5 reasons why your market research software should be Triple-S compliant

You are about to buy some new software for market research and the last thing on your mind is what you will do if you want to change software. In my view, it should be one of your prime considerations. Things change. Needs change. Will you be able

to transfer your projects to another platform if things don’t work out or something changes in the years ahead?

Legacy software

Although software developers, computer systems people, software vendors don’t like to admit it, the single biggest software problem when transferring data or projects is legacy software. The problem can be serious enough to mean that you will damage your own business because the pain of change is too big. You might put off the day when you really should be changing to meet client needs, improve productivity or whatever other business issue might arise.

What is Triple-S?

Triple-S is a standard interchange format for market research. What does that mean? It means that the metadata – the project specifications, such as questions and responses, and the survey data for a market research project can be output in a standard form that can be imported directly into software developed by around 60 software suppliers in the industry. The interchange form stores project specifications in XML format and the data in ASCII format so that it can be moved to another system. In Triple-S, your project is transportable – at least, the majority of the project specifications.

Who owns Triple-S?

The answer is no one. It is supported by a committee under the umbrella of the ASC, the Association for Survey Computing. It is independent and not owned by any company.

How Triple-S can protect you

By buying software that is Triple-S compliant, it means that transferring a project to another Triple-S compliant software provider will be much easier. Texts and data should be transferable without the need to re-enter or re-format. You have a good level of protection.

Why SPSS is not the right interchange format

It might be tempting to consider software that exports to SPSS format as being ‘safe’, but SPSS is not independent and could change its data and project formats without reference to any other company. Whilst many software packages can import and/or export to SPSS, there is no future guarantee.

So, what are the 5 big reasons for using Triple-S compliant software:

  1. Question texts and responses can be transferred to another product without the need for re-entry
  2. Data can be transferred to another product without the need for re-formatting
  3. XML is a universal standard for transferring information. It is easily readable, editable, self-documenting and understood by most software developers
  4. You can develop your own systems to feed into or from the Triple-S XML standard
  5. It is independent of commercial software vendors

Are there any pitfalls?

Any solution will have its pitfalls. The biggest problems with transferring projects using Triple-S are as follows:

  • When transferring a project between software products, each product may support different features which are not stored within the Triple-S standard or there may be features that are not supported by both products.
  • If the recipient software product has a different functionality (for example, transferring from a paper-based questionnaire product to an online survey product), you may have to add a lot of controls after transferring through Triple-S (this would be true anyway!).
  • Complex projects with complex variables or complex data (hierarchical data, for example) may not transfer well or mean a high level of re-programming when transferred.
  • There is no certification for Triple-S compliancy. Some software vendors may have minor bugs in their import or export tools. We recommend that you run a test to ensure accurate compliancy.

The real benefit of Triple-S

The real benefit is that you project metadata can be output in an easily readable form that can be viewed in an editor (there are a number of free XML editors available). Transferring projects faithfully to another product will at best be seamless and at worst significantly easier than working with those that store information in encoded forms or in unreadable or hard to read files. Reducing risk and being able to change products in the future makes sense.

Check whether your software is Triple-S compliant

To check to see whether your software vendor is Triple-S compliant, follow this link.