Thursday, June 4, 2009

There goes another one

My initial reaction to hearing that AddressDoctor was being taken over by Informatica was a sinking feeling - another one bites the dust.

Acquisitions of companies specialising in international name and address data are hardly new: Postalsoft (as First Logic) went to Business Objects before that was subsumed into SAP, who also snapped up Fuzzy! Informatik. QAS went to Experian and Global Address to Harte-Hanks.

For me, the best outcome of a takeover is that the acquired company is allowed to continue to run its business as independently of its owner as possible. Small companies tend to be more dynamic and react more quickly to change than their larger rivals. Global name and address data quality is a specialised business, and it requires the freedom to concentrate upon it without worries about the needs of a mother company.

The worst outcome is the absorption of the company into the mother company, so that it becomes a cog within a much larger corporate wheel. In my experience, when this happens the focus is lost, and, I have to say, the quality of the solution suffers. The needs of the larger company and its customers take precedence. I weep when a mature product disappears in this way. Even when it becomes part of the mother company's data quality suite, access to it is lost from the vast majority of small- and medium-sized companies who have the need for data quality but not the budget.

The vacuum created by the disappearance of a good global data quality company is not quickly or easily filled. Global address processing is an extraordinarily complex business. It takes years of knowledge collection, development of algorithms, trial and error before a product even approaches acceptable levels of quality in international data. There are quicker and easier ways to make money in the data world. It is eternally frustrating to witness this cycle of re-inventing the wheel as companies form, develop, are taken over and are absorbed into other companies, effectively disappearing.

I sincerely hope that the independent global data quality company, producing good and affordable solutions, don't become an endangered species.