Tim is a world-renowned specialist in the application of technology in the field of market and opinion research and is probably the most widely-published writer in the field. His roots are in data analysis, programming, training and technical writing. These days, as principal at meaning he works with researchers, users of research data and technology providers around the globe, as an independent advisor. He is quite passionate about improving the research process and empowering people through better use of technology.

In Brief

What it does

Report automation software to convert mTAB cross-tab analysis directly to PowerPoint presentations containing tables and charts, with push and pull technology to allow for easy update for trackers or new releases of data.

Supplier

PAI & Gamma Associates

Our ratings

Score 4.5 out of 5Ease of use

Score 4.5 out of 5Compatibility with other software

Score 5 out of 5Value for money

Cost

Available as an add-on to mTABweb at £500 per required user.

Pros

  • All-in-one process for analysing data and creating PowerPoint slide
  • When adding new waves, overlay tool detects any differences and helps you to reconcile them

Cons

  • Charts limited to histograms – no pie chart
  • Cannot create your own templates yet
  • Windows only

In Depth

In the Autumn, Gamma will be releasing mTABview, an add-on to mTABweb that will allow users to build PowerPoint slides directly from their mTAB databases. We were given an unreleased ‘beta-test’ version to review.

mTABview is also a web-based program, but is Windows only. Rather than adding more features directly into the mTABweb interface, mTABview works in its own browser window. Logging in, you start by selecting the template you wish to use, as you would with PowerPoint. It works in tandem with mTABweb, pulling its data directly from the same database structures, and driving the mTAB analysis engine. This gives it an advantage over other PowerPoint creators like E-Tabs and Rosetta Studio, which can only work with static outputs, as you can refine and reanalyse you data as you go. Although the tool produces PowerPoint, you do not work in PowerPoint – it produces the PPT file when you are finished. However, as you build your deck within mTABview, you work with completely life-like previews of the actual PowerPoint slides. It offers a range of different slide types to work with: a title slide, a section header slide and information slides organised into one or two columns.

You might start by setting up the title slide. The template will provide defaults for font, size, or colour, to save time and achieve consistency. Any of these options can be overridden easily and intuitively, but regrettably in version 1, there is no way to save your modifications as a new template or to create your own – you would need to get Gamma to set one up for you.

Next, you define the slides you wish to see, and choose a one- or two-column layout into which you add your table or chart. As soon as you pick either, mTABview hands you over to mTABweb to build your table. You are then back in the familiar Filofax view to assemble your table and run the analysis. Hit the button to run the table, and it will post the results into the mTABview window.

Anyone preparing presentations will know that much of the time is spent in picking the right subset of data to show – combining categories or omitting them, suppressing either frequencies or percentages, switching off total columns and rows and hiding ‘Others’ and ‘Don’t know’ categories. All of this is made pretty effortless by mTABview. You pick the figures to display by clicking on the relevant column and row headers and the selected portions are clearly highlighted. It also lets you choose whether you work with frequencies or percentages. If you need to combine categories, then you can post the analysis back to mTABweb. It cleverly stores the original query you used to generate the analysis, so at any time – even months later – you can go back and recreate the table from the source data. From within mTAB, you can easily perform any recodes or combinations you need, and it will always post the results straight back into the slide you are working on.

Charts are just as simple. It does not use the PowerPoint chart engine to build the charts, but ingeniously, creates native PowerPoint charts in a two-stage process. When you export your finished deck to PowerPoint, you can use a small mTABview plug-in to pull in proper, editable PowerPoint objects, from the charts and tables created in mTABview.

Sadly, the current the range of charts is very limited – there are histograms in various forms and that’s it. No pie charts, no correspondance maps (even though mTAB will produce them), and no automated means to highlight significant data. These omissions are likely to disappoint early adopters when the program is released, though Gamma should be able to address them subsequently, now the building blocks are in place.

There is also excellent support for trackers, as there is in mTAB. Here, it uses the concept of an overlay. You take a previously saved presentation, and overlay a new data source on it. The program rattles through and reports all of the items where there are changes, not just in the labels, but in the underlying data structures. You can then click through these and decide how to resolve them there and then. Updating PowerPoint decks manually can take as long as creating them in the first place – but use this, and the prospect of a tedious day or two of work and careful checking vanishes into an hour or less.  If Gamma can grow mTABview to offer more flexibility in its outputs, this software is potential killer app material.

A version of this review first appeared in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, August 2008, Issue 506

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