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Communication is key for complex programming projects

The days of overly simplistic methods to understand audiences are over. The landscape is too complex, and incorporating complex programming in survey outreach is one way that companies are gaining more valuable insights. But this can be a frustrating undertaking if not managed properly from start to finish.

In fact, we’ve seen a significant rise in companies asking for complex programming projects over the past couple of years. They know that a simple, multiple-choice questionnaire is great if you want to determine what color your neighbors think you should paint your shed, but this approach fails to explore the more profound data points hidden within target consumer groups. If you’re not asking the right questions, you can collect data on a product, service or brand for years without making headway. 

When you incorporate techniques like maxdiff, conjoint analysis or include multiple variables, you have the potential to uncover the most precise details you need for decision making. However, this means starting from the ground-up and building the most accurate survey by utilizing programming logic. And this means engaging a programming team or programmer - a step which is often outsourced.

Outsourcing can feel like you’ve thrown your project into a cave; there’s little to no reliable communication, you don’t have eyes on the program to see the pitfalls, and sometimes a time zone difference or language barrier can hinder critical changes to the questionnaire that may be needed on the fly. 

Programmers will often follow directions to the letter, for better or worse. Unfortunately, in many data collection workflows, the sample provider acts as the intermediary with the programming team and the end client has no direct access to the programmer working on their project. This turns into a game of “telephone” where even the smallest mistake in programming instructions can become compounded. Some outsourced programming teams have little to no autonomy and lack the freedom to make crucial changes. Sometimes the errors are obvious, but the lack of reliable account management and potential language barriers can be exasperating and put you behind schedule. 

Take complicated quota setups with targets that include nested demographics. The complexity comes in programming the quotas in a way that optimizes sample. Clients might want to target a particular set of nested demos, but it can be very difficult for them to understand how these quotas will interact with one another during fielding. An expert programming partner can anticipate potential hurdles in the quota specs, communicate those to the team, and optimize the quota structure so that sample fields efficiently - avoiding unexpected quota limitations that could result in several extra days of field-time and lower IR. This requires direct access to skilled programmers, and expert data collection account management to help smooth the process along.

Another example could be monadic concept testing that includes a survey with five concepts for a new product, with each survey respondent only assigned one concept. While this may seem straightforward, programmed to require a simple n=300 completes for each concept from the gen pop, many times the client doesn’t consider skews in the demographics early on. If this isn’t accounted for by the programming team when setting up the cell assignment logic, there’s a possibility that one or more concepts might have a disproportionate amount of people from a single demographic (e.g. high percentage of females) in the final dataset. This is just one more subtlety to consider when undertaking a complex programming project. 

If you are looking to understand your audience through more complex quantitative research, then consider asking questions from your data collection partner such as: Can I have direct contact with the programming team if needed? Can I reach someone immediately, and easily communicate with them, to address any issues before they damage data quality? How often can I expect to hear from my project manager so I know exactly what’s going on? Rep Data communicates detailed quota specs and potential hurdles you may not have considered, something an outsourced company could not do, and that communication is one thing that sets us apart.

The bottom line is to look for a high level of communication when it comes to complex programming projects. Ensuring open, available lines of communication can ensure that your project runs smoothly from start to finish and that the data you receive is high quality. 

With our US-based team, you’ll never have to worry about getting us on the phone, and you can count on us catching any errors and fixing them before moving on to the next task; we constantly keep you in the loop. Fifty percent of our clients utilize our complex programming capabilities, and even more of them realize the benefits of Rep Data’s programming and project managers: communication is the difference.

How can we help you with your market research project? Contact us today.