Efficient vs Inefficient Market Research Data Processing
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At MRDC, we are often involved in the analysis and reporting of employee surveys. Having collected this valuable data, how do you deal with the problems of delivering reports and information to everyone, whether it is senior management or teams around the region or the world? It seems to be a simple matter, but data and information are often under-utilised. For these types of projects, we usually automate reports, so that each team can see how their data compares with other teams and, if the data is available, whether there are any trends from year to year (or whatever frequency is used).
How do you analyse the data?
Is the analysis software good enough?
You should also consider whether the software can deliver the results you need. Excel is very fast and good at running straightforward pivot tables, but if you want to group answers together or perform calculations (perhaps, positive percentage minus negative percentage for a rating statement), suddenly Excel is not the right answer. There are many products on the market, but some will not be suitable for leading into report automation.
What methods of delivering employee survey reports are available?
There are three main delivery methods for reports on employee surveys. These are Microsoft Office reports in PowerPoint or Excel (or PDF), online dashboards or interactive software where data can be explored producing tables, charts or reports.
The most common form of survey reporting for employee surveys is to produce automated PowerPoint reports, an area in which MRDC specialises. Excel reports can also be used, although the finish looks less professional in most cases. PowerPoint and Excel reports can easily be saved as PDFs. We carry this out by writing programs using tried and trusted components that transfer the data to the reports.
We would always recommend report automation such that once a top level overall report has been produced, reports for regions, teams and employee groups can be easily automated. The cost effective method allows you to produce hundreds (or even thousands) of reports quickly and accurately.
Online dashboards usually give the users of the dashboards an overview of the data, but then allow further interrogation by choosing pre-determined selection criteria. Online dashboards mean that the data is at hand wherever there is an internet connection and allow for on the spot analysis.
The cost is usually higher than PowerPoint reporting and changes to report content can be more expensive. Online dashboards work well where a central HR function, for example, plan to use the data over a long period of time. Where the data is simply being disseminated for short term use, a PowerPoint or PDF report is probably more cost effective.
MRDC has successfully produced a number of dashboards that allow customers to explore data more fully and can help to make the right choices.
There are some good software tools that allow data exploration. These range from competitively priced products like Snap to expensive Business Intelligence software platforms. Again, the breadth of the user base will determine which is the right solution for you.
As vendors of Snap, we can put your survey data either on your desktop or online so that you can explore the data using report templates that meet your needs. You can even build your own Smart reports in Snap – professional documents which can be customised depending on what the survey results actually say.
Whilst we supply data for various Business Intelligence systems, we do not actively produce reporting in such systems.
What is important?
If you ever watch or listen to local news programmes, you will find that you get the headlines first, but you are more likely to listen more carefully if something is close to you – perhaps, a fire in a neighbouring town to where you live or work. We are only human. We show greater interest in things close to you. Similarly, reports from employee surveys must be relevant. It’s no good sending a report to a maintenance team, who are small part of a big finance operation, if the first ten pages of the report hardly applies to them. Maybe, different teams need different report content or styles. Where we are automating PowerPoint reports, we often recommend that different report templates are produced for different types of users – it adds little to the cost. Some users may require a lot of detail, whilst others may only need two pages of key information clearly presented.
Getting the report template right
Most people are familiar these days with charts – many news items have infographics to explain the data. However, keeping it simple is important and many of the audience may not be regular users of such information. Keeping the report similar in style for large parts of the report might make it seem boring, but busy people need to be able to digest information quickly, so simplicity and clarity are important.
Having said that, if you have an audience that is familiar with reports, more complex PowerPoint report templates make little difference the cost.
Is the data good?
Some care is needed when delivering results from employee surveys. If results are being compared to previous years, is the data directly comparable? Were the same questions asked?
Other questions might include – is the data statistically robust? Are there are rating statements that are almost identical which may skew results? Is data being produced on adequate sample sizes?
Ensuring that your analysis and reporting meet high survey research standards is important. As an accredited company within the market research industry, we can help you to ensure that your data is being handled correctly.
Email, download or online
If you are like me, I tend to ignore emails that do not seem familiar. It’s all too easy to leave an email in your inbox, mark it for later attention and never read it. Do you want this to happen to your reports?
Email is generally not a good delivery method unless the recipient is motivated – maybe, your HR department is keen to see the latest results of an employee survey, but someone who works at a small regional office may not be.
Online delivery systems where recipients download reports are inexpensive and mean that there is an onus on the recipients to act. If someone doesn’t download their report within a given time, a reminder can be sent and, if it is sufficiently important, action can be taken to make sure the results are seen.
Online dashboards can also log whether the data is being viewed and are a good alternative, although it may be a more expensive route.
Most problems can be solved easily enough, but planning a clear path from your questionnaire development to delivery of results is important. In our experience, projects that have good planning from start to finish work significantly better. Again, we can help you with us and provide check lists (which will follow in a later blog article).