Webinar: Interim Data

Interim data is the key to smoothing out reporting, and avoiding "feast and famine" timelines.

June 21, 2024
In this article, we're going to discuss:

Interim data is simply a sneak-peek at the data part way through fielding a survey. In itself it's too early to be reported on, but it can give you enough of a shape to make a draft of your report. Then you can swap in the final data once it's ready, and add analysis and insights. Shifting your layout, chart type and alignment checking before you get the final data gives you more space for the skilled analysis.

We speak to Samantha Dimmitt from Q&A Research who is making this change, and looking to reduce her reporting time from 14 days to 4.

Introduction to Interim Data

Adam: I would have probably spoken with many of you in the past but for those of you who don't know me I'm Adam, Chief strategy officer here at Indico Labs. I have over a decade of experience as a market researcher and I'm all too familiar with the pain of manually creating PowerPoint reports by hand. In fact if you've been keeping up with our LinkedIn posts some of you will have seen this quote pop up, this is me. I literally lived and dreamt a monthly tracker that was on a constant loop and was essentially in my conscious and subconscious. Anyway we're not here today to talk about trackers, that's coming up later in the year. In this section of the webinar we're going to discuss the process of setting reports up on interim data and refreshing them with final data once it's ready. We'll provide a demo of how SlideGen makes this process a viable solution and we'll take a look at the benefits. So let's dive in.

I'm sure this is going to sound familiar to you but I've had times in my research career where I'm juggling multiple projects all at different stages in the research cycle. I'm a planner so I would have had timelines for each, planning exactly when the field work will finish, when I will receive the tables, and how long I've got to produce the customer report. The problem is there are two highly unpredictable elements to the majority of market research projects: your client and your fieldwork provider. Anyone here who has either had research customers or is a research buyer themselves, which I'm certain is everyone, will know that there are more often than not going to be delays getting sign off from the customer. Then once you're in-field you're hanging around for those last 15 completes in Luxembourg or somewhere before you can produce your final tables and therefore your report, and then of course the inevitable happens. You've got three big projects all coming to a head at the same time; one of them is already late, another deadline is being squeezed by the customer, and you're lucky enough that one of the three is pretty chilled out. But still you need to either work early mornings and late nights or you need to pull in resources from other departments. Well what if I told you that there was a better way? By integrating with SlideGen you can introduce a workflow that allows you to keep control of your timelines and even deliver ahead of schedule to some of your customers to keep things simple. I've broken this down into three stages for you. 

The three stages

Stage one: interim data and report design. Before your project kicks off in-field, request interim data from your DP provider or department. At this point you can decide what you feel comfortable with, but more often than not you're probably going to get a good read on how the data is going to fall out. At about 50 to 75% of your sample being filled using this data you can begin to design your final report while your other projects are collecting data or you're waiting on sign off from the client.

Stage two: map with SlideGen. Upload your new report and your interim data to SlideGen and then using the point and click interface simply map data from your Excel to your PowerPoint. You can even map sample size data to call-out boxes as well as, obviously, charts and tables. On top of this you can perform transformations to do things like sort the data and trim to keep only the top five response options.

Stage three: receive your final data. When you receive your final data tables from your DP provider simply duplicate your project in SlideGen and use the switch data function to refresh the entire report. Everything will be updated; the base sizes, the callouts, the charts, the tables. And best of all, those transformations that you set up are all going to be re-applied to the data.So even though the data is different if you ask the platform to show you only the top five that's what you're going to get with the new data. It's the same with things like conditional formatting and sig testing. 

Now I imagine that some of you are still going to have reservations because how are you going to be sure that you're reporting on the right thing? or maybe the data will have changed so that you want to add a new slide here and there or even delete a section. Well let me ask you this, is it better at that stage to be starting from scratch with a limited time of resources so you end up with a rushed report? or would you rather have a report that is say 80% finalized and requires a little bit of refreshing here and there? Granted there will be some projects where this might not work for you. But for the ones where you already have an idea of what the client requires in the report there is no reason why you can't get a head start. Believe me the benefits will touch more than just you, but let's see the process in action before we talk about that.

Demo in SlideGen

Jumping into SlideGen I've already imported my PowerPoint template and I've imported my interim data and I've done all the mapping. I didn't want this to be a video where I show you exactly how we map everything, but I will show you a few things before we get on to the important part. So here I have a demographic section and I've mapped some data to text boxes and I've mapped data to charts and tables. I've also mapped the base size down here so the sample size at the moment with my intern data is 975 respondents. We have a brand association section which is essentially our awareness and our purchase behavior and consideration. So we have this kind of funnel style where these are just individual text boxes and then we have charts for unaided awareness by total and segmentation, aided awareness purchases and consideration. Now I just want to show you something in here, what we’ve done is sort the data from high to low using our Transformations. We've sorted the data and then we've anchored Wild Roots to the top and then we've used our ‘filter by text’ search to remove the ‘none of these’ answer option. So that's something we've already done to the data here and the important part is that when we switch data this order might not be the same because these percentages might change but these Transformations are going to be repeated in the order that we've set them here. Again for this slide, for this chart the ‘sort by’ is going to be applied to the anchor labels and then the ‘filter by text’ search is going to be applied and that's the same for the different sections in here too. For example the brand metric where we've done some Sig testing against Wild Roots and then we have these statements with a bunch of Transformations applied here - two filter text switched and rows and columns and so on. And then we have an appendix section as well which is just a bunch of tables really, there we go. Now this doesn't look like a perfect report within the platform but when we download to PowerPoint it's going to look exactly as it did when we designed it in PowerPoint, which we will do at the end. 

But before we do that I want to come on to the important part. We're going to upload our final data, we finished in-field, our data processing team have had the time to produce the new set of tables so we have all of our respondents we just need to update this report. I'm going to show you how quick and easy that is now that we have already mapped everything within the platform. Within SlideGen, move over to the data sources and upload our new data file.

So I'm going to select final data and upload that file, so now that we've uploaded the data file we want to essentially swap them around. At the moment it's using our original data source, which is early data, we want to swap that with our final data. Before we do that I just want to highlight a couple of numbers in here again so we have 34% here, 25, 41. Those are nice and big so you can keep an eye on those see what happens when we switch the data. The other thing is we have these 975 respondents, I know that that changes to something above 2,000 so keep an eye on that and you'll see that happen as well. 

To switch the data behind the project there is a ‘switch data’ button here and you get a warning to tell you that you are going to be overriding the data, and you just pick your final data source. Check compatibility at this stage. If it finds any differences between the files that it's not expecting then it might warn you that some of your, let's say you've removed a table, it will warn you that that table is no longer there and give you the opportunity to remap the data for that specific chart. I know that these files are the same so we don't have any compatibility issues so we just need to hit perform and, okay, there we go. So this number I think was 34% before has now jumped up to 38% we've got 27, 35, and our base size is 23, 34 respondents. All of these other numbers have been updated as well and the same for every single slide everywhere that we've mapped information to has been updated including the transformation, so Wild Roots is still pinned to the top but the sort order might be different in.From here we can download to PowerPoint and get to work on those little updates that we might need to apply

But you can see in under a minute you can go from receiving your data to having 80% or more of your report complete and ready for your final data import, narrative, and if you've got some extra time spend it on crafting a compelling story rather than fiddling around with the data.

Who to involve

Hopefully you're already on board and excited to try out this new process for yourself however if you're still on the dubious side wait until we look at some of the benefits that you may not have already considered. Aside from the obvious of you taking back more control over your time working on a report at your own pace rather than being dictated by the field work timings there are other areas that this workflow touches and some of these may even help you get internal buy in for the process change.

First up your DP provider or team, they might be hesitant at first. You're essentially asking them to do their part of the job twice, but hear me out. How often are you receiving your final tables only to see that you need to add a new cut or you want the data to be changed in some way and then what you're making your request you're going to the back of the queue and you're probably waiting impatiently for your rerun of your tables while your deadline is zooming towards. By taking an interim cut of the data you get an early chance to spot anything that's missing from your spec and request the changes that can be incorporated into your final run with little to no stress. So not only are you taking the pressure off yourself but your data processing colleagues are going to be having a better time too. 

Number two, your quality checking team. You're using a software to map and perform data Transformations what this means is that if you've got everything right with your interim data it's all also going to be correct when you switch your data. So with your interim report you can export it to PowerPoint and hand it off to your quality checking team or colleagues and they don't need to rush either because you're probably still going to be waiting for Luxembourg 3 days from now. They've got plenty of time to perform the quality checks and sign everything off before you even start working on your final report. 

Last but not least you're going to end up with happy customers. Those tight deadlines are no longer an issue you're probably even able to deliver your report ahead of schedule or at least very soon after your fieldwork completes and you will have more time to focus on the important narratives rather than rushing to get all of your data transferred into chart format. Happy you, happier colleagues happy customers what's not to love

Interview with Samantha Dimmitt from Q&A Research

Adam: Okay so we'll start with something easy, uh if you could tell us a little bit about Q&A research and your role in the company?

Samantha: Sure so Q&A research has been in business for more than 30 years now so we've weathered many ups and downs industrywide and we have clients across many Industries serving both quantitative and qualitative research services. We work with financial services primarily but also have worked with food and beverage. We have a big presence there and we've worked with retail services companies of all shapes and sizes over the course of 30 years. Q&A research has worked with a lot, I have been with Q&A research for six years I'm going on actually seven years now and I started at the bottom as a project assistant and have worked my way into being the senior analyst on Q&A team. So I have worn many hats over my time at Q&A and now now I am in charge of all of the reporting that we do here. 

Adam: So this is a new workflow for you that you're implementing. How do you expect it to impact you and your team?

Samantha:  I'm really personally very excited about this workflow. I think that it's going to be a great change for our company and to describe our current system right now: what we do is we have a general idea of how we want to analyze our reports there can be some set up occasionally when the reports are not quick turnaround. But as I mentioned we work with businesses of all shapes and sizes and a lot of those businesses do require quick turnaround projects, so that time in field is really valuable and it's something that we haven't been capitalizing on. This is where the new software and the new process will come in, we're hoping to maximize that time in field and use it to get our clients and ourselves really pushing forward with that reporting effort so that they can get their deliverable as quickly as they want it. Which is pretty much right after the field closes. Our current process works at about 14 days from field close until the client can get their report. We have been able to turn it around faster but it's always a big struggle internally to get everything closed and turned around and everyone feels a little bit frantic. With the new process I'm really optimistic that we'll be able to to take that reporting time down. I quoted my colleague, we're hoping to go from 14 to 4 days in terms of our reporting turnaround and I'm really hopeful that using that time while the survey is in field we'll be able to just free up a lot of time on the back end and get us to really think about the analytical story that the client wants to hear. At the end we can tell them all of the details and be a little bit more thoughtful in the report that we give to them, not just cram to get all of the data in and the report back to the client's hands.

Adam: Change is usually a little bit difficult to push, through how did you get the rest of your team on board?

Samantha: Yeah so at Q&A we're a small executive team, but I did talk to each of our stakeholders before discussing this because it actually does impact everyone at the company. I spoke to our data team and made sure that everyone was really on board with the changes, and the changes that it would mean for them. It means that our project managers need to be discussing reporting with the clients earlier. It means that our data team needs to be ready to prepare a mid-field data run, and it means that everyone needs to be a little bit more thoughtful upfront. However I was actually met with little opposition and everyone was very excited to hear that we could be more intentional in all of our processes and and really shrink that turnaround time with a lot less stress to everyone involved.

Adam: Lastly I'd love to hear a little bit about what you enjoy about working with Indco Labs

Samantha: Well I have worked with Adam for a few years and everyone at Indico has been extremely responsive. One of the most important things that I was looking for in a software provider and also in a partner in our reporting process is that that personable and responsive attitude that I get from everyone at Indico. Everyone has been extremely helpful and I know that whenever I run into a problem I have an immediate solution. I was actually just telling a colleague this yesterday on a phone call that I trust Indico immediately and implicitly to take care of anything that may come up, any issue that I run into I know I have a partner on the other side who will help me work through it. And if there's something that isn't possible I know that they will move heaven and earth to try and make it happen or bring it to their team so that they can also work on it as well. So I have every confidence that our partnership is really strong moving forward and I'm looking forward to the changes to our workflow internally at Q&A and also what the partnership can do for both of our companies.