3M Wrestles With Data Integration

‘Research Insighter’ Spotlights Synthesis Struggle

By Marc Dresner, IIR

Jiminy! Insights ain’t easy these days.

Just ask Sandy Kelly, manager of strategic customer insights for 3M Company, which seems to make just about everything’from Scotch?? tape to inhaled drug delivery systems.

Kelly was recognized at last year’s TMRE with a ‘Disruptive Innovation’ award for the fee-for-service DIY research program she introduced at 3M, whose growth continues at a steady clip of roughly 40% annually.

But while coopting runaway DIY at a Fortune 100 is no minor feat, it pales in comparison to the challenge of synthesizing 3M’s torrent of data into a holistic story that management can digest and act upon.

Surveys, conventional qualitative, CRM, sales data, syndicated data, social media analytics, usability testing and even clinical trial data’? Yikes!

According to Kelly, reconciling all of these information streams is forcing research to step outside its comfort zone.

‘The old value center for market research was always, always focused around the market research activity itself. In other words, just the tactical study,’ Kelly said. ‘But no more. Just the fact of the amounts of data that are out there prohibits us from being able to do that anymore.’

‘We’ve spent way too much time emphasizing the freaks and geeks nature of our job,’ said Kelly. ‘We need to move away from that a little bit and start to think of ourselves as visionary.’

‘I think market research may even be an antiquated name for what a market research department does now,’ she added.

Bottom line: ‘Someone should be responsibile for integrating all of this information and making it a clearer picture so that it’s usable.’

Is that individual a market researcher’or something more?

Listen to the interview here.

Read the transcript here.

Editor’s note: Sandy Kelly will be delivering a presentation titled ‘Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow: Listening to the Voice of the Complaining Customer’ at The Market Research Event November 7-9, 2011 in Orlando, FL.

For information or to register, please visit www.TheMarketResearchEvent.com.


Marc Dresner is an IIR USA communication lead with a background in trade journalism and marketing. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the market research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz. Meet him at TMRE 2011 in Orlando this November!