MRDCL has been one of the few premier scripting languages for market research tabulations for many years, as have others like Quantum, Merlin, Uncle and, arguably, SPSS. I have noticed that these products have not changed focus in 20 years, yet market research (or the insights business, if you prefer) has changed out of recognition. Well, the big news is that MRDCL has changed. This article covers why there is a change, how there is a change and what those changes are. You will discover how scripted processes can make a difference.
Why there is a change
There’s a common opinion in market research that market research has changed in recent years and will continue to change. It is, however, rare to hear people say that market research software has changed in recent years and will continue to change. Sure, there are glossier software tools available, and the online dashboard market is starting to mature, but there is still a long way to go.
Tabulation software: from being the focus of market research to the heart of market research
Scripted tabulations have been around for well over 40 years. For the 1990s and more recently, much research has been reported directly from crosstabulations. That changed with the advent of PowerPoint reporting and the slow movement to online dashboards. However, scripted tabulation software packages produce more than crosstabulations; they allow users of any of those products I mentioned previously to generate variables for analysis. Not only do they make variables, but they also do it efficiently, with almost no limitations, handling complex or repetitive requirements effectively. MRDCL’s development focused on productivity for many years. We believe it gave us an edge, but now we see MRDCL as being at the heart of market research. Let’s explore how and how this has happened.
The inspiration: the small scale idea that led to new ideas
Nowadays, many survey platforms are available at a relatively low cost. These platforms can collect data online, produce tables and charts, and even dashboards. In fairness, they are more than adequate for many of the surveys conducted around the world. They are not suitable, though, for most research agencies, however, as they have limitations. Examples of these limitations are:
Poor filtering and routing capabilities
Inadequate variable handling features
Only capable of simple crosstabulations
Only basic charting capabilities
No online dashboard tools
A general lack of many of the detailed features that professional survey companies need
The word that keeps cropping up is ‘limited’. Research agencies are constrained by what they can deliver to their clients. Of course, all software has constraints, but scripted tabulation software packages rarely have restrictions – complex routing, complex variables, large volumes of data, and complex tabulations are their strengths.
Linking together the processes
The strength of some low-cost platforms is that they link each part of the research process together. You can move from data collection to data analysis to data reporting and data delivery in smooth steps. Unfortunately, the low-cost platforms fall down badly because they do not excel at each of these processes. Our thinking as developers of MRDCL is simple. We need to link the parts of the research process together, but at a level that market research agencies need. This challenge is, of course, more demanding than what the low-cost platforms offer, but MRDCL’s development is making rapid progress as it seeks to achieve what the insight industry needs.
Why do we need to link processes together?
The need to link processes together has never been greater – and, importantly, will continue to increase. Why? Because market research has moved on from entering some data, producing some tabulations and sending clients a report. Consider some of the growing needs:
The need to integrate data from different surveys
Showing data from external sources such as sales, customer feedback, targets, KPIs need to be available alongside research data
Being able to present social media data available alongside survey data
Tools to automate reports and deliverables as far as possible
Flexibility to deliver data so that clients can integrate with their own internal systems
Giving clients need access to data
The ability to present data and findings in a way that benefits clients most, e.g. dashboards, as web pages, stylised reports
Being able to make use of artificial intelligence
Automation must improve
For the above reasons (and more), market research software needs to move forward. MRDCL is moving forward. You can take data from the required sources and deliver it how you require, either for the final output or to pass on the data for another process. One software package will rarely everything.
Differentiating from the unmodernised scripted tabulation software packages
I see this as a significant move. I do not see Quantum, Merlin or Uncle moving into this space and, frankly, find SPSS far too cumbersome for most commercial market research activity. It’s not going to happen to Quantum, which has been a dead scripting language for over 20 years. The other scripting languages do not seem to be moving in this direction. The other products in the crosstab market may be expanding the processes they cover, such as dashboards, but not to the depth that most research agencies need to service their clients. They tend to service the one-off quick survey market; this is useful software for the wider world but insufficient for the insights professionals.
Is this the end of MRDCL’s development for improving scripted tabulations?
This question would be a valid and rightful concern for those engaged in producing scripted crosstabulations. However, the latest release of MRDCL has shown a commitment as well to improving the toolset for crosstabulations with yet more exciting productivity tools coming in 2021.
Variable generation, tabulations, automating processes and integrating processes
Forgive me for not finding a better sub-heading than the one above; MRDCL is becoming more important in the market research world as it takes automation of processes and the integration of processes to a new level. MRDCL, of course, continues to offer more on its core and long-term strengths of variable generation and crosstabulations.
Will MRDCL development stop after these goals have been achieved?
The growth in what market research will need to offer is not going to stop. Although the new developments and new direction of MRDCL mark a significant change, we fully expect the needs to grow. It’s the start of another exciting period in the history of MRDCL.