As the race to define, consume, and monetize the Big Data trend continues, the relevance of name and address as the foundation of quality data continues to escalate. Last year Gartner predicted that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on technology than the CIO. Data quality software is squarely at the center of that prediction.

A clear trend has been established where data quality tools are being used for tasks beyond mail preparation and postal discount qualification. We're seeing customers leveraging data quality tools to cleanse and enhance their lists to make critical business decisions, particularly in the marketing office. They're able to do so with a high degree of success only with a complete, correct, and current address.

Complete records consist of a well formed and validated set of elements, including address, city, state, and ZIP + 4. Correct data builds on the complete concept to ensure the deliverability of an address, correct abbreviations, and clean up misspellings. Current lists maximize the impact of your efforts by making sure that the recipient associated with the address in the record has not relocated since they were added. The US Census Bureau points out that roughly 12% of the population of the United States moves annually. That's over three million moves a month - making regular processing of a list a requirement to keep the foundational name and address elements current.

Organizations are increasingly seeking to have this data available on demand. While few established options for true on demand data quality exist from trusted partners, they are starting to emerge - and they're coming in a variety of forms of integration that generally fall into three buckets: thick clients, thin clients, and zero clients.

Thick client solutions generally require the most up-front investment, integration, and configuration. Typically this is installed software that requires licensing and setup, but generally has the added benefit of functionality beyond data quality while keeping all your data local. Depending on the implementation, thick clients can make the on demand element difficult or cost prohibitive to achieve without acting more like a thin client and sending your data off for processing.

Thin client solutions are installed software that simply acts as an interface to a hosted solution. You'll be required to install and configure this software, but generally with minimal capital investment for the software itself. This type of solution uses the thin client to prepare a communication to a hosted data quality service where your list will be processed and returned to the thin client for you to retrieve.

Zero client options are what are typically referred to as cloud or hosted services. With nothing to install, zero client options provide a low barrier to entry at almost any level of an organization. These solutions offer remote 24x7 access models where you typically pay only for what you consume.

With the need for on demand data quality expanding through your organization and the rise of suppliers claiming to be the best solution to meet your need - how do you choose? There are three crucial questions to ask when evaluating data quality partners:

Can you trust them? You'll be sharing with someone one of your most valuable assets. While a lot of the buzz around big data is new, the concept of enhancing data quality with list processing is not. Make sure you find a partner you can trust with a track record of successfully and securely protecting data at all stages of the process - in transit, at rest, and while it's actually processing.

How close is the provider to the source of the data? In the United States, we're fortunate to have a trusted source for the foundational tasks for name and address cleansing - the United States Postal Service. The USPS offers licenses to this trusted data to selected providers. If the data quality provider isn't getting their primary data source from the USPS or is getting to that data 2nd or 3rd hand - the quality of your efforts could suffer.

Does their solution meet your requirements? This relates back to the earlier discussion around types of clients to access data quality. Because everyone has unique needs, there can be a myriad of approaches to implementing a successful data quality solution. They key is to find a provider with a flexible set of products to allow you access to data in a way that meets your organizations requirements.

With the requirements of and options for on demand data quality continuing to experience explosive growth, one thing remains clear: complete, correct, and current name and address data are foundational to every initiative from mailing to marketing and beyond. Be sure to select an experienced partner you can trust that has a solution that meets your unique needs.