Inside the Creation of D&B’s Cloud Innovation Center

By Patricia Riedman Yeager |  February 16, 2015

Wringing more value from data — and doing so with cloud-based services — is a central part of Dun & Bradstreet’s strategy. So last April, the $1.7 billion commercial information giant picked up a Vancouver-based startup called Indicee. D&B’s plan: to use the Indicee team as the core of a new Cloud Innovation Center in Vancouver, Canada.

Heading up the new center is Mark Cunningham, left, founder of Indicee. “D&B has historically been a data content company,” he says. “We have a layer of software to create more value from the data and connect the dots from the data at a high level…We were all looking at each other and saying, ‘this is a really good fit.'”

For instance, D&B’s business information detailing things such as a company’s bill-paying history can help inform company forecasting, so that a lender could better determine whether a business is worthy of a million-dollar loan. “Our platform does analytics, predictive modeling … the sky is the limit,” Cunningham says. Cunningham reports to Laura Kelly, D&B’s Chief Global Product Officer. The Cloud Innovation Center, with its dedicated staff of 49, sits within the Product team at D&B. Cunningham recently discussed a few of the challenges the D&B Cloud Innovation faces, and shared a video overview of the group’s focus.

  • Sheer scale is one: D&B boasts one of the world’s largest business databases, with more than 240 million records, from across 200 countries, amassed from years in the credit reports business. (D&B was founded in 1841 to provide reliable credit information.) And the database is updated 5 million times a day.
  • A global user experience: The Cloud Innovation Center is busy building a global-based analytics platform for D&B and shifting D&B’s product set to the cloud. It’s starting with DNBi, the company’s flagship risk management platform, and creating a modern user experience, along with more flexible ways of delivering core functionality and features.
  • For instance, DNBi’s global interface currently looks different if you log in from the U.K. versus the U.S. or anywhere in the word. In the next generation of DNBi, Cunningham says, “Every user in the world can log on to the application, no matter where they are, and have the same user experience.”
  • Collaboration: To pull this off, the Cloud Innovation Center is working closely with other D&B Product and Technology teams around the world—including groups in Short Hills, N.J. (where D&B has its headquarters); Austin, Texas; Marlow, U.K.; and Dublin, Ireland. Some of their tasks include: defining the requirements of the product for various global markets, running focus groups with existing DNBi customers, planning go–to–market activities, and connecting D&B’s data with the Indicee platform. The D&B Cloud Innovation Center in Vancouver is the hub, overseeing the project and regularly hosting internal product leaders, user experience (UX) designers and business analysts from across the Global Product team.
  • Getting up to speed on D&B: The team at the D&B Cloud Innovation Center has spent the last nine months attempting a “knowledge transfer,” learning as much as they can from D&B’s many credit management and data science experts who have long histories in the risk and credit management space.
  • A surprising match: Even though D&B and Indicee’s service offerings dovetailed, Cunningham says they still expected challenges merging the companies’ cultures. It turns out it’s been far less of an issue thanks to the complete transformation that D&B is undergoing. “As D&B’s CEO Bob Carrigan has said, we’re shifting ‘from arthritic to agile’ in order to continue driving growth,” Cunningham says. “The company is becoming more modern, more agile, more customer-focused and more innovative. Much of the way we worked as Indicee aligns well with this change, and the culture and values of our team have really been embraced at D&B.”
  • Logistical hurdles: As to be expected, the biggest challenge the D&B Cloud Innovation Center faces is the complexity of solving a large and global software problem that requires input from many teams, which can slow down the decision-marking process and introduce inefficiencies to product development. Cunningham says it’s addressing this by in some ways working like a company within a company. “We have a unique balance of being able to operate with some independence as a team while being well enough integrated to allow for collaboration with other teams,” he says. “This is a very forward-thinking and valuable approach that has helped our team to stay focused.”
  • As the D&B Cloud Innovation Center works toward the release the new DNBi product platform in 2015, Cunningham continues to look toward to the future of analytics and business opportunities. Combining social, mobile and big data with powerful technology that enables an ecosystem is “hugely powerful,” Cunningham says. “It’s the next multi-billion dollar idea.”