FEATURE12 August 2009

Commitment to MR ‘as strong as ever', says SPSS

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Amidst all the reports about IBM’s $1.2bn bid to buy software firm SPSS and the hype over the possibilities for predicitive analytics post-acquisition, one question has largely gone unanswered – whither market research?

Research: Ever since news of IBM’s bid for SPSS emerged, one question our readers have asked us repeatedly is what will happen to the market research side of your software business? All communications to date have focused on what the deal means for predictive analytics, but what about your data collection packages?

Heena Jethwa: Our level of commitment and dedication to market research remain as strong as it ever has been. We’re not changing things – it’s business as usual when it comes to our data collection products.

The data collection products have always been part of the predictive analytics umbrella. Data collection is a key component of that product set. That’s not changed because of the IBM news. When SPSS talks about predictive analytics, it talks about the whole ability to capture, predict and act.

We’ve been working with the market research industry for years, using predictive analytics as our key tagline. And as you know, we have lots of customers who use our data collection technology who are also in the market research industry. I don’t think that changes in that sense.

Research: There have been questions asked about SPSS’s focus on market research since July 2003 when the company merged its dedicated SPSS MR division into the wider SPSS…

Jethwa: And I think being folded into the wider SPSS has actually benefited our customers inside and outside the market research industry in the sense that the products are far more integrated with each other. There is a lot more closeness and you can go from one product to the other in a much more integrated way than you could when we were SPSS MR. That benefit is going to be even bigger as part of IBM. Having that combined skill and technology, it really allows SPSS to broaden our reach in terms of the types of customers we are going after in one way, but also what customers can do with our technology.

One of the trends in the MR industry has always been around adding value. You’ve collected that data, now what are you going to do with that data and that insight? How can you get it to the customers so it is more digestible? Another trend has been about market research being a strategic partner. The way I think SPSS can enable that is by taking information that has been collected and taking it to the next level so that people can really start using it to provide improved decision-making and actionability. Actionable insight is what MR customers are asking for and I think the relationship between IBM and SPSS will help them achieve that.

Research: It sounds like SPSS shares the view, then, that insight is more than simply market research?

Jethwa: I think it is more than market research. MR is a key component, but we are in an information age and we have been for such a long time. People have more information than they know what to do with. I think part of SPSS’s predictive analytics offer is all about taking this information and turning it into valuable insight, making it better, giving the organisation that competitive advantage, whether that be market researchers helping end-users to deliver that sort of competitive advantage, or MR just being part of that equation. But it’s all about turning that information into insight that is actionable.

Research: Has the focus on predictive analytics over the years affected the market research business at all? Has the MR customer base contracted as a result?

Jethwa: Actually I’d say it is the opposite. I can’t give you percentages or anything like that but since we have been talking predictive analytics, data collection products have really been growing quite strong. We’re also seeing the MR industry buy a lot more SPSS technology than just the data collection products. They have been starting to look at some of the modelling capabilities and the analytics capabilities.

Research: So to recap: your view, and the view going into this deal, is that the traditional market research software – the data collection side of things – is inextricably linked with the provision of predictive analytics, so there is no suggestion that one bit would be sold off. It’s one package IBM are buying and they intend to keep it that way?

Jethwa: We haven’t even closed the deal with IBM so I can’t comment on what’s going to happen going forward, but the whole reason for IBM buying SPSS was the strength across our portfolio. One of the things I mentioned earlier was that interlinkage between the products, and as we develop the products that interlinkage grows, so people can do the whole ‘capture, predict and act’ and make that as seamless as possible. That’s been our mantra for a long time.

1 Comment

15 years ago

Professional market researchers need to continue to differentiate themselves from what clients can do for themselves with low-end survey tools or high-end enterprise feedback management systems. Mastering the predictive and analytical tools that SPSS offers are an important way for market researchers to achieve this.

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