Automation isn’t just about the technology

The Q3/Q4 2016 GRIT report identifies automation as one of the areas generating the most buzz among client and supply-side market researchers: one-third call it a game changer, and well over another one-third are interested in following the trend. The results are not surprising given the rising attention to agile market research, and emerging technologies.

Yet, the concept of automation is not new to the marketing research industry, so I assume the “game changer” aspect must be referring to the growing number of software and platform solutions that span all phases of research, for example:

  • Sample/Fielding – Routing, optimization and aggregation
  • Data Collection – Video/voice-to-text transcription; social media scraping
  • Analysis – Data manipulation; sentiment/text analysis
  • Reporting – Online dashboards; customer experience/VOC systems that immediately alert stakeholders of customer feedback

At MSI, we’re constantly evaluating and developing innovative solutions that support automation, but our embrace of automation goes beyond the technology itself. After all, we can still use “old school” techniques to automate tasks (remember recording macros in Excel or running SAS/SPSS syntax?). The true benefits of automation come from the processes to reduce time and costs, increase efficiency, and ensure quality, which allows us to produce greater insight and value to our clients (and more quickly).

Approach to Automation

When seeking automation opportunities, we are mindful of our core objective: to implement efficiencies with the intent to save time and avoid errors by eliminating redundancies. However, the rise of available automation tools (not to mention the impressive demo videos on their websites) makes it easier to fall into the trap of simply purchasing software and expecting to see an immediate ROI. Deployment of automation solutions requires a clearly defined plan and understanding of objectives in order to be successful.

Meg Janzer of our Marketing Sciences team outlined MSI’s approach in evaluating automation opportunities:

Approach_to_Automation Steps_to_automation


The critical part of our approach are steps 1, 2 and 3, before we begin development, to ensure that our energy is focused on solving problems rather than technology that we may not utilize. More time spent answering these questions – most importantly step 2 “identifying the rules of automation” – helps the development stage go smoothly.

During the development stage, steps 4 and 5, we perform rigorous testing before releasing the solution, even testing scenarios with a low probability of occurring. The automation solution is deployed once we are confident in its ability to meet our needs. 

Potential of Automation

Certainly there is much value to be gained as the marketing research industry strives to further incorporate automation into daily activities, particularly in regards to operational efficiencies (faster turnaround, lower costs, less manpower resources, etc.).

At MSI, we are constantly evaluating ways to automate our business and processes. We monitor the opportunities and identify those that have a positive impact. But, we don’t rely solely on technology and automate for automation’s sake. Rather, we leverage automation with one goal in mind – provide better insights to our clients’ business objectives.

By capitalizing on the efficiencies of automation, we are able to spend more time thinking about our clients’ business challenges. Let us know if you would like to learn more about how MSI is able to this.

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