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What did PowerPoint do to Anyone?

Over the years we have been developing 'flashier' ways to present data. However, there is still a place for PowerPoint in market research.

Person presenting in front of peers with a screen in the background

How is PowerPoint Viewed by the Market Research Industry?

What is the true purpose of market research? To me, it is to tell thought-provoking stories, supported by high quality data. We love to survey, interview, and interrogate perceptions, ideas, and beliefs to learn something new and advance society forward. However, the data collection method is only one part of the process. How we take this information and present it to our audience is something that cannot be overlooked or underestimated. 

As researchers, with over 400 years’ collective experience in the sector, we understand how important it is to have the right tools to turn data into a brilliant story. We take this experience and expertise into our product development discussions, to ask ourselves what reporting formats work for our customers. From these discussions, we came to two conclusions that we felt were pretty much indisputable:

  1. Microsoft PowerPoint remains THE most important, popular, and influential reporting tool in market research.
  2. Microsoft PowerPoint remains THE most criticized, maligned, and disrespected reporting tool in market research. 

This led us to question, “What did PowerPoint do to anyone?!”

A Big Misunderstanding?

While it may seem like a cop-out answer, it is most likely a big misunderstanding – one probably driven by our own misinterpretation of PowerPoint’s purpose. 

If we consider what makes PowerPoint so powerful and impactful, it is nothing to do with reporting data, it is all about telling the data’s story. Somewhere in its evolution, PowerPoint has been inextricably associated with the classic refrain that market research buyers “don’t want to spend money on market research that gets presented once and then sits on a shelf”. The reality is, PowerPoint was never made to store data this way. 

While on-premise storage limitations have been mitigated with the arrival of cloud technology, the misconception remains. Even the arrival of new technology has not solved the problem – in fact, it appears to have made it worse. 

A Case Study in Failed Product Development

An example of how new technology failed to address the core issue is when I and a team of others were developing a new syndicated data source, based off financial app data. We had a strict edict from the higher-ups that under no circumstances was the information to be delivered in PowerPoint. 

To dutifully meet this specification, we set about presenting the data in a web-based dashboard, trying to recreate every bit of PowerPoint functionality we could. As expected, we failed miserably.

By trying to put so much information in what was effectively a static dashboard with numerous filters, we neither managed to clearly present the KPIs the client was after – what we felt was the raison d’etre for any BI dashboard worth its salt – nor did we have any end users extracting a story from the data. Based on this direct feedback, the product was canned before full launch. 

This had nothing to do with the quality of the data, purely the inability to present it based on the client’s requirements.

There is Still a Place for PowerPoint

One final tale before I get to the punchline. While we took the lessons from previous mistakes, to develop better, more engaging digital reports that were web-based and sharable by a link, the client still responded with “This is the best use of digital reporting we have ever seen, but can you show me where the export to PowerPoint button is please, so I can present it to my team?”

The Best of Both Worlds

So, what is the moral of this story for Walr? Is it to create a focused KPI dashboard within the Walr Platform and continue to use our ‘Export to PowerPoint’ function for all other analyses? Or is there a happier medium, where we stay true to our value to ‘Revel in Innovation’? 

We decided to develop a halfway house; something that could bring together both worlds to support greater data collaboration. The output? Pinboard. Using our capability to generate any type of deliverable, be it a cross-tab, table or chart, and the ability to easily distribute it, Pinboard enables customers to export anything to a web-based URL, curated in any which way they want – including branding, headlines and commentary. The output can be published as a unique URL to be shared internally within research teams and/or externally with end clients.

PowerPoint vs. Dashboards: A Problem Solved?

Have we finally solved the dashboard vs. PowerPoint conundrum? The honest answer is we are not sure. However, we have bridged the gap for our clients who want to collaborate more digitally and focus on telling stories with data. 

Time will tell what the next chapter is. In the meantime, we encourage everyone in the industry to be a bit nicer to our old dear friend, Microsoft PowerPoint!

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