Freely available company information may seem a challenge to monetise. However companies like Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), Experian, Bureau van Dijk, Graydon, Equifax and Creditsafe have been doing it for many years. D&B still sees a bright future in delivering in-depth company information on 265 million companies worldwide – but now with a twist: Cloud delivery that directly interfaces with customers’ existing systems. It’s all about providing the right information and alerts seamlessly at the right time.
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Credit assessments of present and future customers used to be a manual process involving a lot of paperwork. It was done by credit detectives (analysts) with 15-20 years of experience. They looked at it as an art more than a science. This does not sit well with today’s corporate cultures looking to formalise and automated their governance, risk and compliance processes. That entails aligning the company credit policy with the overall company strategy. Portfolio risk management must be workflow automated and fully integrated with in-house or cloud-based CRM and ERP systems.
A significant credit issue relates to the harder-to-get information on privately held companies that do not publish their financial performance data. In the UK, D&B holds data on four million companies of which a quarter are privately held. To assess their credit worthiness, D&B collects data from a plethora of sources such as: payment history from power and water utility companies, lease payment history, credit data from the Small Business Banking Exchange where 200 small UK banks pool their credit risk data, and the D&B Trade Program where a subset of D&B customers upload their accounts-payable ledger. All these data sources feed into the D&B credit assessment score, which D&B customers can use to manage their credit risk profile.
There are still problems with the personal data that D&B holds on millions of ‘Persons of Interest’ (owners, board members and C-level staff). Companies operate globally, but people are in different geographies with different privacy legislations.
The new D&B delivery model
Until three years ago, D&B operated using all in-house data centres. This legacy system was desktop-focused with pre-defined user-interfaces and limited integration capabilities. 2013 saw the first public cloud Amazon Web Services (AWS) deployments. By 2014 some 10% of customers were being served on cloud-based systems. Last year that went up to 25% (which aligns well with VMware’s estimate that 2015 saw 27% of business processes being cloud based).
D&B sees itself on a transition journey to deliver its D&B Credit service as a cloud service with open API’s providing plug-and-play connectors to customers’ CRM and ERP systems. Customers can either connect to this service directly or via one of D&B’s strategic cloud partners like Salesforce.com or software alliance partners like NetSuite and Informatica. Switching to cloud services has allowed for mobile access, flexible and scalable global deployment and customisable and role-based user interfaces.
Interactive customer relations
D&B interfaces with its business customers on several levels. It provides detailed customer information when a credit decision needs to be made. Summary data on all company accounts-payable customers keeps tabs on overall credit exposure. Companies can real-time monitor their changing credit risks using D&B’s push alerts based on multi-source analytics of key data changes that can affect company credit exposure.
So yes, D&B is still a content company, but the content refinement and availability is the key to future growth. By using intuitive dashboards and clickable summaries different corporate users can continuously monitor areas of risk and opportunity. Therein lies the future of the company information business.