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How does MRDCL compare with Quantum?

In about 1995, I was asked at a market research exhibition the question “Which is the better tabulation software, MRDCL or Quantum?” I found myself answering the question in that biased way we all do in business, but as I was answering the question I realised that I was actually saying “well, they are both very good”. And, that’s what they are. MRDCL and Quantum are two excellent software packages for handling the most complex of market research data.

Are there any new software packages?

It would be inaccurate to say that there have not been new arrivals since 1995 that compete with these two aging products, but there have been few new tabulation programs which are suitable for DP professionals, i.e. people who spend most of their time processing data and producing tables. There’s a few that handle simple requirements through nice friendly user interfaces, but then plunge you into Visual Basic or straight programming for anything over moderately complex needs.

Does power matter?

Then, there is processing power. I can name more than one tabulation software package that takes 24 hours to process what MRDCL can process in less than a minute. I expect Quantum would be similar. Some products can handle thousands, or even millions of records, and thousands of tables; others cannot.

Comparing MRDCL to Quantum

So, how does MRDCL compare with Quantum in 2015 – 20 years later? Well, pretty well. The big argument in favour of Quantum in 1995 was the user base and availability of skilled users, but that has changed over the last 20 years as well as finding graduates who are ‘computer savvy’ is relatively easy nowadays.

Quantum ceased to be developed before 2000 and it is testament to its completeness that there are still users today. MRDCL has moved on substantially, providing tools so that you can build your own templates and use Excel (something that wasn’t used much in 1995) to automate procedures. For example, you can build a custom template in Excel which MRDCL can use to handle things like code frames. Within the spreadsheet, you can have codes or markers that indicate which sub-total each code goes into and, hey presto, your table is ranked on sub-totals and codes within that sub-total. The average business manager might think “that is not really important” whereas someone in DP will know that setting up sub-totals for several long code lists can take hours – and even more time when researchers changes their mind.

The power of automation

Building these templates means that automation is possible; you can design the templates to do more or less what you want. Secretly, we all know that most market research projects are the same, so we shouldn’t be redefining things from scratch for each project.

Is there anything else? Well, running efficiently in the latest Windows release is obviously important – Windows 98 was a long while ago – and being able to handle different types of data and delivering data have become more important.


Phil Hearn
Author: Phil Hearn - Date posted: 4 December 2015
Tags: MRDCL, Quantum, tabulation - Category: data-analysis

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