Will big data destroy primary research? I’ve read dozens (hundreds?) of articles that argue both sides, but despite a lot of speculation, I see very little attention paid to what may be the real killer of a lot of primary research: the “need for speed.” The increasing velocity of business (compressed product development cycles, social media and the desire for real-time marketing) often means not having the 6-10 weeks a typical quantitative research project needs. For many, the availability of big data is seen as “good enough” given the time constraints. So big data may be an accomplice, but tightened timelines are what researchers really need to address.
It’s the research vendors who don’t specialize in more strategic research I see hit the hardest by this reality. Big data is already eating into their more basic projects—answering the “who,” “what,” and “where” questions. At least for now, clients are more comfortable with (or at least tolerant of) longer timeframes for the complex, strategic work that CMB focuses on. The good news for us and for our clients is that so many of those projects benefit greatly from primary and big data playing together. In our Segmentation work, for example, our modeling usually integrates third party data, our clients’ CRM data, and the need/preference/attitude-based data we get from primary research. The combination of these data sources nearly always results in a much more robust—and actionable—Segmentation for our clients.
But the truth is we understand our clients are still looking for us to help them make decisions faster. Here are a few of the timesaving strategies we use to address this reality:
For starters, we work with our clients to dig into the specifics of their timing needs. And for many projects, they don’t need a formal report to help inform their decisions—they just need to know the “answers” to guide their decisions. So we will hold “data parties” (they sound fun, don’t they? :)) where we all roll up our sleeves to review what the data is telling us and more quickly get to the answer together. We can then write up a focused summary before we put together the formal report.
We’ve recently invested quite a bit of money in a technology solution that helps us move from questionnaire programming through to clean data (and even the inevitable PowerPoint slides) more quickly than we have in the past. This streamlined our processes and helps get us more quickly to those data parties.
We also make sure we do a great job in delivering compelling and easy-to-understand deliverables that are “ready to use,” and don’t require lots of time for our clients to redo anything for their own internal use.
So is the need for speed going to go away? Not a chance. Our clients face more and more pressure to get insights and results faster and we need to keep up. And although we’ll always keep looking for ways to leverage data and people to get our clients the insights they need, we’ll never do it at the cost of meaningful decision-focused insights.
Mark is a Vice President at CMB. He can't help but note that despite the between the increasingly fast speed of business he writes about and the increasingly slow speed with which he competes on the basketball and tennis courts.
In Boston tomorrow? Join the women of CMB as we host a WIRe networking event at the Globe Bar & Café from 6 to 8pm. Register here.