Project Analysis: Find Answers Using the Quantitative Method

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Ronda Bowen • updated: 5/31/2011

In project management once a problem has been discovered, it’s time to find out why using the quantitative approach. This can be done in a variety of ways and here, Jean Scheid discussed the best practices for using such methods based on factual data that is easily analyzed.

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Exploring the Method

Feedback, questionnaires, and surveys for any product in the planning phase reveals statistical numbers leaders can analyze. In order for any quantitative research method to work, one must first establish the baseline of what will be analyzed.

For example, will a certain widget sell as is? To find out, quantitative methods pool participants in various ways and match actual and factual numbers to the questions asked. Here, questions on market share, market demographics, and customer satisfaction can be achieved and those results used to improve the widget or change the widget (or elements of the widget) entirely.

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Qualitative First

A new child’s phenomenon hit the market not too long ago—Pillow Pets by San Diego creator, Jennifer Telfer. Her idea incorporated a stuffed animal pet with Velcro which opened up into a sleeping pillow. Using the Pillow Pet example, we must first look at the qualitative method first.

Most likely in developing her first Pillow Pets, Ms. Telfer looked at gender-specific designs. After all, girls may not like giraffes as much as boys or boys may want to skip the panda, etc. Let’s say this phenomenon had initial problems right off the bat—no sales.

Qualitative research always comes first, so in our scenario to determine the problems with low sales of the Pillow Pet qualitative research shows the reason for the low sales. For example, perhaps a focus group of children were gathered with a variety of designs to determine favorites and the not so favorites.

Once qualitative researched showed no child wanted the polar bear or snake pillow pet, each were specifically questioned on why to determine the exact reasons. Once these reasons are discovered, quantitative research can begin.

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Using The Method

In keeping with our Pillow Pet example, from the focus group, perhaps the following was found:

No child of either gender liked the way the snake pillow felt when unfolded and found it uncomfortable.

Females thought the snake looked mean.

The polar bear was not white and black in color.

From here, the quantitative research method can begin by using various methods to determine why faults occurred and ways to fix them.

Qualitative research shows what is wrong, where quantitative methods reveal ways to improve products based on end-user input; or numerical data that can be analyzed.

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Research Examples

Hybrid Sampling – For the uncomfortable Pillow Pet design, a new design offered a bigger pillow-head area, the pillow snake was given a happier smile and the Panda Pillow Pet was offered in recognizable black and white colors. The focus group needed to answer specific questions about what they liked about the new Pillow Pets including questions such as, do you think the snake pillow is comfortable and why? Does the snake look happy or scary? What if we made the Panda red and yellow? Here, through learned responses, the new design, if developed using the quantitative method will help to increase sales. The answers provide quantitative numbers to increase sales based on pooling a group.

Parent Surveys – Telephone or online surveys are developed to be answered by parents of the original focus group of children. Through these surveys, parents are asked what specifically they think their child would rather see in the snake or the panda. Again, survey data analysis reveals if indeed a redesign would work or fail. For example, if too many parents simply stated, “Children are afraid of snakes no matter what," perhaps the snake should be dropped from the Pillow Pet product line. The production cost of the scary snake is dropped and the designers can focus on what children like best based on parental input. These surveys, once analyzed, reveal quantitative facts based on numerical data and show what parents will buy their children based on known likes and what they will avoid.

Suggestive Analysis – This type of analysis helps to determine not just what’s available, but what a focus group would like to see available. If surveys or questionnaires revealed an elephant was missing from the Pillow Pet line via suggestions by a panel, this product could be introduced. These surveys are easily designed to simply explain what the Pillow Pet is and does, likes and dislikes and the ever important—what would you like to see different question. Again via analysis, the appropriate product line could be produced. In this quantitative method, the number of people asking for an Pillow Pet elephant would be overwhelming, making it a perfect new product line choice.

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Analyzing the Data

In the above examples of quantitative research methods, one can see that almost any type of focus group, questionnaire or survey can be utilized to “fix" the problem. These methods show actual number results, meaning the project can focus on how many to produce and which kind will sell best. What can make the quantitative method fail is not analyzing the data and using the results to ensure the product will indeed sell.

Project leaders and teams can be successful with quality and improvements if they first focus on the why (or the reason of what’s wrong) and by using qualitative methods of research to gain factual figures on what will work and what won’t before a product goes to market.

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References

Chanimal – Quantitative Research - http://www.chanimal.com/html/quantitative_research.html

Dobney Research - http://www.dobney.com/Research/quantitative_research.htm

Image Credits:

Analysis on eReaders - Wikimedia Commons/DFE Group A15

Panda Pillow Pet courtesy of Amazon

Elephant Pillow Pet courtesy of Amazon

Enter Key - MorgueFile/Grafixar