Technology Drives Value in 2020
Paul Twite, Managing Director Europe & MENA, ITWP, parent company of Toluna, explains how technology will continue to be the driving factor in 2020.
When the ultimate space cadet and entrepreneur Elon Musk, tells the world in an on-stage interview that, when entering new businesses, “I do zero market research whatsoever,” you know you are in interesting times.
2019 had more twists and turns than the latest Netflix blockbuster. New players invested in the industry: private investment firm Bain Capital acquiring a 60 percent share of Kantar and SAP buying Qualtrics for $8 billion.
There was also a changing of the old guard: GfK sold a chunk of its business to Ipsos and some former rivals joined forces with the merger and integration of Research Now and SSI.
So, what’s next for the sector?
Market research industry consolidation means customers may have less choice - with fewer, bigger research platforms. By default, consumer package goods, financial, telecommunications and media & entertainment corporations may soon do all their testing – from ideation to business analysis to commercialisation - with a single research partner, leading to bigger brand and firm partnerships.
Double down on technology
Technical advancements mean that research-savvy brands become less dependent on services and double down on tech with two key strands immerging:
Automation based on best practice techniques. This will ensure maximum efficiency, enabling users to focus on interpreting what the results mean and their business implications
AI and machine learning will provide opportunities to mine data more efficiently and effectively as data from both primary and secondary sources grow
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The upside of the global innovators: speed, rigour, agility and quality
The benefits of doing more research with fewer partners are apparent: greater consistency across results and, possibly, less financial outlay.
Technology means clients can now have the speed, rigour and agility they require. Actions can be deployed from the results, at the pace consumers now demand.
Speed remains a constant. What was fast last year may not be in 2020 but research has also to offer the flexibility to fit with iterative innovation processes.
Agility means using tools and techniques which factor speed and rigour into the process, at the same time, so work of a high quality can be delivered at a faster pace.
As technology continues to evolve and standardise, a benefit of industry consolidation should be that the end data will be more actionable, faster and better quality.
Industry consolidation offers well-known challenges. Consolidated industry sectors can have relatively high barriers to entry, lack of differentiated products, and potentially few, well-established brands with high profit margins. It can also mean that larger firms end up with more business, potentially stunting creativity and competition. In the market research sector, single partner testing without the checks and balances of diverse inputs could result in worse and not better decision making.
Consolidation in the car industry has seen relatively few global manufacturers frantically buy share, interestingly it is still Mr. Musk’s technology-driven Tesla which boasts a higher MarCap than competitors General Motors and Fiat Chrysler.
It’s the same in the market research industry where only the truly, technology-based businesses will thrive on a global scale.
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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.”