Digging for E-Biz Success

Interaction data from e-business sites is "a gold mine," asserted a Braun Consulting senior manager, Jeff Schlitt, at the Corporate and e-Business Portals conference in New Orleans this month.

Interaction data from e-business sites is "a gold mine," asserted a Braun Consulting senior manager, Jeff Schlitt, at the Corporate and e-Business Portals conference in New Orleans this month. I agree, but only if you accept the entire metaphor. Even if the gold is there, its far from pure—and getting it out isnt easy. There are mines in Nevada, according to the FAQ page at www.onlygold.com, that can profitably extract 0.05 ounce of gold from a ton of dirt. In e-business terms, this might be easier to envision as a PC with only 1 byte of data in 640KB of RAM, or a single mailing label with the address of a qualified prospect on a roll of labels 10 miles long that are otherwise filled with random text.

These are the proportions that come to my mind when someone says to me, "Youre sitting on a gold mine here."

Thanks, but Id rather be sitting on a pile of gold bars. Of course, it couldnt be all that big of a pile: All the gold thats ever been mined in history would make a cube only about 60 feet on a side. People buying terabytes of storage to archive raw, unrefined click trails might want to think about the ratio of precious data to digital tailings: The data worth keeping may not need that much space.

On average, the concentration of gold in the crust of the earth is one-sixth of 1 percent of the level that those Nevada mines can make a paying proposition. What this means is that sticking a shovel in the ground is not the same thing as prospecting. Any e-business site that merely counts clicks and tries to estimate eyeballs is making the same mistake as someone who just starts digging in the middle of the nearest field.

Do your homework: Learn to recognize richer-than-usual ore and think about how youll get the gold out of the dirt before you dig.