Improving MRDCL productivity by using functions and subroutines
How to automate things that are boring to script …Read more
Every software package has problems or could be better. MRDCL is no exception. This will be true if you use MRDCL, Merlin, Quantum, Dimensions or any of the tabulation scripting systems. And, being a specialist software package for survey data processing professionals, it is likely to present users with difficulties. So, what are the biggest problems that you will encounter if you use MRDCL?
MRDCL is a vast language for processing marketing and research data. Like most scripting or programming languages, there is a fairly steep learning curve to get started. That doesn’t make it impossible to learn, but I guess you need to be the type of person who can handle these sorts of tools. You can test this by recording a macro in Excel and looking at the code it generates. Can you understand what it is doing?
Assuming you have the right mind for using a scripting language, the next hurdle is knowing where to start. Our library contains six videos that walk you through the basics that you will need to master to handle most projects. Watch these videos and you will get an explanation of how to approach a project as a first time user.
Having seen the videos, the next challenge is to be able to write the script error free. This can be a frustrating period during which inevitable syntax errors will annoy you, but it needs to be worked through. There’s no substitute for practice. You can’t learn to ride a bike just by watching an instruction video. Having become proficient to this level, you are ready to progress.
MRDCL has a number of advanced techniques that really can improve productivity hugely. However, these advanced techniques can look complex to use and there may be a fear of taking the next leap.
In practice, we find that the leap from using basic MRDCL script to advanced techniques is not as big as many fear. In surveys taken after advanced training, we have found that almost 90% of attendees found the training easier than they expected. There’s a good reason for this. MRDCL is a logical language, which makes advancement easy once the basics are learnt. The language is consistent and does not have ‘black boxes’. Further, some of the advanced techniques, such as EPS (Excel Productivity Scripting) may provide benefit to many without everyone having to learn how to develop the EPS scripts from scratch.
Another overwhelming facet of MRDCL learning is that there is too much choice. Similar programs like Quantum may offer less ways of approaching tasks whereas MRDCL may offer a number of alternative methodologies. But, choice is a good thing, You have your own favourite way of doing things, but knowing there is a good solution to a new problem is always good.
MRDCL users quickly realise that there are good ways and not so good ways to use the software. The fear is that the software is not being used efficiently. We resolve this by providing a free critiquing service. We will look at your work and advise you on how to produce more efficient script.
If I look back at my skills in programming in Visual Basic, I learnt more in one hour when someone showed me how to reduce about 200 lines of code to 5 efficient lines of code.
Understanding how MRDCL handles data behind the scenes may be something that is not questioned. However, once you fully understand how MRDCL works, it will give you an insight into some of the techniques that can be used to improve efficiency. For example, if you are processing a survey that collects data for each meal occasion over a week, you could process that data as, say, 7 days of up to 5 meal occasions – in other words, 35 sets of variables – or you could process the data as a number of meal occasions and process that data at both respondent level and meal occasion level. The latter method is massively more efficient and is covered in a 30-minute video.
Again, it’s a case of learning, but the learning is probably no more than one hour or two of your time.
Learning to make the most of MRDCL is not a light undertaking, but the learning curve is rarely as steep as many think at first. Watching videos, getting good training and asking advice can quickly lead you to success. As I often tell people in training sessions “If you think there must to be a better way of doing something, there probably is. Just ask”.