Building a tech or data platform? Ask these 6 questions first

From procurement and supply chain management tools, to accounting or customer relationship management systems… what is the common theme across all these tech platforms (and more)?

They all generate value for their users by helping them better understand the companies they’re dealing with, for example when a CRM tool charts interactions with a firm across the whole lifecycle.

All of these tools (and their users) stand to benefit from being able to draw on a unique reference dataset for the universe of legal entities that exist. After all, you can’t connect the dots (read: invoices, contracts etc), if you don’t know what companies to pin them to.

That’s where OpenCorporates comes in. Over 400 organisations rely on our data at scale – including to power tech and data platforms across a range of sectors.

We regularly speak to product and data professionals who oversee various tech, data or SaaS platforms at different points in their product development journey, including:

  • Beginning
    Where they’re looking for company data to sit as a spine at the foundation of the entire platform

  • New functionality
    Where they have specific pieces of functionality they need company data to power, as opposed to the entire platform

  • Supplementation or replacement
    Where they’re looking to replace or supplement their existing company data vendor with another – having worked out the vendor’s limitations part-way through their product journey

So if you’re a product or data manager at any of these stages in your product journey, ask yourself the following 6 questions before you make key decisions about the company data you use to power your platform (and the vendors you entrust to supply it). 

Product manager’s checklist

1. Do you have the time or resources to become an expert in company data, or to aggregate it from around the world yourself?

Sourcing data from company registers in different jurisdictions is an extremely involved and complicated process – we know that from experience! Do you really want to spend your time trying to understand and plug your product into every individual register, or would you rather use a provider of global company data that has done the hard work for you?

Just ask Exiger. In the early stages of developing a platform to automate due diligence, they tried to build systems to collate information directly from many different company registers themselves. But after using our data, they decided to power their tool with our global company data. 

Similarly, OpenCorporates’ data is what enables TISCreport, a supply chain transparency platform, “to be a global platform”.

2. Can you (or your vendor) stand behind the quality of the data?

Companies often have a “golden source” problem which legacy data providers also share – where you can have numerous proxies for a company such as a customer or supplier. It might be a business’ address, its name, or another opaque reference point. To overcome this, you need to know what the data you’re working with refers to in practice, and what this means for your product and users. 

Our well-defined data model gives you the ideal platform on which to build and layer other datasets and technology applications, based on a single and clear base unit: a legal entity. This gives any platform the best chance of success by allowing you to layer information about third parties in relation to its legal entity (the one you can enter into a legal contract with after all). As a result, you can manage your company data hierarchy from a solid foundation across all your platforms.

Similarly, as our data is openly available on our website, it benefits from powerful data-quality feedback loops that traditional business information vendors cannot replicate. Instead, their data sits behind paywalls and is often bought and shared from vendor to vendor, meaning errors or omissions perpetuate.

3. Do you need to know where the data comes from, or when it was collected?

If you want to deploy data with confidence through your platform, you need to know what information you are getting, what its strengths are, and where any gaps might exist. We collect our data exclusively from official sources and we specify the provenance of every company record, including where it came from and when it was collected.

Knowing when data was collected for instance lets your users decide how best to use it. Say you’re building a tool to inform risk and compliance orientated actions, its users will have a low tolerance for stale data – and so letting them know when the data was collected means they can adjust their process accordingly.

The point is: if you are using a Black Box data provider, you don’t get this data provenance – so your users end up making decisions in the dark. 

4. Do you want to be locked into using only one data vendor?

Legacy business information companies use proprietary identifier codes for their company data. This makes it difficult to combine that data with other datasets, including your own. It also locks you into using that provider in future. 

By contrast, we provide an open identifier that corresponds with the official company register the data was collected from, making it much easier for you to combine our data with datasets from other sources – and to scale your platform.

5. Do you need to be able to combine company data with other datasets?

Many tech platforms generate insights for their users because they can combine datasets to reveal information or trends ‘hiding’ in plain sight. This task becomes nearly impossible if company data has to be aggregated from the world’s company registries individually, each retaining its own quirks and inconsistencies. 

Instead, we bring the records in every jurisdiction into a standardised global schema, which ensures consistency and makes it easier to combine with other datasets.

6. How do you need the data to be delivered?

Depending on your product’s intended functionality, the stage of your product or the strategy underpinning it, you may choose to receive company data at scale typically in one of two ways: via API integration or as exports of data in bulk (such as in CSV format). 

Unlike many other organisations, OpenCorporates provides both, so we understand the characteristics and benefits of each.

If you’re looking to weigh up the pros and cons of accessing company data via an API integration or in bulk, then stay tuned, as we’ll be publishing a post on that soon.

Looking ahead

Hopefully by asking some of these questions upfront you’ll avoid some of the potential pitfalls with integrating company data into your product, or you’ll have found a potential data source to power your newest functionality.

In the meantime, take a closer look at that helpful app you use to understand your third parties or perform other critical business tasks; chances are: if OpenCorporates data doesn’t already sit at its foundation – then it will soon.

Or better yet, take a look at our API and bulk data.

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