Tim Macer
examines Entryware, an innovative, simple
interviewing programme that makes use of the Palm Pilot
A handy technology
The Palm organiser, that electronic filofax of the new wireless generation, could also become a common companion to the MR fieldworker with the arrival of new and possibly easiest-to-use yet Palm-based CAPI package. Entryware, from Canadian developer Techneos, exploits the features that make Palm PDA devices so effective as personal organisers for the benefit of fieldwork: easy to carry, easy to use, a battery life of days not hours and best of all, inexpensive when compared with laptop PCs.
Questionnaire creation is carried out in a Windows-based editor called Survey Workbench, then ‘hot-synchronised’ with the Palm either through its battery-charging cradle or over a modem link for administration in the field. The ‘Mobile Interviewer’ module allows for several different surveys to be active at once, simply selected from a menu. Data comes back into Survey Workbench via the Palm’s ‘cradle’, or via modem, if interviewers are working remotely. A neat innovation is the ‘Survey Dataport’ utility that means a laptop, perhaps under the control of a fieldwork supervisor, can go out into the field and act as a central collection point for hot-synched questionnaires that can then be sent back to the office for analysis.
A well-designed graphical interface means anyone used to using survey software would be able to put together working questionnaires very rapidly. On the plus side, there are many time-saving facilities: answer lists can be shared between questions and question libraries allow often-used questions or messages to be re-used. There is support for up to 15 foreign languages in a single survey, and an elegant version tracking facility to aid continuous research activities.
Routing is achieved by going into a ‘scripts’ window, which is a hybrid mix of menus and syntax. Scripting also provides the means to build intelligent processing into the script and is on a par with the best high-end CAPI products within the limitations of the small screen. Used appropriately it will ensure you get good clean complete data back from the field. On the down side, writing the scripts can be daunting to those not technically inclined. Other
Entryware: pros and cons
Pros

Easy for interviewers to use
Simple GUI questionnaire design
Powerful scripting capabilities
Supports multiple languages
Question Library


Entryware interviewing in action
Cons

No quota control
Routing logic can be tricky
No support for logic to hide ineligible answers to interviewers' questions
Entering open-ended text is laborious

niggles with Entryware include the lack of support for quota checks and the ability to conditionally hide answers to questions as you can in most CAPI packages. There is no analysis capability, but it exports data and labels in SPSS format for analysis.
For interviewers, responses are entered on screen with a stylus. Single and multiple questions appear as


Easy to carry, easy to
use and a battery life
of days not hours

tickboxes, with a scroll bar for long lists of answers. Numeric questions incorporate a simple number ‘keypad’ on screen which is easy to use. It is really only openended questions that cause a problem.
Parks Canada is currently experimenting with two Entryware Palm devices for visitor surveys to National Parks in the Atlantic region. It is enjoying a modest increase in response rates because the interview process appears more interesting to interviewers and respondents. Sean Murphy, Market Research Specialist at Parks Canada reported, "It is fairly straightforward and easy to learn. This was my first exposure to anything like this: before everything was done on paper. It makes it a lot more streamlined. The staff in the field are appreciative of it and we’re getting good feedback."
GLS Research in San Francisco conduct 3,300 intercept interviews a year for the Las Vegas Convention and

Visitors Authority and have recently abandoned paper for Techneos Entryware on handhelds costing as little as $150 US a piece. GLS's Aaron Percefull explains: "Our interest was in eliminating key entry and reduce interviewing errors. The automated skips and range value checking makes it a lot more foolproof than doing it with pencil and paper. It’s a wonderful thing."
As the interviews are carried out in the public areas of hotels and casinos, the unobtrusiveness of using Palm PDAs and the ability for interviewers to work standing up are a big advantage. With around 500 interviews, the product has proved to GLS it can provide cleaner, more accurate data direct from the field, ready to drop into SPSS, the tool GLS uses for its analysis.
Percefull observes: "If we have had any difficulty it’s been that the Palm Pilots have small screens and sometimes interviewers have some difficulty in reading the screens. And we’ve met some resistance to the technology, especially among older and more traditional interviewers. Younger interviewers tend to be far more receptive."
While Entryware will not offer all the flexibility of paper-based questionnaires, it will deliver better quality, more complete data without the delay and cost of data entry. And it looks cute too.

Techneos: www.techneos.com

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

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, April 2001, Issue 419.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 2001. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.