“Traditionally market research has been very vendor driven, meaning that a company specialized in market research conducts e.g. a consumer survey where the interviewees are asked whether they have seen specific ads of Microsoft or what do they think of our certain products. The results of these surveys are then handed out to the customer in a finished form, typically as PowerPoint slides. We wanted to have ownership on the data collected by market research vendors and store it by ourself so that the re-use and combining of data are possible, and that we can do explorative analysis on the data by ourselves”, tells Ilana Saarikko, the Senior Data & Applied Scientist of Microsoft’s Data & Analytics Platform team.
Curated data to support decision-making
The core task for the team is to help the decision-makers at Microsoft, who often are marketing and product directors, to get up-to-date information on the wishes, behaviour, and opinions of consumers to support sales and target setting.
Besides creating an ownership on the data, it first needs to be brought into an easily read form.
“The survey data coming from market research vendors is very raw, so it needs to be “cooked”. The aim of the team is to make the raw, scattered, and sometimes even partial data into as understandable and current as possible for business decisions”, says Matti Uronen, Senior Data & Applied Scientist of the team.
The team has thus developed effective tools and processes to process and confirm the validity of the research data coming from the vendors, to forward it to cubes, and finally get it into digestible reports to various dashboards and analysis services, such as Power BI, and to databases.
Interactive data with top processes
Besides analyzing the market research data produced by 3rd parties, the team’s business intelligence tools are used on analyzing the telemetry data collected via Microsoft’s hardware, and also financial data. Additionally, the team produces its own surveys, which means there are plenty of data sources to be analyzed and they can be combined. Outsourced market research data can be enriched with the internal data owned by Microsoft, and this makes the scale of analyzed data advanced compared to other companies.
The entity of tools and processes developed by the team is extremely efficient despite the huge amounts of data, as the processing and curating of the raw data file coming from a market research vendor, and then making it available for the Microsoft personnel to read in the forms of metrics and KPIs, is mostly automated and can take just a couple of hours.
“When the data analysis is ready, we will send a notification to our users on the new data being available. After this, our decision-makers examine the data directly from the databases or e.g. from Power BI. Compared to static PowerPoint slides the decision-makers can directly create comparisons, edit values, and explore with the analytics tools how different choices effect on values”, Saarikko describes.