Phil Hearn: Blogger, Writer & Founder of MRDC Software Ltd.

Distributing Survey Data To Clients

As leading market research software suppliers, we have noticed an increased demand by research buyers to access their survey data in recent years. This demand is not new. Back in the 1980s, Quanvert allowed researchers to produce crosstabulations from surveys quickly and easily. However, for many years, much research data has been delivered in static forms such as Word documents, or PDF files or reports in PowerPoint, usually with accompanying charts. The problem with these types of deliverables is that the report user cannot dig deeper into the data if something is interesting.

About this blog article

This blog article will explore the different ways that research buyers and those analysing research data can work most effectively, pointing out the benefits of each method and any pitfalls. I will be covering the use of data in Excel, tabulations, online dashboards and information systems. I will also be looking at the level of software you need to achieve your goals. This factor warrants careful attention given the massive gulf in the pricing models of different systems. Where relevant, I have outlined how MRDC Software’s products may offer suitable solutions. However, I do not believe any software provider offers every solution. I will also be exploring issues related to the data itself. Let’s start by looking at the ‘hands on’ systems for analysing survey data yourself.


Excel / Google Sheets

Getting survey data into Excel

Most survey platforms can output data in Excel or CSV format at the press of a button. You might have a problem as some platforms will output codes rather than texts, but more of that in a moment. Generally, however, this makes it easy to analyse your survey data in Excel or Google Sheets. Both Excel and Google Sheets have a facility to produce pivot tables which are, in essence, what market researchers think of as crosstabs. Also, Excel makes it easy to turn figures into charts and, if needed, link to PowerPoint. Excel has many functions and tools to explore data, but these will need knowledge and training like other software.

The Good Things

      • Excel/Google Sheets are usually already installed and, therefore, free to use
      • Most staff know how to use the basics of Excel; learning how to produce pivot tables is not a big step to learn
      • Getting from tables to charts is a simple process
      • Excel has other tools such as data filters and spreadsheet functions for counts, readily available
      • Filtering tables, charts, and data is straightforward

The Not So Good Things

      • Producing multiple tables or charts is slow; large volumes are not practical
      • Grouping responses together or generating data from more than one variable is cumbersome
      • Weighting data or applying weights is complex; statistics may be wrong if data is weighted.
      • Data only available as codes will mean outputs are unannotated

Tabulation Software

Getting survey data in your chosen tabulation software product

Many tabulation software products can read data from SPSS or Triple-S; some can read data from an Excel/CSV file. Most products will be capable of producing basic crosstabs with options to apply filters. Most will go further and allow you to create charts from the tables.  The ‘good’ and ‘not so good’ things may vary vastly from product to product. Choosing the right product needs careful attention.

The Things You Probably Want

      • Tools to apply filters on tables
      • Options for percentage types, decimal places
      • Statistical tests, including significance tests
      • The ability to build new variables
      • Some charting capabilities
      • Intuitive user interface
      • The ability to produce several (or, even, many) tables

The Things You Might Need To Consider

        • Massive difference in pricing structures
        • Multiple user licences expensive/not discounted
        • Weighting options inadequate
        • Difficult or time-consuming to import/prepare projects
        • Poor support, e.g. lack of tutorials or videos
        • You may be paying for functionality you do not need, e.g. a data collection module

MRDC Software’s Offering

MRDC Software offers Resolve and Snap, both of which have unique features. These are as follows:

A. Resolve Base

Resolve allows you to produce crosstabs, apply filters, build new variables and comes with over one hundred table options. Furthermore, it is free. Most projects can be made available in Resolve for US$100-150 if you have data in SPSS or Triple-S format. Alternatively, with an MRDCL or QPSMR licence, you can prepare projects for Resolve freely. Resolve is ideal for tracking and the most complex surveys. It does not matter how big the project is or how many people want to use the software; it is free. Resolve allows you to produce basic charts from tables.

B.  Resolve Premium


Resolve Premium includes everything in Resolve Base but has two significant advantages and one disadvantage. The disadvantage is that there is a licence fee to pay for Resolve Premium. However, it is considerably cheaper than most other tabulation products. The two advantages are enormous! Firstly, you can use around 20 freely available add-ins that allow you to produce complex tables or tables that would be impossible or time-consuming to generate. This feature puts Resolve Premium far ahead of competitors, with almost no limit to what is possible. Further, you can produce custom add-ins, which handle the most complex requirements you can imagine, including any proprietary outputs or calculations that you may use.


The second advantage will not be available until the first half of 2022. This feature will allow you to automate reports in PowerPoint using Resolve Premium. This facility will be particularly beneficial for tracking studies or surveys conducted in more than one country or region.


C. Snap

Importing projects into Snap is easy to do, provided that your data is available in SPSS or Triple-S format. Although Snap produces tables and reports like Resolve, its focus is on making Smart Reports and final PDF reports where a reasonable level of automation and design is beneficial. If you need to produce, for example, 100 reports for 100 outlets covered in a customer feedback programme, Snap’s Smart Reporting automation features are ideal. Snap includes a complete data collection module for online or CAPI surveys as part of the package. Its price reflects these additional features, but it is still significantly cheaper than many other systems and far more fully-featured than the low-cost/free products.


Online Dashboards

Although dashboards took some time to become popular in the market research industry, there has been a significant increase in usage in recent years. Again, a wide range of products is available, from basic offerings to complete systems where complex stylisation is possible. The price differentials are immense, from less than $1000 per year to $100,000 per year (and above). The ability to automatically or easily feed data updates into the dashboard can also be a key consideration.

Good Things

      • Dashboards (usually) allow users to browse data to the depth they need
      • Exploring data with ‘what if’ conditions becomes possible
      • Well-structured, intuitive dashboards often provide insights that are easy to absorb
      • Good for tracking studies

Not So Good Things

      • Setting up the dashboard can vary from easy to time-consuming
      • Dashboards users may not be aware of what data they need available initially, leading to re-design
      • Products do not always allow the output of results to PowerPoint, PDFs etc
      • Prohibitive cost
      • There is a need to keep dashboard ‘fresh’ with new data, particularly for tracking studies

MRDC Software’s Offering

For dashboarding, we offer The CYS Platform. We would place The CYS Platform in the middle range. It is competitively priced and has all the features you need for customer feedback and similar studies. It may not be the right product for a highly customised dashboard, but we can recommend the right product, depending on your needs.


Information Systems

There are a growing number of platforms that allow you to feed different sources of data into an online platform. These enable you to collate various survey and news sources to be available in a browsing environment, working both as an information retrieval system and an information-seeking system. They are generally expensive and customised to a customer’s particular needs. I believe this to be a growth area, although it is unlikely to be commonplace in market research at this stage. MRDC Software does not operate in this area, although we have a full range of tools to prepare data for information systems.


Whether you want a simple or complex data reporting system, one crucial consideration is the ease of feeding data into the reporting system. In my experience, this can vary from minutes (or even seconds) to, perhaps, several days. Data processing teams are often good at quietly resolving data problems, but it is essential to consider the effort required. With the need for data delivery increasing, using the right tools for data collection and data processing is becoming more critical. Here are some of the considerations:

  • How long does it take to replace data if there is an error
  • If you are working on a tracking study, how easily can you handle questionnaire changes:

– Additional questions

– Deleted/missing questions

– Code changes

– Brand updates

  • How far can the process be automated?
  • Can data be fed into the reporting system automatically?
  • What safeguards can you put in place to detect errors?
  • Is the software used to collect data good at delivering data as you need it?

The message here is that data connectivity is becoming increasingly important.

MRDC Software As Data Specialists

You may have heard the expression that data is the new oil. I’m not sure that the analogy is quite right, but ensuring that your data lives in the right software platforms with easy connectivity to other systems warrants careful attention.

At MRDC Software, we consider ourselves to be data specialists as well as software experts. Talk to us now if anything in this blog article resonates with you. Contact Nikki at