Market research projects come in all shapes and sizes. From tiny three question mini-polls through to complex, multi-country behemoths that require months of planning and precise implementation. Despite their differences, all projects are equally important to our Project Management team. We’re used to handling multiple projects at once, all at different stages and all with their own, unique challenges. This flexibility, as well as the volume of work we manage, gives us a unique insight into the project lifecycle. Over the years we’ve developed a foolproof way of ensuring project success every time. Read my ’10 Points for Project Success’ below.
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First things first, if you’re not organised, you’re in trouble. As PM’s we’re often working on many different projects at once so being organised is fundamental to project success. We always back ourselves up with systems and processes that allow us to record and keep track of every stage. We can easily see the associated responsibilities, and most importantly the critical points where one stage may be affected by another so that we can keep timings on track.
On each project we work with many different stakeholders including clients, scripters, data processors, translators, designers etc. Bridging the gap and effectively communicating between all these teams is paramount. We like to adapt our communication method to best suit our clients. This can be through email, but we often find the best communication is face to face or over the phone, allowing us to be as clear as possible. The main point is to avoid misinterpretation as this can cause delays and frustration later down the line.
On any project, managing one’s time is vital. Often stages of a project must happen within a specific time frame. We work to prioritise our workloads on a monthly, weekly or even hourly basis. Daily reports are presented at the same time each day to make sure client’s have the best available info at their fingertips to make decisions on next steps. We prioritise tasks throughout the day, working on the most time critical elements first to allow more routine tasks like sample sending and admin to happen later in the day, or at less critical junctures.
We work closely with many internal teams, but none more so than with our scripting teams. It’s their job to turn the client’s vision into a workable script that will be enjoyable and engaging for respondents when they take part. The PM’s role here is to best translate the client’s wishes to the scripting team, making sure we understand the project’s goals and how the questions fit into this. Once established we can then advise on design, structure, length and even question specifics to get the best data for our clients.
There’s a certain amount of sensitivity required to make sure the survey is suitable for the intended audience. As PM’s we must always be aware of how questions could be misinterpreted or may bias our audience. Some questions may yield sensitive answers and respondents may even disclose things which are potentially illegal or require follow up. We’re especially mindful of where our audience may be under the age of sixteen and may be exposed to harmful or sensitive topics. We constantly work to develop our skills of comprehension and editing to make sure that questions are appropriate, and the overall flow is as good as it can be.
Have you ever taken a survey that just stops mid-way through or has questions that just don’t make sense? Well, we work to make sure that never happens. All our projects are tested at several stages – when setting up, when launching live to our panel and when in field for extra data security. We always perform a soft launch so that data can be checked and verified well before we receive too many interviews. It’s tempting to skip this step, especially if time is against you but if it’s not done upfront then the end result can be seriously disappointing for all involved.
Surveys need to be functional, but they also need to be engaging. It’s part of a PM’s responsibility to ensure this doesn’t get lost along the way. We look at survey design, question types, length of the survey, and even the marketing email templates to make sure that our surveys look as inviting and interesting as possible. If we get this part right, then respondents will keep coming back for more.
When it comes to data, we’re rigorous with our quality standards. Throughout the survey you’ll often find us performing quality checks to remove speeders (people taking too little time over questions), straightliners (people simply selecting the same answers over and over) or poor verbatims (people writing junk in an effort to complete quicker). Getting rid of poor quality data guarantees piece of mind that your final data will be the best it can be.
If frustration arises it’s usually because a person is not getting the information they need, or they feel out of control with what’s going on. To avoid this, we take a proactive not reactive approach. We make sure everyone has the information they need and never has to ask for it. We offer daily fieldwork updates on progress and sticking points. If an issue does crops up we send an immediate email and follow up with a phone call, and we always aim to have a solution ready to implement. This way, client’s come to know us as a safe pair of hands and trust that we’re always on the ball.
Managing multiple, complex projects all day, every day is non-stop to say the least. Despite our often calm and measured outward appearance, we do feel the pressure. It’s invaluable to have a strong team to support you, and to finds ways to unwind and have fun at work and at home. We’re firm believers in having a good work-life balance to make sure we’re refreshed and ready for another busy day tomorrow.
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