OPINION12 September 2011

SODA adds a dash of mobile fizz to Confirmit’s platform

Technology

Tim Macer assesses the implications for software users of the Confirmit/Techneos merger.

Not one but two technology acquisitions in the same week: Confirmit, providers of one of the most widely used web interviewing platforms for research agencies, announces it is buying mobile survey specialist Techneos, while Kantar Group acquires panel and technology provider GMI.

Robert Bain covered the GMI acquisition in an interview with David Day. My focus is on Confirmit and what it plans to do with Techneos SODA, the company’s flagship software product for both self-completion and interviewer-administered surveys on smartphones and handheld devices.

Confirmit’s chief technology officer Pat Molloy tells me: “The basic plan is the same as with Pulse Train… to bring the functions of Techneos SODA and all the best features into our Confirmit Horizons platform.” Techneos will be rebranded as Confirmit in the New Year, and Confirmit will be adding to Techneos’ development resources in Vancouver to start work on building an integrated platform. Existing SODA users will see development continue on the existing SODA platform in the short term, but eventually it will mean a switch to Confirmit for them.

“We hope we’ll do a good enough job that existing SODA users will want to move over. We are not going to mothball SODA for a considerable time,” says Molloy. “But eventually we will want to roll those customers over at no charge on to the new platform.”

Confirmit has recently added pretty advanced support for interviewing on smartphones into its flagship Horizon software. What it lacked was a dedicated app for mobile that could be run natively on the mobile device – surveys were still delivered via the device’s web browser and required a stable internet connection. Using an app offers many different benefits. I’m presenting a paper at the forthcoming ASC Conference in Bristol on the very subject (and will share the link to the paper after the event). There are pros and cons in each approach, but an app allows for much greater sophistication in survey design.

Techneos has been providing mobile apps before we even understood the term – starting with its interviewer-only Entryware product, originally designed for Palm Pilots. Techneos had appeared to lag behind on mobile self-completion until it brought out SODA at the end of 2008, which was a big leap forward.

Entryware, however, will be left to wither on the vine, on the premise that SODA provides most of its functions. This will be unwelcome news for any Entryware customers that have not yet switched to SODA, as they will be faced with two migrations.

@RESEARCH LIVE

5 Comments

9 years ago

This is interesting, however, it still doesn't supply a true multi-mode survey interviewing platform (mobile and web) since one still has to programme in two different languages and have two different data structures to deal with. Sounds like the bad old days of Quantime being bought and patched together with other alien softwares. "we are not going to Mothball SODA for a considerable time" - what about Entryware - the large majority of Techneos users? You have to feel sorry for the Entryware users, the cost structure will undoubtedly change and who will be driven elsewhere since the are dealing with a Corporate Entity very different from the accommodating smaller dynamic organisation.

Like Report

9 years ago

"This is interesting, however, it still doesn't supply a true multi-mode survey interviewing platform (mobile and web) since one still has to programme in two different languages and have two different data structures to deal with" Just to make it clear the first move is 100% integration into the existing Confirmit programming/design tool. Meaning one tool, not two tools or two languages. That would be one of the reason for this acquiring.

Like Report

9 years ago

Smart move by Confirmit getting hold of a great mobile product, though they may have many challenges ahead integrating SODA into their Horizons bundle. Data structure is the least concern for their engineering team I'd imagine. Creating a new mobile app for iOS is going to be pretty straightforward. One OS for dedicated hardware (you know what you're going to get before you start), but with the plethora of other mobile OS's on the market, especially Android's one shoe fits all approach and, with the inevitable forking that will happen, they might run up against a few of issues. I appreciate Techneos already run their software on pretty much every mobile platform going, but it might be a different proposition integrating all that engineering with an alien software suite to give us a stable multi-mode, multi-platform product. It was interesting to note that Molloy stated "a considerable time before we mothball SODA." I wonder just how long it will be before we see the fruits of this acquisition?

Like Report

9 years ago

Congratulations to Techneos on the deal!! There are other vendors for interviewer CAPI software that can be a replacement for Entryware for the ones who wouldnt want to switch to Confirmit. Some of which are SurveyToGo, Snap, QuestionPro, mQuest etc..

Like Report

9 years ago

Hi everyone. Just wanted to clarify a few things. It's certainly true that the systems are separate right now, of course. The short term plan (during the rest of this year and early 2012) is to integerate on the back end (data). During 2012 we plan to more thoroughly integrate the front end (authoring, control). We'll end up with a single platform that incorporates the features of both .. in the meantime, it's business as normal .. Soda continues with its roadmap in parallel to the integration work. So, the direct answer as to seeing fruits of this is a number of months. Just as with when we joined Pulse Train and Confirmit - we understand the need to go fast - especially with mobile, as the market changes so fast ! The move from Entryware to Soda has been well underway for many years, and even before we brought the two companies together the emphasis and effort was on Soda and the desire to encourage existing Entryware users to move on to Soda. Neither of the systems is being retired, however, but time and software wait for no man, and the mobile landscape in which Entryware was created is *so* radically different from what we see now, that it's inevitable that an evolution takes place ... We'll certainly want to align the pricing structures to simplify everything at the point when the systems are combined, but that absolutely will not be to the detriment of existing users and quite clearly all exisitng contractual commitments will be honoured.

Like Report