Get sound and vision through your Windows
Snap, Quanvert, Pulsar, Fastab and E-Tabs, November 1994
The past few months have seen a rash of new analysis products for "Windows" which are aimed directly at researchers and users of data. Microsoft Windows is a means of making IBM-compatible PCs easier to use by, among other things, standardising the way programs operate and giving them the same look. While this may not be a selling point for motor cars, it is a big plus for computer software as it means that you will have a fair idea how to use a program you have never seen before simply because it will be controlled in the same way. Oh for the day when motor manufacturers agree to put the controls on the same side of the steering wheel!
Windows makes it easier to move information (text, figures or images) from one program to another. This is something the latest crop of analysis products exploits to the full. It means you can pick and choose, mixing software and suppliers to provide the total solution you need.
Steve Wills, partner at Strategic Research in Gloucestershire uses Snap, a complete data collection and analysis product from Snap Surveys. "We use it for analysing large volume data from customer databases with upwards of half a million records. It is phenomenally fast." They have recently migrated to the Windows version. "We have found it far easier to use. Now, I will deliver tables to my clients as before, but I'll also try to get them to take a copy of Snap and provide the survey set up ready for them to use. It allows them to probe much deeper into their data". Although Snap for Windows contains a very serviceable charting facility, Wills says they often move results directly into Powerpoint when preparing for presentations, or into SPSS if they need access to multivariate statistics.
Paul Martin, associate director at NOP, also spoke enthusiastically of the improvements they have seen since a Windows version of the product they offer their clients became available. They use Quanvert (from SPSS), which is a very specific secondary analysis tool. It contains no built-in graphics. Neither do you define your own data from scratch: this is done in Quantum and is best left to the specialist. Once you have a "database", Quanvert for Windows gives you sophisticated cross-tabular and statistical analysis It is a good example of the à la carte approach as the program primarily exists to present data to other programs.
"Previous versions of Quanvert were not so easy to use." says Martin. "It took two days to train new users. Now it takes about half a day. For the end user it is the perfect product. It is extremely well designed so everything fits on the one screen, and the rest is controlled by buttons." Buttons determine where you can place your data: one for Excel or Harvard Graphics will allow you to go on and produce a chart instantly. Richard Kottler of Quantime claims "it only takes about 15 minutes to get started. But just like using Excel, for instance, you can continuing learning new things for months." It is this wealth of features which appeals to their more demanding users.
A more modest offering in the Quanvert model is Fastab which is available from Merlinco. It does not have all the features of Quanvert, but this is reflected in its lower price tag. Bill Baguley, Systems Manager at Research Business Group in Nottingham claims that "on particular projects, it does 80-90% of all the tab. requirements for any extra analysis. It is well worth setting it up if a client wants to go into their data in depth." He reports that clients and their own in-house researchers using the new Windows version are highly delighted with it. It saves their specwriters some work and they are finding that clients come back with fewer queries or requests for extra tables when using Fastab.
This month, Pulse Train Technology launch their new offering in this crowded arena. Pulsar is a completely new Windows-based tab. product. While still allowing easy transfer to other windows programs, it takes a slightly different approach from Quantum by providing a sophisticated data viewing tool. This borrows heavily from Lotus Improv in using a multi-dimensional "cube" of data which you manipulate on screen with a mouse. "Viewing" is not wholly the right word, since this product also incorporates impressive sound capabilities. Verbatim responses from CATI interviews, or segments from group discussions can be heard simply by clicking on cells in the multi-dimensional table.
IS-PC have just released a windows version of E-Tabs which also offers support for voice, along with text, graphics and ordinary cross-tabs. E-Tabs is a quite different kind of analysis tool which, like the best ideas, is very simple. Instead of producing large volumes of tables on paper and distributing these at high cost, output from any tab package can be processed using the E-Tabs Publishers Kit then distributed on diskette along with the E-Tabs Viewer. Thousands of pages can be stored on a single diskette.
E-Tabs's power is in its ability to home in on any page or findings from a potential mountain of information in just seconds. "I use the analogy of an electronic microfiche" says Mark Katz, MD of IS-PC, who distribute E-Tabs. "It is happening now in many market research departments where the report comes from the agency on disk in E-Tabs format and researchers can sit at their PCs, find key topics and pass tabulations straight to spreadsheet without retyping - finding out a lot more information in the process."
The ability to get more from your data is common to all end-user analysis products. This should make them attractive to any quantitative researcher. But there is a long history of new software designed for the "end user" being colonised by computer specialists. Windows has done much to change history in that respect. For it to work its magic on analysis tools will depend largely on the vision of the people these tools are aimed at.
Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, November 1994, Issue number 342.
© Copyright Market Research Society/Tim Macer 1997. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.