My Australia/Singapore workshop tour is now 40% complete and I have spent a fair amount of time in hotels, airports, and on planes. My companion over the last couple of days is Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, the revised 2006 version.
Friedman makes some powerful points about the way the world has changed over the last few years. He describes the way that the international playing field is being flattened, and the way that new models of doing business are springing up.
When Friedman looks at outsourcing he quickly discovers that it is much, much more than exporting metal-bashing and call centres. He points out that India produces 2.5 million graduates a year, and almost 90,000 MBAs. As well as call centres, India is becoming home to software development, R&D, and even outsourced journalism. Friedman reports how financial information company Reuters and moved 350 analyst and journalism jobs from New York and London to India.
Friedman also talks about how jobs are being outsourced from Japan to Dalian in China, an area that is strong in Japanese language skills because of the occupation by Japan of that area in the first half of the 20th Century. China has adopted modernisation in many locations, and is pouring resources into education, science, and growth.
The book covers a great many other changes, such as technology, open-source software, work-flow, and even the fall of the Berlin Wall, and all of these will have lessons for market researchers to ponder.
However, what struck me was how slowly market research is adopting outsourcing, comparing to other industries. Hospitals are electronically sharing CAT scans with doctors in India, some McDonalds in the US are outsourcing the voice-in-the-box in their drive-ins to other establishments hundreds of miles away, manufacturing and technology is being outsourced to India and China; but we in market research are moving at a snail-like pace.
By contrast market research has made very limited progress, mostly in the area of DP and online research. Looking at the speed of change in other markets it is hard to escape the conclusion that over the next 5-10 years there will be a great unravelling. The market research organisation in the near future will have probably outsourced the following:
1) Questionnaire scripting and hosting
2) Data collection
3) Data tables
4) Basic analysis and PowerPoint creation
5) Marketing sciences
6) Accounts, IT, and HR
What will be left? What I hope will be left are the essential core competences of market researchers
a) Understanding clients needs, going beyond what is simply stated in the brief.
b) Understanding what questions to ask which people.
c) Understanding which analysis tools to apply (i.e. to commission).
d) Understand how to change the information in the data to the insight the client needs.
e) Communicating the insight to the client in an actionable way.