Redefining the D-U-N-S Number

Dun & Bradstreet is looking to modernize its D-U-N-S Numbering system to support digital businesses which may not have a phone number or physical location.  D-U-N-S Numbers, which are the de facto global company numbering system, were developed by Dun & Bradstreet in 1963 and have long captured business locations including headquarters, subsidiaries, and branches along with firmographics and corporate linkage.  Currently, there are over 300 million D-U-N-S numbered active and inactive global businesses.  But this model fails to capture the emerging nature of digital businesses and the gig economy.  The expanded definition will shift from location to “point of commerce.”

“You can be a digital business.  You can be a business that is a two-person startup right out of a coffee shop and you’re accepting PayPal as your form of payment.  That doesn’t require a physical address anymore.  You could be part of the gig economy.  You can be an Uber driver.  You can have an Airbnb property.  Those don’t necessarily fit under the mold of traditional businesses,” said Saleem Khan, Digital Leader of Data Innovation at Dun & Bradstreet.

“That idea of point of commerce subsumes everything.  It subsumes the digital location.  It includes things like the Internet of Things and the gig economy as well.


Saleem Khan, Dun & Bradstreet, Leader of Data Innovation

The rise of the Internet of Things also calls for a broader definition of businesses to assist with master data management and business linkage.

“There are 11.2 billion Internet connected devices out there, half of which are doing B2B commerce,” said Khan.  “It’s a ship coming into a port and being scanned automatically.  Wouldn’t it be nice to know which businesses are tied to that particular Internet connected device?  And so, with respect to the D-U-N-S Number, what we’re doing is moving away from business at a physical location in favor of business at a point of commerce.” An expanded definition also benefits government agencies and financial services companies which often require D-U-N-S Numbers for business verification (e.g. anti-money laundering, know your customer), sub-contracting, and credit and supplier risk analyses.

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