Article #38: QuotaBreaker! from KGA

Tim Macer evaluates a program for calculating interlocked
quota breaks that saves you work

A welcome break


There may be those execs or field managers that look forward to the start of new face-to-face projects, as it means they can while away a rainy afternoon calculating quota breaks by hand; for anyone else, the arrival of a dedicated program for calculating interlocked quota breaks should offer welcome relief to a tedious and time-consuming activity. QuotaBreaker! has been devised by fieldwork software specialists KGA (formerly Keith Gordon Associates) as either an add-on to KGA’s virtually ubiquitous fieldwork management database, The Field System, or as a program to use in its own right.
QuotaBreaker! opens with a numbered menu of options, which is very much the KGA house style. KGA claims it makes it much easier to provide telephone support to users, though it does give this Windows program a DOS-like feel. But it is clearly set out, and easy to follow.
Most of the ‘business’ takes place on one large screen, which contains four steps to producing a working set of quotas. First, you input the targets as absolutes or percentages. Drop-down lists, copy and paste and the ability to rework an existing scheme make the process extremely slick. Helpfully, the system shows a running total on screen, so you can check for internal consistency within your scheme while you are devising it. Next, you validate the scheme, when the system will detect any inconsistencies you failed to notice and present you with a report listing any errors. I found the report less helpful than the on-screen display, as it did not contain any totals — something KGA tell me just failed to make this version, but which will come later.
In the third stage, the quota breaks are calculated with what KGA tell me is a ‘circular spread method’. This ensures that the quota requirements are assigned evenly to individual interviewer’s quota worksheets, each of whom receives a spread of respondents to recruit, rather than an unremitting clump of, say, AB males in the under 25 category. You tell the system how many interviewers you will have in
QuotaBreaker! pros and cons
Pros Saves hours of work
Quick to learn and easy to use
Full multi-user system
Cons English language version only
Need to write interviewers’ names on quota sheets by hand

'I cannot imagine why people have not been using it - it saves so much time'

the field, and it generates the requisite number of quota sheets. How many different quota sheets it prepares, or ‘batches’ asQuotaBreaker! calls them, varies according to the complexity of the scheme. I created a fairly standard interlocked scheme for 20 interviewers and 350 interviews. It produced 11 balanced batches each containing a similar number of interviews, which is better than I could do in the few minutes it took me to enter the data.
Step four is to print out the quota sheets and other reports. The only niggle is that a pen is still required at this stage to write on the interviewer’s name on each of the 350 (or whatever) interviewer sheets. Although KGA will be implementing links to the forthcoming Windows version of The Field System in the back half of 2000, which does contain interviewers’ names, this is not going to help any standalone users.
Dig down in the system and you find extensive system management and customisation options. This is a true multi-user system which can be used simultaneously by both researchers and field supervisors. Access rights can be established to determine who can make changes and who can just pick up the reports. As the task often straddles departmental boundaries, this multi-user capability encourages collaborative working and makes the program a valuable part of that process.

Anne Futerman, BJM Research & Consultancy’s Field Director, has been using the previous version of QuotaBreaker, before support for interlocked quotas was added. BJM have found it work extremely well, and use it in conjunction with The Field System. "I cannot imagine why more people have not been using it – it saves so much time" She recalls it would typically take someone over an hour to work out a simple quota break by hand — one memorable interlocked quota took several days to do; but "with QuotaBreaker!, it takes as long to give you the breaks as it does to type in the data."
Martin Hamblin Research’s field manager, Gaynor Montague is another enthusiastic user. "It saves a lot of time, especially on interlocked quotas. The project controllers learn how to use it very quickly. You probably save two thirds of the time over doing it manually. We have six project controllers and three licenses are ample for them. The quota sheets are nicely presented and clear for the interviewer – though it will be better when it link into The Field System and you don’t have to write on the names yourself".
The package comes with an Access run-time license and friendly documentation, which is all users need to get started. All in all, it is hard to see why any busy fieldwork office should be without a copy of this useful program.

KGA. 020 8904 6027

Tim Macer writes as an independent specialist in software for market research. His website is at

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, February 2000, Issue 405.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 2000. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

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