Phil Hearn: Blogger, Writer & Founder of MRDC Software Ltd.
How QPSMR supports the increasing importance of data compatibility in market research
Triple-S was the first step in market research in the early 1990s to make surveys easily transportable from one platform to another. Triple-S was arguably ahead of its time. Thirty years later, transferring data from one platform to another becomes increasingly important each year. More clients want access to their data, and research agencies need to provide data access in different forms. And, of course, this needs to come cheaply, quickly and easily. So, how does QPSMR fit into this modern need?
This article does not attempt to compare the functionality of data collection and data analysis systems in any way. Its purpose is:
- To increase awareness about the importance of being able to transfer market research survey data from one place to another.
- To highlight things that can make this difficult
- To explain how QPSMR fits into this area
I’m going to call the need for making survey data easily transportable as data manoeuvrability. I’ve not seen the term elsewhere, but, to me, it sums up what you need in the 2020s. I’ve chosen it as I don’t consider exports to be good enough. It is important to provide data in the most convenient form for the recipient software application; I cover this more fully in the section Providing Data: Things that can cause problems.
The reasons for data manoeuvrability
Let’s start at a high level outside of market research. Everyone knows that there are zillions more sets of data in the world every year. This growth may begin to level off in the future, but the increase will continue. As more data becomes available, it is forcing a shift in making important data easily available. Market research will not be immune from this; many will argue it has already progressed quickly, particularly for bigger surveys and major tracking studies.
Manoeuvrability will filter down to all research
If it hasn’t already, the importance of data manoeuvrability will filter down to smaller, everyday surveys conducted by all agencies, not just the big multinationals. This is where QPSMR plays an important part. It is ready to provide what is needed to make all research agencies effective in delivering what clients want.
Why the need for data manoeuvrability?
The path of a market research project is becoming more varied. Market research is (at last, in my view) moving beyond tabulations and a PowerPoint report. For example:
- Clients increasingly want some (or all, in some cases) data in their internal systems
- Research agencies need to provide survey data alongside other business data/KPIs
- Clients are increasingly expecting data in online dashboards
- Research agencies want to use the most appropriate software product for a particular task
- Data visualisation has grown in importance
Some platforms that cover everything from online data collection and analysis to reporting are likely to have strengths and weaknesses. However, it is not good to be trapped inside one system that is inadequate in a particular area.
There are two types of import. These are:
- Imports that read in the respondent data only
- Imports that read in the respondent data and the project specifications (questions, variables, texts, etc.) – often referred to as the metadata.
QPSMR handles both of these types well. You can read in respondent data from an Excel, CSV or ASCII file; most data collection platforms support one or more of these file formats. For metadata, you can import the project details and the respondent data by reading data from a Triple-S file. Again, most platforms support Triple-S. Triple-S is a standard adhered to by almost 100 market research software suppliers.
Another format that you may encounter is the SPSS SAV file format. This format is proprietary, although it is open to allow you to draw down data programmatically.
By far, the bigger issue is exporting data so that you can use any applications you or your client needs. There are several ways of doing this. These are:
Triple-S: As already discussed under Importing data, this is a convenient way to link to another system as it transfers the metadata (the project specifications and the respondent data). It is in wide use within market research but rarely seen outside of market research.
SPSS: This may be a convenient way to transfer data, although SPSS is not always well structured for all market research data. It is, however, in wide use inside and outside of market research for other business analytics.
API – API stands for Application Programming Interface. In other words, it allows two applications to ‘talk’ to each other. APIs allow data to connect to different systems – for example, when you book a flight online, the application may connect with a bank, a seat reservations system, a pricing system and more. APIs are beginning to appear in market research but have a low incidence.
TSAPI – TSAPI is a new initiative that aims to connect market research data to other business data using an API. It is in its infancy but can potentially broaden the scope of market research’s footprint in business. It’s one to watch but will need some good PR to realise its value and potential to the market research industry.
Excel/CSV – Exports as Excel or CSV files generally mean that you only provide the respondent data. Many exports of this type will be as codes – for example, male=1, female=2 – although text outputs are generally more useful.
Other direct feeds – Other direct feeds can be custom-built so that, for example, an automatic refresh of an online dashboard takes place periodically or when new data is available.
What can QPSMR offer?
QPSMR does not have an API link available at this stage, although we will continue to monitor the progress of TSAPI. QPSMR supports all the other methods for exporting data. The more export forms your software supports, the more likely you can fulfil your client’s needs.
Providing data: Things that can cause problems
Providing data is not just about whether you can export the data in a particular form or not. It’s about data manoeuvrability. Here’s why. There is a big difference between what I call a ‘data dump’ and a controllable export where there is manoeuvrability. A data dump means that the software drops out everything without choices in a particular format. I am often surprised by the number of products that have this limitation. For sure, you can press a button in QPSMR, and you can perform a data dump, but what if the recipient of your data only wants five variables out of five hundred?
So, let’s look at some of the things that I believe you need for good data manoeuvrability.
- Variable selection – You should be able to choose which variables you export
- Variable ordering – You should be able to choose the order of the variables you export
- Export control – You should be able to preserve the controls on your export so that it is easy to amend or rerun
- New variables – You should be able to generate and provide derived variables
- Project changes – You should be able to manage changes to the list of variables or individual variables, such as when questionnaires change on a tracking study
- No limitations – There should be no limitations to the number of records or fields
- Codes or text option – For Excel and CSV files, you should be able to export codes or texts
Summary: MRDC Software’s commitment and what to expect from QPSMR
This article has explored the importance of being able to move data to the application of your choice. It is an issue that will grow in importance as the market research industry continues to offer more. Data manoeuvrability will continue to grow in importance in market research, and ignoring this is dangerous, in my view. One of our main commitments is to ensure that we help customers move data about how they want to as easily as possible. Some of the big platforms are ignoring this, aiming to keep you within their platform. This approach, I believe, is a fallacy.