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A Slap in the Face for Market Researchers? Or a Wake Up Call?

Posted by Jeff McKenna on Thu, Aug 11, 2011

Boston Market ResearchA recent blog Success Comes From Better Data, Not Better Analysis from Daryl Morey @dmorey on Harvard Business Review raises quite a few interesting and maybe even hair raising questions.  And if you take any of them out of context they have the potential to ruffle quite a few feathers in the market research industry. For example,

As much as I don't want to admit it, however, the age of the irreplaceable analyst no longer exists, if it ever did…  If better analysts won't create an edge, however, what will?  The answer is better data. Yep, that's right. Raw numbers, not the people and programs that attempt to make sense of them.” Daryl Morey

What!? “Not the people and programs that makes sense of them,” those are harsh words and we all know you can have all the data in the world, but data does not equal insights without having the right people and tools behind it. In fact, at CMB we pride ourselves on our people and tools…but I took a deep breath and read on.

And I’m glad I did. I think what he is really getting at is smart people and the right tools are not enough anymore.  I agree, we do need to be collecting more data – yes, even a “sea of data."  Data that helps us understand the currents and tides and direct change.  Analysts are still, and always will be, vital for categorizing, prioritizing, and making sense of it all. In the end, you never know where you will find the next big idea.  This happens only when you are listening, not only to your own audience, but to those of your competitors as well.

So in looking more closely at what Mr. Morey is saying, I’d have to say he makes a great point.  Companies should be doing more to find and gather useful data for their analytical efforts.  When done with an eye to competitive differentiation, data becomes more than a commodity – it becomes an investment.  And, it’s up to analysts (like us) to determine:

  1. The best data to gather,

  2. The best way to structure and prepare the data,

  3. The most appropriate analytical techniques, and

  4. The ideal method for reporting and informing internal clients of the results

I know I’m biased, but I believe market researchers should play a central role in the strategic missions companies apply to their data.  If not leading the effort, then at least being part of the core team directing the vision and activities.  I’d love to hear from you. What’s your perspective?

Posted by Jeff McKenna. Jeff is a senior consultant at CMB and a lover of the mid-west, the Cleveland Indians, and gleaning key insights from data to drive innovation and change.

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Join Jeff McKenna Wednesday August 24th 12 PM ET as he talks about how to make your “sea of data” more visually compelling.

This presentation will highlight some of the tools that are already available at little or no cost and give a hands-on view of how they can be used to make sure you and others throughout your organization get the most out of the research. Register Here

Topics: strategy consulting, data collection, consumer insights