Better late than never? Not in business.
Latency. Ask a musician and they’ll talk about why they still use that old reel-to-reel recording equipment. Ask an IT engineer and they’ll talk (at length) about the time it takes for information to travel down a length of optical fiber cable. Ask a business person…and they’ll tell you it’s the difference between success and failure.
In previous articles, we’ve discussed the fact that, for businesses to make well informed, prompt decisions they need up-to-the minute data, presented in a way that can be easily digested and acted upon. Any bottlenecks in the provision of this data mean that a business is operating from incorrect assumptions – with potentially disastrous results.
So what does this mean for the market researcher? In essence, it’s a constant balancing act – one between the need to collect the most comprehensive pool of raw research and transform it into a meaningful format or report upon which their client can act. The broader the research, the more potential for delay.
Working with traditional market research data is a challenge. Whether you’re working within a market research company or as an insight manager at an enterprise, your aim is to tell the untold, find the trends and activities in your market, find ideas as how to develop your business – or simply develop a higher understanding of what drives the consumer. The second step is to transform these findings into clear reports for the stakeholders.
As a researcher you work in an environment where you need to find quick answers to your questions. In larger market research companies you might well be dependent on many different functions, such as data collection, project management, and data processing. As the person responsible for a market research project, you need daily contact with all the people within the project – and you’ll need quick answers to keep your stakeholders happy.
One of the biggest challenges for market research is data interpretation. During the analysis process you might see changed trends, decreased NPS/Customer Satisfaction or a predefined group within the sample that exhibits different results, compared to the total sample. These are just a few examples of typical exceptions, but in all cases you’ll need to dig further down into the data to find the reason for the specific change. You’ll need to create new tables, breakdowns, weighting, or SPSS syntaxes.
In many cases you’ll need to contact your colleagues in the project team to receive assistance. You won’t be able to update your Powerpoint report until you have gained a full understanding of the data – in many cases this can make an already tight deadline even harder to hit.
Time and motion
While there are limits to the speed with which, say, survey data can be collected, there is huge potential for efficiency savings within the production of meaningful reports. An understanding of each individual step – from question to answer – will give market research professionals the chance to trim any extraneous process from production, making a leaner, more efficient operation.
Traditionally, the production of actionable reports has involved a circuitous series of steps. Assuming the data has already been collected, it might run as follows:
Stakeholder requests specific information from consultant, consultant passes on to project manager, project manager liaises with data processing, who produce table from data, pass back to project manager, then back to consultant, who produces a report, often in Powerpoint form, for the stakeholder.
As you might imagine, each of these steps is dependent on the turnaround time of the individual involved – each of whom might have a significant number of other tasks to complete prior to actioning the latest. Even assuming that everyone involved gets straight onto the task, the latency from stakeholder request to actionable report can run into days – by which time the data may well be obsolete.
So is there another way?
In a perfect world the consultant would have access to the pool of raw data without the intervention of data processing, either producing custom reports per request, or even letting the customer define their own, either through dashboards or charts. Rather than each report being painstakingly, manually generated, the live, unadulterated data could be filtered and presented according to end user – quickly, intuitively, and above all meaningfully. Data could be accessed the moment it’s uploaded, with tools for quick analysis and chart or report creation negating the need for any programming skills.
This has a number of benefits. From the business perspective, immediate access to actionable information translates to tangible bottom line benefits. From the MRA’s perspective, time is freed up for everyone to work more productively and strategically – from DP to consultant. By reducing the number of steps to production, errors are also radically reduced, since manual intervention is kept to a minimum.
Wishful thinking? Read more to find out exactly how it’s done in the real world.