How to successfully migrate a tracking study to a new software platform
Researchers know that consistency is a critical ingredient for a successful tracking survey. If the sample provider changes, a new screener requirement is added, or a survey question is reworded — changes like these can compromise comparisons to historical data. As such, the prospect of migrating a tracking study to a new survey software platform would understandably raise concerns for any researcher. However, Forsta has helped to successfully transition many existing tracking studies to its platform. Each successful transition required planning, preparation, and buy-in from stakeholders.
The reasons for transferring data across platforms vary, but are usually tied to the benefits of the new platform. For example:
- Cost reduction
- Technological advancements
- Mobile compatible features
- Data collection enhancements
- Improved reporting capabilities
- Productivity improvements
- Field /admin management tools
- Software UI ease of use
- More programming flexibility
These benefits may apply not only to a specific tracking study, but also to the researcher’s ongoing survey efforts, and research process as a whole.
Programming the new tracker
Programming a tracking study in the new platform is perhaps the most resource intensive part of the transition. The programmer should ensure that the data structure and layout of the new tracker is set up to replicate the legacy tracker. Questionnaire labels need to match. Data labels, values, and positions must also line up, so that there can be 1-to-1 correspondence between the datamap and the data set. This will ensure a smooth transition as data from the old platform migrates to the new one. And, any reporting or data outputs tied to the original tracking setup can remain in place when transitioning to the new platform.
If any custom survey features need to be applied, ensure that the new platform can handle the details you require. This includes the incorporation of multimedia elements, custom styling elements, and third-party integrations.
A word about survey style
Some clients request that the tracker on the new platform replicate the survey look and feel of the legacy tracker. This can be done on Forsta, however, very specific styling requirements such as spacing between characters and lines require a custom development or UX team to support. This can be time consuming and expensive. More often than not, minimal style changes will be sufficient. In such cases, things like logos, font sizes, and background colors can be modified as needed, with little programming effort. Our experience has shown that cosmetic modifications to a survey do not have a significant impact on data outcome. What can have an impact are changes to the basic survey structure. This may include adding/removing answer options or changing question types (from a radio button to a slider). These types of modifications change the fundamental nature of the question and will create data differences.
Run the old and new trackers in parallel
We recommend that the tracker on the old platform and new platform run in parallel, for at least a few months (or waves). This allows sufficient time for the researcher to compare trends or deviations between the two. At first, the old platform should still field the majority of sample (e.g. 75%), and any differences in data or survey participation can be noted and investigated as needed. During this period, the researcher can also report on progress, impact, and benefits of the transition. This is crucial so that stakeholders can see the data themselves, and feel comfortable before completely moving over to the new platform
Moving a tracking study to a new platform can be a tricky process, but by following well planned out steps, researchers can achieve a successful transition.
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