Redefining Big Data Maturity via Targeted Surveys [CASE STUDY]


Meet AtScale

AtScale is a provider of big data analytics software to enterprises such as Visa, Macy’s, Bloomberg, and Comcast. Founded by a team of Apache Hadoop framework and business intelligence veterans, AtScale bridges the gap between the business user, their favorite visualization tools, and their underlying big data platform.

While building BI solutions on Apache Hadoop at companies like Yahoo!, Klout, and Conductor, AtScale’s founders realized that they were consistently struggling with existing technologies year after year. After growing tired of their frustration, AtScale’s founders decided to solve the problems being presented to them by developing a new technology of their own. And so, AtScale was born.

After only being in business for four years, AtScale is already working with customers across multiple industries to deliver on the promise of BI on big data – from direct marketing services, to online gaming and consumer retail.

The Need for Higher Quality Big Data Maturity Assessments

Prior to the inception of AtScale in 2013, the founding members of the company routinely found that there was simply no level of awareness of big data maturity in their industries, which meant that it was extremely difficult to measure just how sophisticated a given company’s understanding and implementation of big data was. In an age where more data is being amassed than ever before, it’s essential that organizations looking to maximize revenue don’t just collect and store large quantities of data, but that they actually leverage this data to directly inform business decisions.

The founding members of AtScale learned that while searching for reports on big data maturity amongst professionals across industries, only small reports and studies were available. These reports, more often than not, tended to shine a negative light on the legitimacy of big data’s influence on BI, simply because the maturity of big data education was not up to speed. On top of this, they found that marketing analysts in the space were not educated themselves in terms of the market’s progression.

Thanks to their diverse experiences and backgrounds, the founders of AtScale knew there was a problem to be solved since the findings in the reports available to them conflicted with their own knowledge of how professionals were leveraging big data for BI purposes.

The industry was in dire need of a new methodology for assessing big data maturity, and AtScale was in need of a way to distribute better, more informative, more targeted assessments.

Why SurveyGizmo?

Once it was determined that a new maturity assessment methodology would positively disrupt the BI industry, the AtScale team got to work. They developed a survey framework that would allow them to more accurately gauge the pulse of where the benchmark stood for Big Data knowledge in the BI industry. Since they were familiar with the available data collection and insights tools being offered at the time, they chose to become a client of SurveyGizmo.

“I had seen SurveyGizmo at the top of the list of data collection and insights platforms for quite a while, and had used several of their competitors myself in the past. I had heard about the engine that powers SurveyGizmo’s robust software, and once I investigated things for myself, I knew that it outperformed the rest. Choosing SurveyGizmo for this initiative was an easy decision.”

– Bruno Aziza, CMO at AtScale

Measuring Big Data Maturity with Targeted Surveys

The team at AtScale knew that in order to address the industry-wide problem of a false sense and definition of big data  maturity, they would need to develop a methodology that would enable them to collect large amounts of quality responses from the correct contacts within the BI space. They found a qualified analyst to help them develop this methodology, and immediately were off to the races.

The first step was to administer SurveyGizmo-powered surveys that would reintroduce the concept of big data maturity, and then plot respondents on the maturity curve dependent on their responses to the assessment they received. This would begin to redefine the idea of what the term “big data maturity” meant, since so many organizations at the time considered themselves to be relatively mature when it came to the storing and implementation of big data. In reality, they were much further behind the curve than they thought.

Shortly after the company’s inception, AtScale produced an assessment comprised of 20 questions. The responses would enable professionals to identify exactly where they landed on the learning curve when it came to big data’s role in the BI market. Once finalized, the assessment was then distributed to a targeted list of industry professionals, and thousands of answers were generated in mere weeks.

While the majority of the market was administering surveys to 100 industry professionals at a time, AtScale was able to yield thousands of responses. The previously tiny sample sizes contributed to inaccuracy of findings, and ultimately was responsible for the development of a false perception of what big data maturity truly meant in the industry.

By leveraging SurveyGizmo, AtScale was empowered to develop and administer their assessment efficiently, but a factor that can and should not be ignored is the quality of survey recipients. AtScale led  the shift from quantity of respondents with varying focuses within the BI industry, to a more targeted strategy which entailed asking Big Data maturity questions only to the professionals that actually spent their time in that world.

“Most of the other surveys in this space are currently asking the wrong people the wrong questions, says Aziza. “Their current methodology can be compared to asking Ferrari owners about Porches. They’re inherently going to get really low quality answers.”

– Bruno Aziza, CMO at AtScale

What AtScale did, is they actually started asking the ‘Ferrari owners’ about the Ferraris that they drive on a daily basis. Not only were they able to get more responses, but they were able to get higher quality, more granular, and more relevant responses.

“Thanks to SurveyGizmo, AtScale was able to quickly develop a voice in the BI space, and frankly, we are now able to fill a void where there was a need for education, but no one was stepping up to the plate. It’s a great example of how the industry can have an independent view on what’s happening in the market. That’s where SurveyGizmo helped us the most – if I had waited for the traditional ways of gathering insights and knowledge in this market, it would have taken years. With SurveyGizmo, in just four months, I was able to get the voice of the industry, and my findings were published everywhere,” says Aziza.

Aziza addresses a serious problem here that is being experienced by market researchers everywhere. They simply don’t have the tools in place to reach the people that are actually doing the work relevant to their inquiries.

The traditional way of administering surveys, and conducting market research for that matter, is a very single-threaded process. For example, for an easily digestible analogy, let’s imagine that we live in the age in which horses and carriages are used for transportation. Horses are your view and definition of personal transportation. Then, all of a sudden, the car is introduced. You wouldn’t survey the people that are experts in horses about the functionality of automobiles. The traditional means of collecting knowledge or information about where the BI market was headed involved methodologies as irrational as this analogy.

Instead of surveying ‘horse experts’ so to speak,  AtScale identified exactly where all the ‘car experts’ were. Since the ‘car experts’ were at the forefront of their industry, AtScale surveyed this group.

To bring things back to Big Data and BI, we can treat Big Data maturity as the automobile in the analogy above. AtScale was able to realize early on that other market researchers were talking to the wrong audience, so of course there was a false perception of what Big Data maturity truly meant, and of course the perception of the market was skewed.

Tactical Implementation of Independent Surveys

After developing an open and independent survey methodology, SurveyGizmo’s customizability and flexibility allowed AtScale to glean the strongest insights possible. They were able to independently administer unbranded surveys so that the survey was not associated or sponsored by an analyst firm. Ultimately, all biases were removed.

In addition, SurveyGizmo’s sophisticated embedded Logic functionality allowed AtScale to administer complex questionnaires while keeping the maximum question count at 20.

Logic is a feature that comes natively with SurveyGizmo, and it allows the people taking a survey to be presented with particular questions depending on how they’ve responded to the previous questions in the survey. With Logic, AtScale was able to create surveys that appeared to be simplistic to their recipients, but in actuality these surveys were complex on the back end, and allowed AtScale to collect deep, powerful, granular insights while avoiding survey fatigue in their recipients.

AtScale  began to collect deep data with SurveyGizmo that now enables them to enhance communications with clients and industry professionals. AtScale can now precisely measure:

  • Required Amount of Touches – On average, how many times does the same person need to be emailed before they respond?
  • Survey Completion Rates – How many people need to be sent a survey to receive a given number of responses?
  • Effectiveness of Survey Design – How long does it take to complete the survey? If a survey is emailed to 1,000 people and only 20 people open it, then something about the subject line is wrong. If 200 people open the email, but don’t open the survey, something about the copy is wrong.

Quality Over Quantity? Why Not Both?

AtScale was able to accomplish more than expected by administering their surveys with SurveyGizmo. When AtScale began administering these surveys, the only other company already polling the same community was a leading market research firm, who is struggling with optimizing their strategy for receiving quality responses. Thanks to SurveyGizmo, AtScale was able to come out of the gate with a whopping 3,000 responses, positioning them at the forefront of market research for the BI industry.

“The competitive advantage that SurveyGizmo provided me was that it allowed me to point to a single URL, from which respondents could easily get through a sophisticated survey in just six minutes. SurveyGizmo allowed me to have a market intelligence presence that was ten to twenty times bigger than any research project happening in the Business Intelligence space at that time.”

– Bruno Aziza, CMO at AtScale

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