What it does
Fully hosted software-as-a-service online research suite that offers a high level of performance and flexibility, with tightly integrated panel management capabilities. The panel module now offers support for online research communities
Ease of use
Compatibility with other software
Value for money
Three components: Set-up and customisation fee for panel typically £10,000-£14,000; plus, annual company-wide licence fee for survey module: £2,700 and for panel on sliding scale, from £6,830 (10,000 members) up to £20,630 (half a million or above); plus, usage fee per complete interview on a sliding scale, e.g. 49p for 10,000-20,000 in a year; 12p for 2 million.
- A captive application for CATI interviewers and supervisors rather than a web browser interface
- Integrated question and media library for rapid survey development
- Works with any modern browser or OS
- Provides a full web content management system (CMS) for multiple panel/community sites
- Panel can work standalone with other interviewing software, e.g. for other modes
- Online and mobile interviewing are the only survey modes supported
- Steep learning curve
A lot of web technical knowledge needed to fully exploit panel customisation
- Contains quant research elements but no obvious survey workflow for quant projects
How a panel differs from a community has become a bit of a topic among the research profession of late: how to avoid influence, whether incentives should be paid or not, or even whether the two differ at all. It’s clear that there is diversity in understanding and practice, and in introducing community support to the Globalpark EFS interviewing suite (the EFS stands for enterprise feedback management) this research software provider leaves those decisions to the individual. You could use the software to run multiple communities, multiple panels or any combination of the two, with different websites for members to use for each, and behind the scenes you may choose to keep all your panel members in one database, and segregate them logically, or physically segregate them into separate databases.
Globalpark EFS splits the task into three essential components: panel (or panels), projects and websites (the panel members’ portal). Therefore, if you had a panel of customers, and wanted to create a community of premium customers, as an elite group drawn from the panel, you could create a special website for these customers. Surveys are deployed through the respondent-facing website, and can be deployed to more than one site. They can even be skinned differently, so the survey the premium customers get be the same survey as in the general panel, but could take on a different look, consistent with the premium site’s theme. It also makes this a very appropriate pick for research companies, alongside the corporate EFM customers that Globalpark target, since panels and surveys can easily be branded for different customers or contexts.
The real power of the system is in its ability to create multiple panel and community websites, and for these sites to contain dynamic content driven from a number of sources. It means that once the site has been configured, no further technical tweaking is required, provided you do not fundamentally change the scope of what you are doing. All the routine activities such as putting surveys live, inviting panellists to participate, collecting demographics and contact updates from members, reward redemption, and the more community-oriented capabilities such as adding content to news feeds, featuring snap polls and results of surveys are simply managed through a set of attractive and straightforward control panels.
The site builder is another matter though – this is something aimed squarely at the web technician, and even then it will tax even the specialist, as there is a lot to learn and a lot of layers to work through. What Globalpark give you is a fully functioning web content management system (or CMS) which conveniently happens to understand surveys and panels. It is HTML and PHP based, browser-independent and, following best web practice, rigorously separates presentation from function. In an attempt to make it a little less complex, rather than having to write any PHP code, most text content can be written in Smarty, a text markup system. This makes it easy to pull fields from the panel database for display, and put logic into the text too.
It’s a highly accomplished implementation of a CMS and you could certainly use this software to build big fast-moving content-rich sites in which the survey activity was only a small component. It is a clever stance to take, though the trade-off is that all this flexibility is the time and expertise required to create a new site. This will not let you pop-up a new community in a couple of hours. To be fair, the people at Globalpark recognise that only a minority of customers would be able to do the configuration from scratch and tend to quote for doing the initial configuration work with new customers.
Version 7 also introduces a number new Web 2.0-style ‘community’ building blocks. Forums allow you to create threaded discussions, with members contributing responses, or optionally, defining new topics too. Whiteboards let you create a simple single-topic forum. Blogs let you turn the commenting over to your participants, who can add their own content and upload images, documents and so on. You can also feature selected blogs on the home page. Chat lets you hold one-to-one or group discussions in real time, to a limited extent, though stops well short of a full online group.
You can restrict access to forums and all the community components, so you can work with an invited subset of members only. Whenever content upload is an option, you can restrict the files you permit, e.g. only to allow JPEG images or Word documents, and the size can be limited too. It’s all very sensible, but it does not really jive yet for the qualitative researcher wanting to pull panel members into open, semi-structured research. There is no built-in workflow in the way there is for a quant survey and your data is likely to end up scattered all over the place. This needs more thinking through, and no doubt later versions will improve the situation.
However, praise must go to Globalpark for providing these features and making the software entirely DIY, if you have the skills to do the CMS configuration work behind the scenes, because many other community tools do not give you this degree of control or flexibility. You could do a lot of novel and interesting community-based and collaborative research with what this offers.
Sony Music in Germany started using Globalpark EFS a year ago for a range of research activities carried out in-house using their own panel. These include new product and concept testing, as well as song cover and artist image tests for upcoming artists or newcomers. Michael Pütz, Director CRM, Web Strategy and Research explains: “We also create target group profiles, including information about media usage, which is useful for developing marketing and media plans, later on, and we use it to gain additional overall consumer insights.
“It is sometimes said that the music industry is failing to meet consumers’ needs and adapting too slowly to new business models and technologies; our activities with our online panel at www.musikfreund.de (along with other initiatives) shows evidence to the contrary. For some years now, our consumers have become regular part of a&r [artist and repertoire] and marketing decisions and our reliable partners in developing new business models and proofs of concepts.”
The market research team was therefore seeking something that would let them create well-structured and well-designed surveys and offer integrated panel management capabilities too – and to expand some of these into communities – something else EFS offered.
Mr Pütz continues: “The possibilities with EFS are huge. We are constantly challenging EFP and the Globalpark team, and they nearly always come up with good ideas on how to transfer what we want to do into solutions.” He notes in particular the ways in which Globalpark allows users to save time and improve consistency through the use of both standardized ready-made types of questions and the ability to set up a media library to make it easy to insert audio and video clips, which are fundamental to the research he does.
“The basic functionalities of EFS are easy to learn and to teach, however, configuration and tool menus of EFS can be a little bit confusing to beginners – it is not self-explanatory, which is when the help of Globalpark support teams and experts is needed.”
A version of this review first appeared in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, October 2009, Issue 521
What it does
A complete mixed mode interviewing system with high-quality support for CATI, CAPI and web interviewing, integrated with panel and community management, and telephony integration for CATI, operating in a web-based or cloud computing environment.
Ease of use
Compatibility with other software
Value for money
Confirmit Horizons CATI hosted solution. Entry-level system from £8,000 per year. Web surveys and other pricing on application.
- Captive application for web CATI interviewers and supervisors (rather than a web browser interface)
- Switch easily from Web to CAPI or CATI and back again
- Clean, modern and customisable look throughout
- Open system capabilities through a range of API extensibility kits
- Sample loading capabilities are rudimentary
- No offline scripting capabilities
There is a new professional telephone interviewing system on the block with a surprising name to those familiar with it – Confirmit. Confirmit Horizons, released earlier this year, extends this granddaddy of a Web survey platform into the phone room and also the street and shopping mall, with full online/offline CAPI too.
Presumptions that CATI would dwindle away as an interviewing channel, in the face of Internet research have so-far been wide of the mark, rather like those predictions about long-awaited paperless office. Industry stats show decline, but CATI is far from collapsing. For many years Confirmit (in its earlier FIRM days) appeared to procrastinate over whether it would or would not introduce CATI into its Web survey offering. Then two years ago, it bought up Pulse Train, which appeared to have two jewels in its crown – a superior reporting platform, Pulsar, and a real workhorse of a CATI system, Bellview. The combined firm set about merging together the two product lines – an initiative that is not for the feint-hearted.
In a surprisingly short period of time, a merged set of tools for data collection has emerged, and in doing so, the Confirmit product line has matured into a very comprehensive offering for the whole spectrum of quant research. The manufacturer has clearly learned from the mistakes of others. First, there is an upgrade route for Bellview customers to convert their legacy QSL scripts into Confirmit, and secondly, the revised platform is not a hotch-potch of legacy modules and new modules – the capabilities of the old Bellview system have almost all been reproduced within Horizons without compromising the Confirmit environment or way of working.
Bellview was a very flexible system for CATI, giving a lot of control to supervisors over the management of interviewers, sample and callbacks through its admin interface and offered limitless possibilities to the script writer. Scripts were written either using a proprietary script language called QSL or a graphical (GUI) authoring tool called Visual QSL — though in reality, most people wrote QSL syntax. Confirmit, on the other hand, has always been a GUI system, and the developer took the brave decision to go with GUI alone. There are those who will defend the syntax approach to the bitter end on the grounds that it is ‘more efficient’ and quicker to do certain tasks. But QSL was quirky and took time to learn – and it was always easier to make mistakes than it was to notice them and correct them.
The Confirmit authoring GUI is, in practice, highly efficient and the developer has worked on optimizing it. There is often a fear that a Web-based editing interface will be sluggish in operation. Not so with Horizons – moving from screen to screen is instant and effortless. There will be a fairly steep learning curve for anyone experienced in QSL that has not worked with Confirmit, as the design interface is completely different.
The legacy code bridge will not convert everything – it seems to get you around 80 to 90 per cent of the way to a working CATI script in Confirmit, and it deals with all of the more tedious aspects of converting texts, even in multiple languages, variables and logic, but you will probably have to patch up any complex execution logic or clever scripting by hand. Another bonus is that a lot of the concepts are very similar between the two systems, such as the block-structured skip logic, and those that were missing from Confirmit (such as QSL’s ‘pblocks’ for handling beginnings, endings and handover from one mode to another) all now appear in Confirmit as ‘call blocks’. QSL users will, however, miss some of the syntax tricks that were possible – the Confirmit interface is not as slick as QSL in writing logic and performing operations on variables.
There is no separate CATI-specific module – all of the interviewing and supervision capabilities are also implemented now through the main Confirmit platform, which has been skilfully enhanced to provide a true CATI experience to users, within a Web-based environment. However, to avoid the problem of Interviewer and Supervisors having to work in a Web browser, both of these interfaces are provided as dedicated applications, or ‘consoles’. This is easily set up on Interviewer machines, or if interviewers and supervisors are working remotely, they can be emailed a link to download and install the package.
CATI interviewer screens now take on a very web-like appearance – you can control their exact look and feel through the same template gallery as a Web interview, and there are some templates optimised for CATI too. However, the console environment also allows interviewers to control all aspects of the interview from the keyboard, rather than the mouse, which is typical in a Web interview – though they can also use the mouse if they wish.
The web environment certainly improves the look of the CATI screen – they can be branded, for instance, with the clients logo, or made distinctive for different projects. These are not merely cosmetic matters – theming the screens can help with project recognition, and better screen design can aid concentration and legibility. They can also contain many more answer options.
The supervisor console similarly packs a punch, with added style, for supervisors. Again, how it does things is a little different for those familiar with Bellview, but the concepts are similar, and a lot of effort has gone into making the features intuitive to use. A real innovation here is the alerting report – triggered by events such as an interviewer not entering any data, or an appointment falling overdue. This is potentially a big money-saver for CATI units, as it makes it feasible for a single supervisor to supervise 15 or more interviewers as effectively as 6-10 with a more conventional system. This could even free up a few monitoring stations for interviewer use instead.
The next day CATI centre
Telephony integration is also possible through Magnetic North, a telephony specialist, with interfaces for both conventional telephone lines or VOIP. It is a web-based dialler, which means it will support either conventional call centres or satellite offices and homeworkers. When an interviwer logs in, they are asked to enter the number of the phone on their desk, and a call is placed to that number. The line is then kept open, and the dialler then starts placing calls. The dialler will support every level of automation from click-to-dial through to full predictive dialling, with the supervisors able to monitor and control the nuisance call rate through the alerting reports.
The telephony support also allows for recording of chosen segments of the interview, such as an open-ended question, or the entire interview. The web telephony also means that you could set up a real or a virtual call centre using the cloud computing model pretty much overnight.
Where does it end?
The sheer depth of functionality becomes apparent when you take a look at the other interfaces offered, to allow you to integrate Confirmit with other software. The software is developed using Microsoft SQL Server and using the Microsoft .NET framework, which already makes integration relatively straightforward for other Microsoft users. Confirmit have also embraced Web Services with a passion – this allows applications to exchange data and drive one-another across the Internet, effectively going in through the back-door but in a highly secure and also efficient way. There are currently nine different APIs for such touch-points as reporting, data transfer, quotas and panel integration. There is also an ‘extensibility framework’ to make it easy to develop specialist applications within Confirmit. One has already been designed by a third party for fraud detection and another is being developed to support interviewing on iPhones.
It is going to be hard in future for the humble reviewer to find anything that this software cannot do, since there are likely to be many more of these third party plug-ins. Indeed, the few niggles I do have are relatively minor in scope – sample management is still a bit too Web interview-oriented, and you have to be a Windows user to exploit the software. Confirmit are cagey about the pricing too, but it appears to be towards the top end.
Confirmit have pulled off quite a feat with Horizons – it’s a serious product with a friendly face that makes for a hard act to follow.
A version of this review first appeared in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, September 2009, Issue 520.
Catglobe version 5.5
Catinét a/s, Denmark Date of review: February 2009
What it does
Web-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) product for mixed mode data collection and analysis, including CATI, CAPI, CAWI and integrated panel management.
Ease of use
Compatibility with other software Value for money
Variable cost based upon usage. Start-up costs typically €3,500 for configuration and training then €0.015 per panel member and €0.03 per interview minute, with some additional charges applicable
- Completely web browser-based – supports Internet Explorer or Firefox on PC or Mac
- Simple GUI for most operations with a powerful scripting language in the background
- Strong on panel management and sampling capabilities
- Good range of imports and exports including Triple-S, SPSS and Excel
- Data analysis is inflexible and limited in scope
- GUI questionnaire editor is cumbersome to use
- Some performance issues – complex sample queries can be slow to run
It may seem as if we are spoilt for choice with data collection software packages, but if you are looking for a multimodal interviewing solution that is also web-based, the choice is relatively narrow – especially if web-based CATI is part of the mix. So it’s good to welcome a new entrant on the scene in the guise of Catglobe, a mixed mode interviewing system offered as a SaaS (software as a service) product by the software division of the Danish fieldwork company Catinét. The SaaS model makes it very easy to get started with little infrastructure in-house – all that is needed is a reasonable internet connection and a web browser. It is not fussy about which one: Firefox on Windows or Mac, or Internet Explorer on Windows works equally well. Catglobe is a surprisingly vast system, and the fact that it has been extensively road-tested by Catinét’s in-house fieldwork team is evident in the range of capabilities and options provided. There are different modules for sampling, questionnaire authoring, fieldwork management, reporting and some report automation. The interviewing module supports CATI, laptop CAPI and CAWI and even has a special Hall Test mode for a temporary local network of interviewing stations. All of these modules are accessed from a central home page through a pop-up menu similar to the Windows start button. Behind all of this is a single relational database which holds all of the assets or resources relating to your surveys – questionnaires, survey responses, respondents or panellists, interviewers, reports and so on. This is one of those advanced systems that moves you away from rigid boundaries of the survey to define how data are organised. The concept of the survey still exists – however more as a workflow concept. The system presents the surveys you have available to work on as a folder structure, which you can model as you wish. However, in the background, all the survey does is provide a convenient, organising view of the central data repository. Questions and response data from one survey are easily accessible from others, if you can make a connection through questions or respondents in common. This opens up endless possibilities for using your data more intelligently both in sampling and in analysis, and it makes the logistics of running one or more panels really simple. Panel management is an area Catglobe handles particularly well. At the sample selection stage, there is a wonderful tool for building ‘groups’ – which are effectively a database query. You use a group to pull a sample from the respondent database. However, this is a query tool that understands concepts such as key demographics, sample frames, frequency of previous response and interviewer resting rules. It then ties in seamlessly with the ‘communications’ module that serves invitations and reminders for web surveys. These work directly from a library of templates, so it is very quick to set up an invitation from an existing project and adapt it slightly for the survey. The system is fully multilingual, so invitations can be templated in several languages then dispatched in the appropriate one for each respondent. As it is also truly multimodal, samples can be drawn for CATI or CAWI in parallel. The workflow is well-designed, so it is not only quick to run through the process from end to end, but also flexible when changes are needed, or if the sample requires a boost part-way through the fieldwork. Panel recruitment works equally well, and there is considerable scope to automate this, including ongoing top-up recruitment. Recruitment can be by web or by telephone, and a phone recruit can be used to trigger an immediate web survey invitation for new panellists to complete their profile data. There is also an elaborate points allocation and redemption capability too, if you wish to incentivise your panel. Access to surveys and functionality is managed from the HR module, which allows you to define roles and allocate individuals to roles. Respondents and panellists are treated in the same way: everyone from the system administrator to the panel member is registered as a user and has usage rights associated with them. The majority of the system has a very cohesive appearance, which is simple to follow – it passes the test of deceiving you that you are using a desktop program, when in fact it is a browser-based web app. At the bottom of the screen are two buttons – one labelled Tools, which is the ‘start’ button that gets you to all the different modules; the other is the Folders button, which takes you to a tree view of folders containing surveys, questionnaires, templates – essentially all your data. The questionnaire editor has a somewhat different feel, and is not as well-crafted as the other modules. It does provide pretty much all of what you need, but it feels clumsy to use. You can view a list of the questions, but important details, such as the answers, can’t be seen without going into the question itself. There is no overview of the logic or routing, which makes like difficult for the scripter. There is a powerful scripting language available, and parts of the questionnaire created in the GUI can be exported out into this too, which makes writing it (and learning it) much easier. This is an excellent capability. Unfortunately, you are likely to need it more than you should if writing web or CATI interviews of even a medium level of complexity, such as creating a constrained sum set of questions. Really, more options should be built into the questionnaire editor. Also on the downside, actual users have reported sluggish performance with some of the database operations such as drawing sample or exporting results once the number of records is in the hundreds of thousands – though Catinét report that they have worked to improve this. The reporting capabilities are also unlikely to meet most users’ needs at present – there are some nice features there, but Catinét have ambitious development plans for the reporting side, so this is likely to be improved over the current year.
Customer viewpoint: Ólafur Thor Gylfason, Market and Media Research, Reykjavik
MMR moved to Catglobe a year ago, in order to move to a single interviewing platform for CATI, CAPI and web interviewing replacing a range of different packages in use to that point. As Ólafur explains: “The good thing is we have been able to use this platform for everything we do from CATI recruiting of panels to CATI phone interviews, CAPI and CAWI. “There is a powerful programming language within the software so when we do complicated surveys such as international surveys where you have to produce an exact data map afterwards, we can write the data handling programs in advance, so that when the survey is finished, we can export the data in the exact format the client requires straight away. With this programming language there is nothing you can’t do with the software, provided you have a little bit of programming experience. “Another positive thing about the software is that we use it for open-ended coding and this capability is very powerful – we can do this on the fly so that the turnaround time on projects can be reduced considerably. “We use it for CATI recruiting, and once the phone phase is completed, the automated CAWI questionnaire is sent out immediately, and everything is always interlinked, so it is very good for us. “With panel management, there are two key points. Firstly, because it is completely multimodal, and all recruitment is done by phone but recruits are immediately served a web survey to complete their profile. Everything happens at the same time. Secondly, their sampling is very easy to work with. It makes sure there is the right load across the sample and making sure that panellists get the right number of invitations, keeping track of invitations and reminders . Their ‘group builder’ is very powerful and very easy to use and the communicator, which is the email part of the system, links in with the group builder. “We have run into some problems, but the main thing for us has been that the support has been excellent – they are almost acting as a division within our company when it comes to support, so you forget about the bad things very quickly.” Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, February 2009, Issue 512
Marketsight version 7.3
Marketsight Inc., USA
Date of review: January 2009
What it does
Web-based research data reporting environment offered as a hosted solution and aimed at research data consumers, either to browse existing tables and charts, or to produce their own analysis. Offers capabilities for research agencies to publish results to clients through the software.
Ease of use
Compatibility with other software
Value for money
Professional $995, Enterprise (includes portal features) $1495. Academic licences at 90% discount. Charges priced in US dollars, per user per annum and include training and support. Reduced fees for agencies providing licences to end-users.
- Very easy to upload your own projects as either SPSS SAV files or Triple-S data
- Excellent support for charting both within the tool and when exporting to Excel or PowerPoint
- Can use simply as a means to distribute reports, or to interrogate data, or do bot
- Rich set of capabilities for recoding and transforming variables
- Though web-based, currently only works under Microsoft Windows with IE6 or IE7
- A little prescriptive in the kinds of reports it can produce – not necessarily for the power user
- Ignores any variable names in any data imported from Triple-S or SPSS: you have to work with the question text
The transformation that MarketSight has gone through since we last reviewed this web-based cross-tab tool two and a half years ago is a bit like getting a visit from the son of a friend who was a teenager the last time you saw him, and is now a confident and capable adult with a university degree who wants to come and work for you.
Back then, MarketSight was a simple end-user tab tool with a few nice touches, but quite a lot of limitations too. Though it was provided as a self-drive tool, it really relied on purchasing some consulting time in the background to get surveys set up, or to carry out the kinds of transformations you were likely to need on the data. Then, the product was developed and marketed by a division of the Monitor Group, a large business consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This provenance showed in the kinds of features the software had, or more importantly, did not have. It was very SPSS-like in its approach to tables and lacked support for filters and even multiple response data.
Since then, Monitor Group has spun off the original MarketSight team, which now owns and develops the software independently. Development is now strictly MR-focused and the result is a much more research-centric approach to data analysis. At heart it remains an easy to use cross-tabbing tool but with a new drag-and-drop interface. You can build reports and save them for re-use later, or if someone else has set up the report for you, you can simply open the tool and review the reports.
Gone are the irritations about not being able to define or apply filters, or create tabs with multiple response data: they are all in place now. You can also drag as many variables as you like into the rows and the columns of the table.
Charting has been integrated with the tables in a very practical way. Each one-by-one combination of variables in the cross tab is presented in the output display with its own small histogram icon. Click and a window opens to display the data graphically in a way that makes any interesting variations in the data immediately obvious to any lay user. A further button lets you tailor the chart, print it or export it.
There is better-than-typical support for ranking or sorting of answers in cross-tabs, and you can rank by any column, by the base or the mean. A simple arrow icon highlights which column has been used for ranking. Charts too are easily ranked.
You can also export whole groups of tables as charts, and post them directly to PowerPoint or Excel. Within Excel, the program will helpfully provide you with a tabbed worksheet containing the chart and another containing the table – and both look extremely presentable without any tweaking, which in my experience is an accomplishment in itself. The program will not produce a completely presentation-ready PowerPoint deck, but it will get you very close to it.
Other strong areas within the product are the creation of calculated variables and categories to combine variables or categories or break numbers into ranges, and a powerful way for end-users to create very similar transformations on a lot of variables, such as to add a top-two box to a rating scale. It means that researchers or end-users can be very self-sufficient, and avoid the need to keep going to their DP supplier. Whole sets of analyses can be copied from one dataset to another.
A big breakthrough is the importing: anyone can upload their own data and variables, if you have either a SAV file or a Triple-S data and metadata file – which means you can load in data for a very wide range of survey data collection tools. My only grumble is that, while it imports all the text, it does not import the variable names, and that can make identifying questions difficult in many surveys.
MarketSight is still a bit prescriptive in what it will allow you to present in a table, which could frustrate the power-user. It also lacks the means to examine cases individually, to check outliers or view verbatims. It does not handle duplicated datasets or files and reports saved from multiple users as well as it should – unaided, your report libraries could descend into chaos. Plus, it currently only works in a Microsoft Windows environment, under IE6 or IE7, which is not everyone’s browser of choice – though this is planned to change.
If you pay a bit more and get the enterprise edition, you also get a portal environment in which you can upload other files relating to a project, and use it to start building your own research library. The system also contains a full permission control system, so that different users can be given different access rights to surveys and also to have functionality turned on or off. It therefore makes the program an attractive proposition for research agencies wishing to provide a data portal to their clients.
MarketSight’s developers deserve praise for providing users with a wealth of online help, tips, tutorials and advice all through the product. It makes this web-based tool feel like a cross between program and a website: and what could be more appropriate for a product focused on providing information?
Customer Viewpoint: Renée Zakoor at KB Home, Los Angeles, USA
Renée Zakoor is the Director of Market Research at KB Home, a new home building company the operates in 15 states in the USA.
MarketSight is used across the business to distribute market research information. Renée explains: “We do a specific survey in each of our nine divisions and that data becomes the basis for major decisions each division has to take about what to build, where to build it and so on. We upload each survey onto MarketSight. My team works with it to do analysis, but it is also put there for the people in the divisions to make use of.
“What I love about MarketSight is that non-market researchers can easily go in and answer their own questions. Then the ability to export it into Excel so they work with it that way, and do graphics to PowerPoint is just great as well. We tend to give staff members an hour’s worth of training and usually they can run with it. I also have senior managers who find they can go in and answer their own questions. It is very user-friendly, which I think is critical.
“We have now started to work with using MarketSight as a repository for all kinds of files we want everyone out in the divisions to have access to. Previously we were using an intranet, which meant using another internal resource. Using MarketSight, this is easy for me to do for myself. You do not need a lot of sophisticated computer skills to be able to upload files to it.”
Another improvement that Renée welcomes is the ability to replicate sets of analyses for different regions or users, where the project is essentially the same, but different users in will each work their own dataset. “We can set up analysis for one market and it is then easy for us to copy it over to all the other markets without having to recreate it – so there are a lot of efficiencies for us in that.”
Asked about any anxieties Renée might have about making research data so widely available for non-researchers to run their own analyses, she is unequivocal: “Over the years, I have become less concerned [about this]. I feel the more transparency there is in the data and the more people you get using data, the better. The first step is trying to get people to use research to make decisions and this is a tool that will help them do that. I find it frees up a lot of researchers’ time to be more consultants to the non-researchers. If people have bought into the methodology, it can prevent a lot of misinterpretation. Ultimately, the research is just another tool, and it is down to the researcher to be the partner that will help business people make the most of those tools: MarketSight just helps make those tools more accessible.”
Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, January 2009, Issue 511
Vovici Community Builder and Feedback Intelligence, version 4.0
Vovici, United States
Date of review: November 2008
What it does
Web-based suite for building online research communities and custom panels, for both quantitative and qualitative research. Allows you to create fully branded respondent community portals easily, using an online point-and-click interface. Feedback Intelligence module offers sophisticated dashboard and drilldown reporting systems for individualised reporting to stakeholders across the enterprise from multiple data sources, and integrated with Business Objects
Ease of use
Compatibility with other software
Value for money
Annual fees in US dollars: Community Builder module starts at $24,995 for up to three named users; Enterprise Feedback Management module starts at $24,995 plus $1,500 for each portal user.
- Standardise and co-ordinate surveys, questions and measurements across all a company’s survey activities
- Requires no web programming or HTML skills for the most part
- Platform independent – Windows, Mac or Linux with any modern browser
- Integrates with Oracle CRM and a range of industry standard CRM systems
- No built-in incentive or reward management
- Can only execute surveys created in the Vovici EFM survey module
- Relatively expensive
Today more and more companies are realising the benefit of building online panels of customers to involve in research. The idea is simple, but the reality can be complex and costly to deliver from a technical standpoint. Whether firms try to build them for themselves or park the problem with a research agency, it is an area crying out for an off-the-shelf solution like the new Vovici Community Builder, which was released last month and effectively relaunches the concept of the panel management tool for the demands of Web 2.0-style research.
The product is a completely web-based suite which sits astride a database of contacts or panellists, and allows you to interface directly with the Vovici EFM survey engine as well as other enterprise platforms or CRM systems – such Siebel or Hyperion – so that sample selections can refer to real behavioural data from recent transactions for that customer. Configuring the interfaces with other enterprise data sources is, understandably, beyond the lay user, but once these have set up a customer’s purchase history can be used just like any other piece of panel profile data, such as age or location, or be used to drive sample selections for just-in-time research.
The Portal Builder
At the heart of the software is the Portal Builder, in which you design the pages of the community site your target panel members will visit. It is effectively a content management system which allows you to lay out pages with placeholders for content that will be streamed in from other sources, and which you can arrange neatly in different columns and boxes in the way most websites are organised these days. So, in the centre you could choose to put a list of the surveys the respondent is invited to some introductory text above, headlines from the current community newsletter on the left, highlights of recent survey results on the right and so on. The portal has built-in support for just about all of the objects you are likely to need to add when building a research community site: a profile editor so panellists can view and update their personal data; current survey invitations; past surveys taken; containers for welcome messages, help and links to more information or contacts. The list reaches far into the Web 2.0 milieu: you can add forums for collaborative discussion, blogs for respondents to view and react to, data mash-ups.
There is also a wealth of collaborative tools, from a simple suggestion box to access-controlled forums that can be used for asynchronous focus groups, so that quantitative surveys can be backed up by some selective qual work or vice versa. The highly modular approach means that any tool can be access controlled, and only available to invited participants. And if you are concerned that this portal page is getting a bit busy, it is easy to spread it across a series of tabbed pages, which you can title and organise how you like. There is a large template library, and it is very simple to create an overall theme with your own imagery and branding.
You can also publish results through the portal and make these relevant to the respondent – you could present each member with a report showing their answers compared to the survey as a whole, for instance, show highlights and add commentaries. Vovici emphasise this as the means to build interest and engagement, and work on the assumption that the kind of interest a community member will derive from the experience as a whole will eliminate the need to offer financial inducements. As a consequence, there is no built-in incentive and reward management capability in the product – something that will not go down well with agencies wishing to build panels.
Though the Vovici name may be unfamiliar to many, what is now branded as Vovici EFM was originally developed as Perseus EFM. The main web survey capabilities and engine are an incremental development of the Perseus EFM software which Interface reviewed in Research July 2006 when it was already a mature and capable offering for online research. Vovici has recently established sales and support offices in London and Singapore alongside three existing locations in the United States.
The other major addition since Vovici took over is in reporting. There is now a dashboard reporting system largely in place, with some development ongoing. It follows a similar philosophy to the Community Builder by allowing you to arrange graphical and tabular reports across the screen in columns and rows – as designer, you choose what reports to show simply by pointing and clicking, selecting them from menus and so on. Again, the overall appearance is controlled by externally defined templates and stylesheets, so the entire reporting experience can be themed and branded to match a corporate intranet site.
Reporting in Business Objects
The reporting system is, in fact, built on Business Objects (using Crystal Reports), which is a widely used reporting tool in the mainstream corporate database and business intelligence sector. However, Business Objects is typically of limited use with survey data, because it does not understand common survey concepts such as multiple-response data, respondent bases that may differ from the number of responses to a given question, or one-off data formats for each short ad hoc survey. The breakthrough with Vovici is that the developers have created a data model and accompanying metadata to make research data comprehensible to Business Objects.
The beauty of this is that any reporting can be a composite of hard commercial data alongside softer attitudinal and intentional survey data. Questions too can be analysed across different surveys. By smashing through the old silo approach, Vocivi is also working towards delivering true benchmark capabilities. The idea is that any question can be reused across any survey, and once the same question has been reused, all responses to it can be used to provide a benchmark, or by filtering that benchmark to provide sector-specific comparisons.
Enterprise Feedback Management providers like Vovici are probably more aware than most MR software suppliers that their products will appeal to both the corporate user wishing to do their own research, and the research agency – and the platform lends itself to collaborative working between client and supplier. For example, the community portal and interfaces with corporate data sources could all be under the responsibility of the corporate client, while the creation of actual surveys and the preparation and publishing of results can be contracted out to one or more research suppliers, using the same platform.
This is a vast system with massive potential, which in its very design reveals some research-literate minds were behind it. Users I spoke to report that that the community functionality is stable, reliable and relatively easy to learn, and has enabled users to standardise and systematise their research and harmonise measures across very large enterprises. Perhaps the product’s greatest strength is in its ability to integrate with CRM systems and other business intelligence sources, making research more relevant and mainstream within the corporate enterprise.
A version of this review first appeared in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, November 2008, Issue 509