Monthly Reflection October 2023: Things are Getting Better

If my LinkedIn feed is any indicator, it seems there’s an industry-wide reckoning on data quality right now. There is anger. Major brands are jumping into the fray. Researchers are on their heels. Committees are forming. I can almost feel the fear.

Fortunately, I believe this moment is simply a lagging indicator of the data quality situation. Things are actually way better than a year ago. For this reason, I’m changing my tone on how I talk about this topic. The problem is well-established, it’s now time everyone focused on solutions.

Since 2013, I tried to build awareness among researchers on what was coming.  Yet, I heard so often “we don’t have that problem [with quality].”  Our early clients were rabid fans because they diagnosed the rising quality challenges by then and we became their strategy for improvement.

Now? Everyone can see the problem. Even well-established Research firms with sophisticated procurement approaches see the issue. As a result, this collective awareness is creating a massive buzz.

I want you, our valued client, to know we have been tackling this on your behalf since day 1 of our inception.

Back to the Beginning

When I started OpinionRoute in 2013, the evidence was mounting that the future of survey sample would be highly automated, but also present new challenges for Survey Researchers.  My first OpinionRoute activity was conducting a training session for Market Research firms called “Sample in 2013”.

Generally, I scheduled an hour (including Q&A) for these trainings.  But, the questions often pushed these sessions past the 2-hour mark.  I underestimated the demand, and the disconnect, between researchers and vendors. Researchers felt deceived by vendors for many reasons.  This training was bringing clarity in a place that had confusion.

Researchers’ Perspective in 2016

3 years after our launch, I hired a Qual consultant to help me better understand the market dynamic. Two key insights about the sample procurement mindset stuck with me all these years later.

  1. “Sample quality (or lack thereof) has become an industry-wide issue, near crisis level, but there is a gap between buying criteria and sample quality. OpinionRoute target customers indicate that the most important buying criteria are price and speed. Yet clients refuse to acknowledge data/sample quality can be negatively impacted by price and time constraints.”
  2. “Customers do not understand, nor care to learn about, vendors’ unique sampling technology. Little value is placed on understanding specifics of technology.”

This is when I realized the cause-and-effect nature of what was happening.

In my experience, I knew, and could prove on any project, that the new sample technology caused data threats. I also knew how hard it was to engage Researchers in a technology discussion. Ultimately there was a buyer/seller dynamic that was hard-coded and got in the way of a true education process.

Researchers expected their vendors to own data quality.  But the tech evolution demonstrated that vendors didn’t operate like that anymore. The entire methodology changed, and researchers didn’t realize it.  Researchers thought that if they avoided the tech conversation, things would stay the same until they officially approved a change.

After all, that’s how it always went in the past.

Anchored to the Right Things

OpinionRoute has been built as a data quality system that does many things.  But essentially, we quantitatively measure how sample vendors are doing at any given time. We use metrics derived from expert evaluation of data by hundreds of research firms and build benchmarks. From that deep database, we build and grow a suite of technologies that address the common threats and how they creep in. All the while, we measure our effectiveness. This combination of knowledge, technology, and analytics produces a unique model for our clients both on the services and technology sides of our business.  It has worked extremely well.

Let’s Talk Solutions

From here on out, I am going to stop focusing on building awareness of the problem. Instead, I will explain the solutions we’ve built more aggressively.  As I do this, you’ll see a few core guiding beliefs in our Data Quality investment since 2013.

  1. The Researcher is an expert.
  2. Vendors have many incentives that misalign with Fraud Prevention.
  3. There is no silver bullet, so a systemized approach is best.
  4. We are an agent for quality in the whole survey ecosystem.

More than anything, trust that you have a partner in your daily work.  OpinionRoute invests in ways to improve your quality and efficiency based on how you view the world.

Want to dig deeper into data quality?  Let’s chat!

Photo by Tim van der Kuip on Unsplash

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