By Ken Drazin, Consultant
I have done a lot of work with both residential and commercial address data over my career and it seems that a lot of organizations just don’t understand the importance of address data standardization.
So why is address data standardization important?
Let’s take a look at one example of how address data that is not standardized can cause issues with your client’s satisfaction, your organizations reporting, and even more importantly your costs.
Suppose your organization services computer hardware and you are responsible for an install base globally. In this instance, you share address details about locations that your organization services with your clients. Your support team receives a service call with the following address details:
Address 1: ABC Industries Address 2: 123 North Bend Drive Address 3: Suite 1 City: New City State: New Jersey Zip: 12345
Your support representative now tries to search your database for this address and comes up empty. This is because the data stored in your database was entered in a different format than your request. The difference could be something as small as your data using the street identifier of “Dr.” rather than “Drive” or maybe you store the street address in your Address 1 field. Of course your Service representative will and should try a few different searches, but this clearly shows the time and effort being wasted by not having an agreed address data format between the organizations. If finding an address is this difficult using a manual search, imagine how difficult it would be to develop an application that searches the same data.
There are several things that can be done quite easily to make some great improvements in your address data. We know that an address contains small components of information to point to one location. Using these components, in addition to some address standards, we can correct some commonly occurring issues. Each component has its specific place inside an address, and there are standards for abbreviations (such as ST for “street,” or AVE for “avenue”) as well as for common terms (such as ATTN for “attention”). An organization can define a set of rules to verify an address contains all the appropriate components, if they are in the right place, and if they conform to the officially-sanctioned abbreviations. You can also use rules to move parts around, to map commonly-used terms to the standard ones, and use lookup tables to fill in the blanks when components are missing. So in many cases, you can easily create tools and methods to automatically transform non-standard addresses into standardized ones.