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Finding an eCommerce Database

Case Study:

You are an experienced manager in computer software development, having served as vice president of product development for three different software companies. You have just finished a book on the history of the early history of the computer game industry that you published through a small publisher out of Fairfield Iowa. Since the publisher not you have the money or the means to promote the book nationally, you are limited to local promotion. You do not expect to sell many copies; writing the book was mostly a labor of love.

You took six months off to focus on the book and you really need to get back to work. At an industry conference, you meet the president of a new startup and find out that she is interested in new authors. You decide to have lunch the next day so she can find out the process you went through writing and publishing your first book. During the conversation, your experience in product development is discussed and she mentions that she is looking for a vice president of product development; before the conversation is finished she has hired you. The goal of the new company is to develop an on-line database analyzer for eCommerce companies that will enable them to track their sales, marketing, and financial activities. You now have total responsibility for the development of the product.

The first day on the job, you find out that research and development needs a retail database to experiment with. They want to test their data mining algorithms by trying find out just how much and what kinds of data they can glean from an actual, working eCommerce database. The company has spent the past 7 months trying, without success, to convince any on-line retailer to let the company experiment with their database, with no success. This is not surprising, how many retail companies will gladly turn over all of their customer, merchandise, and financial data to an Internet startup.

Now, the task is yours. Your number-one priority: obtain a working eCommerce database within the next 60 days.

You are excited about the challenges of your new job, but you do not know quite what to do about your book. The subject matter has nothing to do with your new company’s business, and to continue with the book’s promotion seems off focus. You also want to show management that you are committed.

You have been on the job only four days when you receive a call from a stranger who has heard about your book and wants you to make a presentation to a local multi-media association; he’s asks you to lunch to discuss the possibility.


  1. Do you accept his invitation?

  2. If you accept his invitation, what questions do you ask during the lunch?

  3. Do you agree to do the presentation?

  4. What are the reasons for making the decisions you did?

  5. What assumptions did you make?


What Actually Happened

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Copyright 2008, Brad Fregger