Post codes: new tool or old school?

For a long time the Irish postal services were my favourite kind: they didn’t have post codes in Ireland because “we don’t need them: our sorting machines are so sophisticated that we can sort the mail by using the street and place names only.” At least, this is what I remember having seen on their website a long time ago. Post codes are for losers, it implied.

But last week the news was that the Irish government issued a tender for a national post code project. The new tool should make services more efficient and delivery cheaper. Surrender to the post code system, as in the rest of Europe.

Simultaneously there is a movement in the Netherlands which undermines the post code system. Post codes are not an “authentic” part of the “BAG”, the Common Key Registers for Addresses and Buildings. Government institutions in the Netherlands are forced by law to use address data from the BAG, but post codes are issued by the privatised postal operator PostNL; and they disagree sometimes. Some people have no post code because PostNL won’t issue one for them. Consequently, they are deprived from a lot of services requiring a post code, such as applying for government grants. When confronted with this problem, local authorities replied people should turn to using “BAG Id’s”: post codes will soon be “old school”.

Also posted on


200 years of family names

Today is a memorable day for data quality in the Netherlands. Exactly two hundred years ago, on August 18, 1811, the French emperor (and occupier) Napoleon Bonaparte issued the decree that all citizens of the northern provinces of the Netherlands were to choose a surname. This name was very useful in the municipal registers of the Dutch inhabitants: how else could the French army know which lad to draw for military service, or which peasant to pursue for taxes? Continue reading ‘200 years of family names’

DQ for BQ


On October 10th, 2010 the Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist as a single country. Two islands – Curaçao and Sint Maarten – that previously appertained to the Netherlands Antilles became themselves separate countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The three other islands – Bonaire, Saint Eustatius, and Saba – became direct part of the Netherlands as “public bodies”.

Our clients seek our advice on the impact of these changes on their daily data management processes. Many organizations store the country of their business relations in their master data by means of country codes. It took, however, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) two months to publish the new country codes.

Remarkable are also the names of these countries. The “special municipality” Saint Eustatius – now more tightly connected to the Netherlands than long before – carries an English name, while the separate country Sint Maarten is designated in the international standards with a name in Dutch. Continue reading ‘DQ for BQ’

Standardizing crime


A recent article in a Dutch newspaper describes the success the Dutch police force is realizing with data mining products. Policemen are using data mining software to predict time and place of potential criminal activities, such as burglary and robbery, and direct extra police attention to these hotspots at those hours.
As with any data mining project, the quality of the analyses depends heavily on the quality of the data entered in the data warehouse.
Every statement entered in the system, every location, description of people, every relevant object needs to be comparable.
Address standardization products can help when entering locations precise and first time right in the system. Other data quality solutions are available for entering names and other data of people – suspects, victims, and witnesses.
But what about the other aspects of a statement? Was the crime the theft of a car, a vehicle, a van, a pick-up, etc? Did the villain pick a purse or a wallet? A bicycle or a bike? The list of synonyms for objects of crime is endless.
I think the criminal community should come to an agreement and decide on standards to make analyses of these data mining projects even more successful. Now that Christmas is nearing,we all want a better world, isn’t it?

How being focused can blur your vision

sintmaarten 2

In our company we are all very dedicated to serving our customers with their business problems with bad quality customer master data. Aren’t we all?

A few days ago, one of our customer support desk engineers sought an answer to what happens with the addresses on the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles. See also my previous post The dissolution of a nation. Kids of my generation had to memorize the names of these islands at primary school: the ABC islands – Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao – and the three islands with an “S”: Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten. My colleague, now fully internet savvy, wanted to look up an address on Sint Maarten. Why not use an internet map and type “sint maarten”?

Yes, here it is! They even have a Spar supermarket there (just like home), and the address of this supermarket shows a postal code! A postal code with the same structure as in the Netherlands (NNNN AA). Pleased with this catch, he started to compose an answer to the customer.

Just before sending it, I passed his desk and we started talking about this (the topic has my attention, you know). And he showed me the map proving his arguments: the coastline was near. But when we zoomed out, the picture became clearer: tunnel vision obscured that he had been focused on Sint Maarten near the Dutch coast!

The dissolution of a nation


New horizons for “public bodies”

Last Thursday, September 9th, the final statement was signed by all parties involved regarding the dissolution by October 10th, 2010 of the Netherlands Antilles as a country. At the same time, two new countries, Sint Maarten and Curaçao, will be created. This constitutional reform in the Kingdom of the Netherlands will make end the era of the Netherlands Antilles – six islands in the Caribbean which were never really a coherent group.

Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986 already, becoming an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. And now Curaçao and Sint Maarten follow in Aruba’s footstep. The remaining three islands – the so-called BES islands Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba – will become direct part of the Netherlands as special communities, a form of “public body”. They will probably become part of the Dutch province of North Holland. Continue reading ‘The dissolution of a nation’