Big Data-Cruncher

The Microsoft Technology Center in Southfield can generate better outcomes with its new software tools.

 With more and more businesses storing their data in the cloud, Microsoft is eager to show its clients a healthier return for doing so. “The goal is (figuring out) how you take that data and make money for your customers,” says John Fikany, vice president of the Microsoft Technology Center in Southfield. “We’ve added a lot more tools to accomplish that goal. Right now, for every $1 a client invests with us they get a return of $8, on average.”

How? The software giant has added several tools in recent months, the result of a string of acquisitions, R&D, its recently introduced Windows 8 platform, and new mobile offerings.

“When you combine imagery data, phone call logs, and Web patterns, a company such as Golfsmith could send you an email or text that you’re near one of their stores — and, by the way, here is a coupon that will save you money on golf equipment, apparel, or shoes,” Fikany says.

On the health care front, the software giant’s new and existing tools can track a group of patients at a hospital to see how they respond to a particular procedure. Some patients may recover better than others, and by mining that data via Excel 2013 and other offerings, possibly more successful outcomes could result, Fikany says.

Conversely, the owner of a single or multiple restaurants could combine customer address and demographic information using census data to better determine when a patron is most likely to come again. And if a customer visits with his or her family for recurring events such as a birthday, the restaurant can send coupons good for other celebrations such as a wedding anniversary or a graduation. The restaurant can tout its private dining options, as well.

“You can also arrange the data and plot it on a geographic map so you can see where your customers live, how far they typically drive to visit your restaurant, what they typically order, and would they be willing to encourage other family members, friends, or neighbors to visit,” Fikany says. “If you see they often order lobster, you could easily send them information on special lobster dinners throughout the year or offer them a discount if they bring six or more people in for lobster.”

Working with companies big and small, including Ford Motor Co. and Quicken Loans, the Microsoft Technology Center offers a boot camp-like atmosphere of software customization to customers at no cost; about 200 companies visit the center annually. Not only does Microsoft hope to teach customers how to better use its tools as well as sell them other products, but it can better stay abreast of fast-moving business trends.

“For us, machine learning is the next trend,” says Dave Sawyer, a technical director for Microsoft. “With artificial intelligence and our other products, you can become more predictive than reactive.” db