Article #36: Internet CATI and web interviewing: CONFIRM from The FIRM A/S


Tim Macer assesses a web-based research tool that can replace CATI and paper-based software solutions

Doing it all on the web

 

Who needs computer software when you can use the web? This is the message from Norway's FIRM (Future Information Research Management). Its CONFIRM system is the first 100% web-based CATI, paper and web interviewing solution.
With CONFIRM, the web becomes the environment in which you do your everyday work: designing questionnaires, setting up analysis, checking results and so on. For a system that has only existed for two years, it is already a match for many of the established names in software, and can teach them all a thing or two about tracking studies and automated reporting to name just two areas. With no software to install, or system management hassles this will be an attractive option for smaller agencies, but seems to have enough flexibility to satisfy the biggest.
CONFIRM applies a workflow model to the research process, so that you can move seamlessly from one activity to the next. Productive tools and an emphasis on re-use saves time and effort all along the way, while putting the researcher in control. And you can collaborate with colleagues and clients who may be across the corridor or on the other side of the globe. Everyone just points their web browser to the FIRM's site, types the appropriate passwords and enters a secure environment where it's all going on.
Questionnaire set-up is reached through an excellent project management tool. In this, the author determines who else is allowed to work on the project - and whether they can look and change, or just look and comment. As an Internet-based solution, web interviewing is undoubtedly the system's forte, but CATI and paper are also well supported.


Questionnaire design: all the features you would expect to find in any GUI system, delivered to you through a web-browser.

The design module, accessed entirely using a web browser looks a little like In2quest and is packed with features. The tools provided make question writing very simple and straightforward, and contain a lot of clever facilities for coping with the everyday business of writing questions. Unlike In2quest, it separates question writing and screen layout activities. The final appearance, on screen or on paper, is controlled by templates to reduce effort, but is infinitely customisable. Sadly, one or two short cuts have obviously been taken in getting the product to market, leaving a few rather ugly bits of syntax poking out of an otherwise attractive graphical user interface.


It has all the sample management and quota control you would expect from a normal CATI system

As a web surveying platform it is hard to beat. As a CATI platform, it looks set to challenge the notion of what a call centre is. With each interviewing station connected to the Internet, interviewers can log into the survey from anywhere on the planet. There is all the sophisticated sample management and quota control you would expect from a

conventional CATI system. If you are down on interviews, you could even ask other agencies to pick up the extra fieldwork and they would instantly be connected to the same system, delivering interviews into the same database.
One serious lack, caused by the nature of the web technology used, is the option for a supervisor to monitor an interviewer's screen remotely.
Analysis features seem capable. Reports can be designed at the same time you write the questionnaire and then scheduled to be sent on a regular basis or on demand. They arrive punctually by email as Word, Excel or Powerpoint files.
The system definitely goes the extra mile for continuous research. Questions or lists of answers can be updated whenever you want and the work simply carries on: this requires hours of work in many existing packages. Plus, regular, automatically updated reports in your "inbox" could hardly be more user-friendly.
Pete Comley, md of Virtual Surveys, said he is satisfied with the speed of the connections he gets over the internet. He had few criticisms, apart from perhaps an over-willingness to add new functionality so that the system was now becoming rather complex. "What puzzles me is why the others are taking so long to produce something like this." Ah, but it all depends if this Internet thing will catch on

Future Information Research Management, www.firm.no

Tim Macer writes as an independent expert in software for market research. His website is at www.meaning.uk.com

The CONFIRM web-based CATI system

Pros

Cons

Well designed system

Researcher-friendly

Collaborate across the world

Dependence on external supplier for everything

Not entirely syntax free


Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, December 1999, Issue 403.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 1999. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

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