Assessing the key drivers of automation
Increased productivity through automation is shared goal across the business world. There is not a single industry that would not benefit by exploring automatisation strategies. Allowing technology to take on the non-value-add elements of a process or project reduces the resources required and frees up skilled experts to focus more of their time, and attention to the areas where they can add value. Automation is not simply a quest for efficiency – it ensures survival in today’s tech-driven world.
The market research industry serves as a prime environment for automation. Research agencies should be actively and strategically looking to new, automated systems at every step of the process to streamline the delivery of valuable insights. With the emergence of mobile surveys, online communities, and big data creating a technological revolution in this sector, market researchers are finding new automated ways to connect with respondents and gain new opportunities for insight. The linear process of designing a survey questionnaire, accessing a sample of survey respondents and collecting data can be routinely automated – leaving the experts to focus their attention on data analysis. Survey participants may also benefit, as much of the information that they provide in the form of survey responses can be generated algorithmically.
So what are the factors that are driving automation within the market research industry and across the business world?
A real-time mentality – automation is key
In today’s instant-gratification society, we expect results, and we expect them fast. Deadlines haven’t just been tightened, they’ve been slashed – traditional research projects that would have had a typical three-day window for turn-around are now expected to be completed within a matter of hours. Now more than ever, we need to consider automated solutions to add more hours to our day. Fortunately, advances in technology mean that real-time data collection is now a realistic possibility and a survey created in the morning can deliver the necessary insights by lunchtime, or sooner.
Real-time technologies mean we can engage in real-time market research in new and innovative ways. Consumers can now offer their views and opinions and use relevant research data to inform their purchase decisions in return – truly democratising the research process and making data available to businesses, and consumers alike.
Budget constraints – squeeze more time into your day
Budgetary constraints on both client and supplier sides mean that market researchers, like those in many other industries, are looking to do more with the same resources or less. Inevitably this means exploring new methodologies and technologies that can provide users with additional throughput, as well as automating the more traditional, non-value-added processes.
These tools are readily available and are evolving continually, making them easier to use than ever before. DIY surveys are just one example of how automation can reduce costs by enabling marketers to quickly create surveys that would once involve a great deal of time (and money).
While time and cost are the main drivers of automation, it can bring other benefits, which are frequently overlooked. Rather than reinventing the wheel with every new task or project, automation allows us to leverage previous work or best-in-class thinking to repeat and standardise a process. In market research if you standardise inputs you can also standardise outputs, meaning marketers become in-house experts in mining and refining their own data. Normative data can be used to gain insight within different categories. Now, organisations are not only able to field projects more quickly and at reduced cost, but they can also benefit from a deeper level of insight.
Automation is more than just a buzzword – it’s a reality across all business sectors. The key drivers of the adoption of automated solutions will always be time and cost, and laborious manual processes are already being replaced with technology aimed at increasing productivity. However, within the market research industry, other factors such as enhanced quality and deeper insight are also pushing the progress of automation, as marketers begin to interact with their audience like never before.
Frédéric-Charles Petit is CEO of the online community and opinion surveying company Toluna
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”