, but posting a list like this and then forgetting about it demonstrates that the continuous aspect of data quality is being forgotten. The world has moved on, Barnes & Noble have not.

Like this, for example:

Yes, Argentina had a numeric, 4-digit postal code ... until 1999. Now their alphanumeric 7-digit code apparently is disallowed by Barnes & Noble. Or this:

Australia has never has a 7-digit postal code. I would give Barnes & Noble the benefit of the doubt an presume that they had mixed up the entries for Argentina and Australia, were it not for the insistence on a numerical code, whereas Argentinian codes contain 4 letters.

The other aspect of this page is the expectation that customers must jump through hoops to keep Barnes & Noble happy, to fit to B & N's technical requirements rather than B & N ensuring that their systems are correct. Take this example:

Grecian postal codes contain a space between the third and fouth digit. How long would a customer from Greece have to struggle to make their order? How much effort are they being put to to alter their (correct!) data to fit somebody else's system? Is this quality? Is this customer service.