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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Rosetta Studio 3.3 reviewed

Can you get from cross-tabs to PowerPoint in one easy step? Tim Macer reviews a package that claims to deliver on that journey.

It’s a program that few profess to love, but PowerPoint shows little sign of relaxing its iron grip on boardroom presentation. Researchers often feel they are slaves to the god PowerPoint twice over, not just when presenting, but preparing too, due to the sheer drudgery of creating each slide by hand, slowly patting figures and graphs into shape, usually against the pressure of the clock.

Rosetta Studio automates this process, and does it in a very efficient and comprehensive way. As a tool it’s been around for five years now. We reviewed version 1 these pages back in 2005, when it was simple and straightforward to use but fell short of doing all you needed it to. There wasn’t enough control over style and layout to create client-ready presentations, and this inevitably resulted in having to do a lot of finessing on the final output within PowerPoint to get the look right, leaving you vulnerable to having to repeat all this work if you needed to re-run the data.

“A lot of attention has gone into providing ways to prevent anyone from ever having to do anything more than once”

Improvements since then, culminating now in version 3.3, have removed all these limitations. The range of capabilities has, quite simply, exploded. Pretty much any tabular input is now supported, either through built-in importers or by using an upstream mapping utility. Within the tool there is now fine control over every aspect of output and a lot of attention has gone into providing ways to prevent anyone from every having to do anything more than once.

As an example, colouring, shading and chart options are all created and controlled within Rosetta and are not limited to what Excel or PowerPoint can produce. Colours can be linked with products or even applied automatically from the labels in your data for brand names, company names, countries and so on. It eliminates any fight you may have with PowerPoint showing different colours from the ones you had hoped for because of the clumsy way that PowerPoint templates and document themes interact. Instead, all of this is controlled, safely and predictably from within Rosetta, yet still it is standard PowerPoint that comes out of it.

A very powerful feature of the tool is the template. They take a little time to master, but templates have the advantage that, once defined, they can be used across the whole organisation and shared easily among teams. Using templates it takes just seconds to build charts from tables. Templates not only apply the styling but work out what to pick out of the raw table - e.g. just the percentages or the frequencies and not the total columns and rows.

Not everyone needs to become a template guru. It is not hard to modify them, or adapt them - but if you want to ensure a consistent look, and to control this, they can also be password-protected against unwanted or unintentional changes.

There are now three modes of operation: generate, populate and update. In version 1 only generate was possible - this limited Rosetta to the push method of production, where you effectively created then exported a PowerPoint from scratch. Generate is ideal for ad hoc work, but not much help for any kind of continuous or large scale production.

Populate mode introduces the alternative pull method, where you can take an existing PowerPoint and link it to tables within Rosetta Studio by going through the PowerPoint document, stripping out the variable content and replacing it with a tag that will pull in the relevant data from Rosetta. Tags can pull rows, columns, individual cell, tables or sections of tables, and are to some extent smart - e.g. you can pull the first row, the second from last cell, or the column headed ‘Females’. ATP’s implementation is delightfully simple, though it does take some effort to get your mind around the process. But it is ideal for large-scale report production on trackers, where many similar reports are produced on different cuts of the data, and the suite provides some batching and automation modules for power-users that go beyond the desktop interface.

Even more ingenious is the new “update mode” which achieves a kind of magic with PowerPoint. There is nothing to stop you from going in and making extensive changes to your presentation and still being able to update the PowerPoint, for example, because you had to remove a case and re-weight the data. Rosetta invisibly watermarks each chart it produces and uses these hidden tags to identify each value correctly and substitute the updated value. It’s very clever.

All this increased sophistication does come at a cost, however, as the price has nudged upwards, and so too is the investment you need to make in learning it. This is not something you can pick up for the first time and guess your way through. ATP Canada encourages all new users to take their two-day training course before getting started, by including it free within the licence fee. The program is reasonably intuitive, once you have got to grips with the fundamentals, though it’s a pity that you cannot
get a better preview of what you are doing within the Rosetta interface - you only see it properly when you generate the PowerPoint. If you find yourself going along the wrong track, it does not provide any real undo capability either, which is a pity.

Producing presentations is complex and without something like this, is very time-consuming. Speaking to actual users, it’s clear that they not only find learning it an investment work making, but that they soon wonder how they ever managed without it.


Client perspective: Leger Marketing, Canada

Leger Marketing is a full-service research company with nine offices across Canada and the United States. Here Christian Bourque, VP research, and Patrick Ryan, a research analyst at Leger Marketing, speak about their experiences with Rosetta Studio.

Christian Bourque: At the time we were looking for something, we felt most automation software was aimed at large trackers. About eighty per cent of our work is ad hoc. We needed something where the up-front time would be quite small. Rosetta Studio seemed to be better-designed for ad hoc research, certainly at that time.

Patrick Ryan: Now, nearly every one of our quantitative projects runs through Rosetta at some stage. We’d even use it for a four-question omnibus study, where it is still faster than creating a report slide by slide. It means the bulk of our time is no longer taken up with the work of creating a report. The focus is now on analysing and interpreting the data.

CB: Once you have spent a little bit of time devising your own templates, you will save 60 to 75 per cent of your time analysing the data.

PR: Something that would take four days or a week to put together is now taking us one or two days.

CB: It not only saves the analyst time, but you also need to consider the quality review perspective. We used to do a line-by-line review. Now, because it is automated, this is no longer necessary. It’s a load off our shoulders. It means we can spend more time improving the quality of the insights. We also find we can include more complex cuts of data in the report that we would not have had time to do, beforehand, like that little bit of extra multivariate analysis.

PR: Something we like a lot is the flexibility it gives you to try different things. You might be creating a set of graphs and you realise it could be better presented another way. Now the hassle of changing your graphs or charts isn’t such a big deal. It takes you two seconds. It takes two days to learn, though the basics can be covered in a morning. It is fairly intuitive. We have a couple of reports where the analysis uses the tagging. The interface is the same but the logic is different. You have to get your mind around how to use and place tags, but once you have done one it is fine. It’s actually very simple.

CB: We like the flexibility it provides from a look and feel point of view. We can have different templates for different companies. Many of our clients have a corporate library of anything they generate, so when it circulates on the clientside, it needs to look as if it’s their document.

This is something we introduced to add value, not to reduce staffing. It’s the nature of our business that you constantly have to be faster than the year before. The demand on time is extreme. This is one of the ways we’ve been able to meet that challenge while improving quality. And the other major demand is for better insights, and this is one of the tools that allow us to do that.

 


The verdict: Rosetta Studio 3.3

Report automation platform which takes tabular output from almost any MR cross-tab program and transforms it into well-crafted PowerPoint presentations. Works with existing slide decks or will generate new ones selectively, directly from tables.

Ease of use – 4 out of 5
Cross-platform compatibility – 5 out of 5
Value for money – 4 out of 5

Cost
Annual subscriptions from £5000 for a single user, £5,850 for two named users, £10,500 for 10. Concurrent pricing options also available. Prices include training, support and updates.

Pros

  • Saves hours when converting tables into presentations
  • Greatly reduces the scope for errors when creating presentations
  • Shared templates reduce work and allow for a custom look for each client
  • Presentations can be updated with new data even after they have been modified in PowerPoint

Cons

  • No full preview without exporting to PowerPoint
  • No undo when editing or making changes
  • Windows only

Further info
www.rosetta-intl.com

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