It really takes a special type of individual to manage a survey project.
I’ve learned that no matter how big or small a survey is – it’s definitely more
challenging and complex than you’d think. You have to have loads of patience,
strong organizational skills and lots of coffee!
So here are a few tips on making your life easier when you start your next data
1. Setting Stringent Timelines
One of the keys to a successful data collection cycle is putting into place
firm timelines. It is vital to plot out each task, and all the resources
related to the task for a survey. This will aid in ensuring that there is ample
time for data collection deadlines and performing necessary quality assurance
and testing for data integrity at the end.
Surveys are a huge undertaking that involve countless components. From managing
the minutest tasks such as setting up conference calls/meetings, to the more
complex tasks such as analyzing and compiling the data itself; each step needs
to be properly documented in order to clearly identify responsibilities and
resources. I suggest using either an Excel-based template such as a work
breakdown structure (WBS) or Microsoft Project. Both tools are resourceful for
managing data collection timelines.
2. Data Collection Tools
There are several methods of collecting data: online-surveys, phone interviews,
focus groups and yes, even dreaded handwritten surveys. Each type possesses its
own advantages and disadvantages. Whichever method you use, there are bound to be
obstacles to overcome along the way.
One of the more contemporary methods of data collection is through which by
the way, I am a HUGE fan of! Taking surveys online was a lifesaver at a small
association I worked for. They were still, get this, collecting survey
responses from paper! Talk about being stuck in a time warp. I knew I had to
make changes quickly to keep my sanity. A co-worker of mine introduced me to
InSite Surveys and that was all she wrote. Everything was at my fingertips:
designing and customizing surveys for my data collection needs, managing
responses, respondents, contacts and even a quantitative and qualitative
breakdown. InSite Surveys allowed me to nearly triple the organization’s annual
statistical study’s participants from 800 to 2100 respondents.
One of the bigger challenges to online surveys is ensuring that there is an
adequate amount of responses in order to guarantee data integrity. Without
valid data, the whole project is a bust.
For those of you who struggle to increase the participation rate for your
surveys, the answer is formulating a high-quality and efficient incentive
campaign. There are several ways to incentivize your survey respondents. In the
world of associations, we utilized a great deal of discounts and coupons good
towards our conferences, education and even free publications. But you can
think outside the box and come up with your own unique solutions: free iPods,
gift cards and yes, even cash! The key to incentives is thinking of one (or
two) that pertain to your industry and will lure respondents and sustain
participation for future surveys.
4. Fresh Eyes
Probably one of the most demanding tasks of data collection is, well, the data
itself. Once the data is in, someone has to be accountable for the dirty job of
sifting through it all to make sure certain respondents properly entered the
requested data. And if there are any data calculations involved, those need to
be verified as well.
Try to find a set of fresh eyes that will assist when your eyes begin to
experience “lazy eyes” with all the data you’re trying to scan through. Because
after awhile all the data starts to get jumbled together and look the same.
So the next time you’re asked to take on a survey project and you’re feeling a
little overwhelmed about getting through it, you can implement some of these
tactics and breeze through it like a pro.
Janet Taylor writes for InSite Systems, a leader in surveys systems and a
pioneer of . For more
information about our visit