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The Sentient Enterprise by Thomas H. Davenport, Mohanbir Sawhney, Oliver Ratzesberger

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CHAPTER 2Leveraging an Expanding Universe of Data

EBay is a multibillion-dollar corporation with operations in more than 30 countries. Founded in 1995, the San Jose–based company is an early Internet pioneer that has managed to grow through changing markets and economic conditions to become the global e-commerce powerhouse it is today. Given such long-term resilience and success, it’s easy to forget the considerable growing pains eBay suffered in the mid-2000s. That’s when the company’s core auction business began to plateau, putting eBay at a crossroads.

“Is eBay becoming a mature company that won’t be able to keep up its heady growth?” asked a Wharton School report in February 2005, amid disappointing stock performance and a reduced financial outlook for that year. An October 2007 Fortune article, meanwhile, chronicled “eBay’s transition to adulthood” as the company sought more growth through acquisitions and weathered a shift in how analysts valued the company—from web-centric statistics like new users and total auction listings to retail-industry metrics like overall sales growth and revenue generated per user.

These two citations are representative of many from the mid-2000s, and they fall within the tenure of the practitioner in your practitioner/academic coauthor team (Oliver), who served in senior analytics roles at eBay from November 2004 through October 2011. It was a time when analytics suddenly became a target for further growth and investment internally, as eBay ...

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