Reflections of a product manager: What you should look for in company data

Product managers increasingly use company data at scale to power their products

But too often, they encounter data that is opaque or stale – which limits their products and holds back their users. 

Tim Goodman, our Head of Product and Data Acquisition, knows the challenges of the company data landscape only too well from his time as a product manager at a leading RegTech and in various data roles. 

In this post, Tim shares some key characteristics that he thinks product managers should look for when procuring company data, and explains why our transparent company data increasingly meets the needs of product managers. 

How can product managers get company data at scale?

Before launching a product or a new piece of functionality that needs company data, you need to ask yourself one question: should you try to collect the data yourself? 

Tim’s advice is simple: “Let someone else focus on that problem”. 

There are four main reasons why he suggests this:

  • Inconsistent formats
    “Data from company registries in different jurisdictions comes in various formats, so making the data consistent would place a massive load on a product manager”, says Tim. At OpenCorporates, we have spent a lot of time producing a standardised global schema across our data, so product managers don’t have to do this difficult initial task.
  • Registries constantly changing
    One of the big challenges dealing with corporate data is that the landscape is ever changing, whether it be shifting policy stances or registries changing the format of their data without notice. This leads to a great deal of work just to maintain coverage, let alone expand. 
  • Licensing agreements
    Some data sources restrict how your product can use their data – perhaps preventing you from selling your product to certain types of companies. “It can be difficult to reconcile between the licensing agreements of several providers of data, especially when they have conflicting restrictions. The coverage you can provide to a financial institution may be different to what you can offer to other sectors”, says Tim. 
  • Regulatory requirements
    Users of products that support compliance activities, such as AML, KYC or investigations, need to be able to justify their findings to the regulatory authorities. Collecting all the data yourself rather than using a specialist potentially raises your operational risk due to having to maintain your own trail of provenance.

Recommendations from somebody who has walked in your shoes

If you are not going to collect the data yourself, two options remain: 

  1. Use an opaque legacy data provider

  2. Adopt transparent company data

Product managers should weigh up this decision by assessing the following attributes from the data vendors they’re contemplating working with:

  • Reliability
    End users of your product need data that is of a high quality and ultimately reliable. Ask your potential vendor: what kinds of sources is the data collected from? How have you modelled your schema?. OpenCorporates is often used as a reliable base layer of legal entities as we collect data from official public sources, which product managers then layer other data sources on top”, says Tim.

  • Data coverage
    The more countries that are covered in a database, the more useful it is to end users. Given the amount of cross-jurisdictional business that is done on a daily basis, focusing on just one region is no longer viable.
  • Provenance
    End users of products need to be able to explain and defend their decisions, and the best way to do this is by having clear data provenance: illustrating when and where each datapoint that informed a decision came from.
  • Freshness
    Data that is as up-to-date as possible is better for many products, particularly those that support investigations or regulatory compliance. “Making decisions based on old or stale information is risky, especially if you are not given clear indicators as to its validity”, says Tim.

Want to know more?

  • Meet Tim Goodman
    Read our interview with OpenCorporates’ Head of Product and Data Acquisition.
    Read interview >
  • Why transparent company data should be on your product roadmap
    Read more about why product managers are increasingly turning to transparent company data to accelerate product development.

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