Tim Macer looks at Research Reporter, a web browser-based
MR management system aimed at the market research buyer

Research your options

If you are the research buyer that looks back wistfully on the day you last had time to do research properly, then take a look at Research Reporter. Developed by Australian consultants Insight Marketing Strategy, it's a web browser-based market research management system for research buyers, offered either as an ASP or to run on your own intranet, which uncannily knows what you need to do and how to keep track of it.
Powered by a SQL Server database, the system offers two main areas of functionality: an online library-cum-archive of current and past projects, and workflow tools to let researchers actively manage their projects from concept to presentation. Wrapped around this are a host of resources such as research tutorials, policy documents, templates for preparing project briefs, sample size and incidence calculators as well as a system admin area where passwords and access rights are defined and where some customisation of the system can take place.
How many of these functions you can perform are determined by your login and password. Within an enterprise, internal clients may be given the rights to request new projects and view existing ones relating to their department, while the research team can use the tools to commission and actively manage research projects and publish the results when available.
The web browser interface is well designed and easy to follow. It hides all of the technicalities, even in the admin area. Navigation is faultless and there are well-tuned search capabilities to track down projects whatever fragment of information you happen to recall. A search will typically present you with an abstract and key findings on the report, but links take you to whatever is available in the library: Word files or PDFs containing the research brief, contracts, questionnaire, charts in Excel or Powerpoint. The drawback is that
Research Reporter: www.researchreporter.com
  • Single, unified resource for a company's entire stock of research
  • Web enabled to provide collaborative working across the globe
  • Excellent MR project management and workflow tools
  • Viewing large volumes of tables could be tricky without additional software
  • Currently no local supoort in Europe
large volumes of tables are not well suited to any of these formats, and Research Reporter doesn't offer its own table browser to view reports in the way that the table library product E-tabs does. But it will open a link to the program that created the tables if it's also installed on your PC. The library also contains resources on research methods, techniques and a searchable research encyclopaedia.
Recognising that no two companies organise their research functions and activities in the same way, all of the workflow components are built on an adaptable rules-based system. This can include departmental budget setting and allocation, supplier selection, support for project tendering by email, contract management and the ability to notify all interested parties automatically – by email – at identified key stages in the project.
The rules are configured in the database for each new customer at installation time, along with choices about which components to include, terminology to use and the entitlements of classes of users. This approach makes the system highly adaptable, even after installation: some options can be fine-tuned in the admin area; more significant changes would involve the supplier and a fee.
As a relatively new product, users willing to comment publicly were hard to track down. Those the Interface spoke to were enjoying the greatest benefit from the survey library facility. The research teaching and the "how to" workflow facility was proving more of a challenge, as it requires a willingness to standardise and even reform some internal processes.
Insight Marketing Strategy's Daryl Maloney McCall, reports that new clients typically focus on establishing their online library first, before considering incorporating the more sophisticated workflow components.
"The library is key," says Maloney McCall. "It's all about giving better access and preventing the reinvention of the wheel. It also overcomes another risk for organizations. A lot of knowledge about a company's research resides in the head of the researcher. This system attempts to retain some of this information as each project progresses. It's a way of preventing the corporate knowledge leak that occurs when a key individual leaves."


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, September 2001, Issue 424.

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