A little more than 30 years ago, in the afternoon of June 15, 1989, I boarded a train and travelled from Debrecen to Budapest. The next day was the ceremonial burial of the heroes of the Hungarian Revolution of ’56, in Heroes’ Square. At just 11 years I was old enough to fully appreciate the significance of such an event, I knew it would be a historic day. This was a once in a lifetime experience which would have a great influence on me. There were 250,000 people there, in silence, in dignity. The crowd filled and continued along Andrássy Avenue, as the vast majority of the country followed the events on TV.
The Future – in Our Hands
That day was especially important because we knew that if the truth of the Revolution of 1956 was declared publicly, the old system would come to an end and a new one would begin. Our future was in our hands: here was our chance to rejoin the European mainstream.
A few weeks later, with the spirit of liberation in the air, along with the open border, our family could visit Germany on holiday. In the evenings, we watched German TV news reporting from the Hungarian-Austrian border where East German citizens were trying and succeeding to get to Austria and (West) Germany. For me, hearing the Hungarian interviewees was an interesting experience, while those around listened intently to the German translation.
It was a wonderful time – but long, difficult years would follow.
A Growth Environment
Many years later – in 2006 and 2007 – and fueled by such experiences, Zoltán and I started building DataExpert. We knew our place was among the best in Europe and we would have to work very hard to get there. After such an uplifting period comes the daily struggle; where the values of Europeanism, freedom, and professionalism must be upheld by our young community of colleagues, born in the 1990s and who take working in a growth environment for granted.
How can we carry this on today at DataExpert, one of Europe’s leading operations companies? What can we give our customers, be they European or global players? Thanks to the growth of recent years, adopting a holistic approach has been a key value which we enforce in every project.
Holism – the DataExpert Way
It means that when working with customers we need to understand the business challenge as a whole, as well as the entire process leading us to a solution. But an indirect consequence of this is that we have one of the widest software portfolios among ops companies – the 2019 Research & Results trade show serving as a great opportunity to get to hear more about that, from us and others. However, we don’t just focus on the means, but also on working effectively with our customers on our shared goal, thus enabling us to deliver high quality through multiple tools.
To better illustrate this aspect of our business philosophy, I invited some of DataExpert’s senior colleagues to share a few examples.
DataExpert has of late technically supported a number of jobs requiring a range of mixed mode methodologies for professional data collection; telephone, internet, and in-person access. On top of this, data was to be stored in a database which could be accessed through surveys. Necessary, for example, when household-level data is to be collected and then different household members surveyed separately using information which is already known at the household level.
Effective database connectivity is also via a company’s BI system – a common requirement in 2019. Connecting to, writing to, and reading an SQL database requires a high level of expertise, even when projects use a suitable software (in our case, the tool is Askia, whose development team we keep close contact with, as with other teams). It is clear that such systems can only be effectively built and maintained if there is 100% understanding of the project and the business objective.
Keeping Up with Changing Market Needs
Here is another example of a holistic approach to data visualization: If a well-functioning project has been running for years with a successfully established system and a satisfied customer, why develop it? With time, market needs change and so too do the functions and capabilities of the software, so we cannot miss the opportunity to improve our existing projects, as it means that we can then offer our users a new experience while also increasing efficiency. But to do this, it is essential to know the customer, the market and the software. With our extensive portfolio, we at DataExperts can always provide our clients with the right tools. This is also why we work a lot on data visualization with Dapresy, who are leading the way in continuous improvement and keeping up with changing market needs. Market research is continually evolving, with new trends appearing that not only software developers but also users need to keep pace with.
Consider a three-year-old project, used by one of our clients daily. How can we offer our client something new when they use it every day and are satisfied with it? Having the knowledge and understanding of software and market trends plays a huge role here.
There is a growing need for automated processes and DataExpert has extensive experience in this. Dapresy is also great here as it can download data directly through many different market research software products via API or FTP. Automation is more than just using the API, it also provides a solution to data processing and applying analytics (automatic data upload is in the more secure mode: no file sharing or emails are required). And, delivering the right information to the right person improves the user experience – results are available in real time so users can act faster.
We also maximize efficiency with full collaboration between the DP team and the visualization department; working with quality data minimizes further work within the visualization software, whilst also speeding up setup and loading time. Having several scripting software options within the company is a great advantage as it allows us to provide the external DP team with specific plans to guarantee a successful result.
It is also important to have a great personal relationship with the customer; it’s essential to know what the users are using and how they are using it, because only then can we provide them with more. For example, in some instances 5% of maintenance time could be replaced with a single question: “Are they actually using that feature?” And, in the case of a large or multi-module project, that 5% is very significant.
UX is Essential
Software knowledge is essential to be able to successfully complete customer-driven projects, and to give our customers the best user experience. We need to know about the actual developments of the software to be able to carry out our customers’ requests to the highest level and guarantee a great user experience.
Re-design: By means of a graphical display, dashboards can track changes and updates in the market and customer image. They are also needed to showcase a brand to discerning customers. It should be noted that users notice the layout before the content, so good dashboard design is in fact an essential building block of high quality research.
All things considered, project development not only improves efficiency, but can offer clients a new experience, which is crucial in inspiring future projects. The costs and future usability of a development are not negligible. However, just making some change to an already functioning process may mean that development is not necessary. Whichever route is taken, care is needed in assessing and getting a balance between the invested work and expected end result.
Integration and Centralization
Here are a few more aspects to illustrate two important trends in today’s market research data processing (ops). One is integration, the other is centralization. Both trends can be the basis for development projects.
I already mentioned some examples of integration, but it is worth restating that this means the automatic connection of data collection and other data sources and is important because we can improve quality, deliver more data, transfer more valuable information in less time and ease maintenance processes so that we can put human attention and intelligence largely and exclusively at the service of research and business opportunities. Additionally, such systems can be scaled, used in larger projects with external data sources (CRM, external data provider, or any internal enterprise system) prior to and during data collection using the API, and can enrich final data at an early stage.
This can help the research by using relevant data right at the time of data collection, by asking certain questions only in relevant target groups, thus reducing the cost of data collection and increasing the efficiency of research. Meanwhile, for GDPR compliance it is important to accurately track personal information, know what happened to it, and ensure that this information is not compromised, as it is processed in a closed system.
Another trend in market research is centralized input and output. In the case of large international projects where many stakeholders are involved, keeping track of your inputs is a challenge, often because the different parties are not on the same page. However, having a complete consensus among stakeholders is prerequisite for quality work!
Of course, it is also important that everyone only sees information that is relevant to them. But using common files causes problems with versioning, which increases the risk of errors and misunderstandings, and turnaround times increase as parties wait for each other before they can go ahead in processes running in parallel. With this in mind, our holistic solution is to develop a fully customized input portal where changes can be tracked, everyone sees the latest version and, where necessary, only what is relevant to them.
In recent years, we have been managing not only the input but also the output side of centralized solutions, for knowledge management projects. In the case of multinational companies, it is often the case that over years, stakeholders are not aware of which markets or regions research has been conducted in. If a portal is made in which this can be searched for, the relevant information will be made available to the appropriate members of international labor organizations from the right source. For example, a Central European researcher will be able to see what research has been conducted on a given topic in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and perhaps Slovakia over the previous three years – meaning that new research will be undertaken only on topics for which commercially relevant information is not yet available.
Relationships Make the Difference
What’s the lesson from all of this? Technology, globalization and 21st century economic processes not only enable, but also explicitly require the development of international cooperation networks. This is often the case with a technology support company like DataExpert. That is why we will continue to invest even more in our ongoing, even personal relationships with our clients to work together at the highest level of understanding and offer them a service which includes a holistic approach.
We look forward to meeting you at the Research & Results in Munich, or when we collaborate on an interesting and challenging project. ■