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Managing Information to Transform it into Knowledge

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The reality is that companies are exposed each day to managing an overwhelming quantity of information from which to formulate the strategy that, in some way, must lead them to success – that is, to maximize their benefits.

As Manuel Castells asserts, «We must grasp the idea that this ‘new economy’ is based on information and knowledge. It is characterized by adding value, generating productivity, and achieving competitiveness based on information and knowledge, through a new capacity to process information in terms of speed and complexity. We are capable of utilizing any information process in real time.»

When people ask me, «So, exactly what do you do?» I usually say that I try to transform information into knowledge… no small feat.

From market research, we attempt to assist in this task through the analysis of information that can originate from various sources (personal interviews, telephone interviews, online sources, in-depth discussions, focus group meetings, ethnographic studies, internal interviews with organizational personnel, blog information, and so on).

Information is our raw material, and if we don’t handle or nurture it properly, the subsequent analysis loses all meaning.

Challenges in Market Research

Fieldwork, whether qualitative or quantitative, is a complex task, not always free from criticism, as it constitutes the final link in the value chain of our industry.

Finding fieldwork providers who can undertake strategically important investigations or those with a qualitative level of difficulty with certain guarantees of success is challenging and demanding.

It’s also worth noting that there are two components that don’t overly contribute to field quality and, in turn, reinforce each other in a vicious cycle.

The first component is that the costs of obtaining information have remained nearly constant over the last 5-10 years. Let’s do a simple exercise: what budget did we have 5 years ago for a 15-minute telephone interview with the general population, and what is it now? The answer might surprise us.

The second component pertains to the qualification of the fieldwork personnel. If prices remain stable, we can’t expect to attract highly qualified personnel who perform their tasks with a level of motivation befitting a high-quality service.

These two interconnected issues make it essential to carry out comprehensive quality control, in addition to what the fieldwork company itself should perform. This quality process should be based on the following parameters:

  1. Telephonic supervision of at least 25% of the fieldwork of each interviewer. It’s crucial to emphasize «of each interviewer» because, to truly gauge field quality, we must supervise every one of the interviewers involved. The notion that «20% of the fieldwork has been supervised» is insufficient if this idea is a global one and not specific to each interviewer.
  2. Once we have the data file, conduct a thorough consistency check, not just from a logical or numerical perspective but also from a quality standpoint. Through simple summation of certain variables, we can determine if there are repeated interviews. By analyzing Ns/Nr or blank responses, we can ascertain if a particular interviewer systematically avoids filling in certain questions. Reviewing the coding of open-ended responses helps us assess the quality of their transcription, and so on.

The raw material guides our strategy, for without it, we cannot analyze or design strategies. Therefore, let’s pay the utmost attention to it and steer clear of fly-by-night operations that promise «something for nothing.» There is no such thing as a «cheap» fieldwork, and if it appears excessively so, we should doubt its quality, as it might lead our clients to strategic ruin.

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