Microsoft Mines Small-Business
People leaving a job are often told not to burn any bridges. That philosophy appears to be paying off for the founders of digiMine Inc., a Seattle, Washington-based company founded in March 2000 by three Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT – news) veterans.
The data mining and analytics company has been selected by the Microsoft bCentral small-business service to provide fully hosted data warehousing, mining and business analytics as the software giant tires to capture more of the hosted application market.
Examining Small Business
Under the terms of the agreement, digiMine Analytic Services – including data warehousing, advanced data mining and analytical software – will be used by Microsoft to discern how bCentral’s 1.6 million registered users are using the site, in an effort to maintain customer satisfaction and build revenues.
“Being in the hosted Web applications business, our sales channels as well as services usage are entirely Web-based, which gives us a unique opportunity to gain immediate insight into every phase of the customer life cycle,” said Erin Hiraoka, director of marketing for bCentral at Microsoft.
Hiraoka said the digiMine services will be used to examine every facet of customer usage, from when users are first considering bCentral through registration, usage and renewal.
The small-business market is the largest and most potentially lucrative single sector in the U.S. economy, representing 57 percent of private-sector output and 99 percent of all employers, according to the Small Business Administration. While there are no solid figures on what small businesses spend, the Census Bureau (news – web sites) estimates that payroll expenditures in 1997 alone, the last year of complete figures, was US$1.4 trillion.
According to experts, it is the very vastness of small business – ranging from sole proprietorships to any business with fewer than 500 employees – that makes determining what it needs and how to deliver it problematic.
Reaching the Wary
Complicating the equation has been the fact that small businesses have been among the slowest to jump into e-commerce, largely because they do not have in-house expertise to handle it and are loather to spend precious resources on a mere possibility for more business.
Using data mining and advanced analytics, Microsoft officials said the company wants to determine not only how customers are using bCentral, but also how new services are faring and what it takes to retain existing customers and attract new ones while building revenues.
By: Larry Seben