MrWeb Series – Tobi Andersson, Chief Product Officer at Confirmit, on Data Visualization
This episode is in partnership with MrWeb’s Data Visualization segment and was recorded on April 30, 2020. Since then the merger of Dapresy and Confirmit has progressed significantly. Details of the new company’s structure and approach will be announced soon – stay tuned.
My guest today is Tobi Andersson, Chief Product Officer at Confirmit.
Founded in 1999, Dapresy is a data visualization platform for market research and customer experience data. Recently, Dapresy announced a merger with Confirmit, an early entrant in the DIY survey space as well as a leading CX platform.
Prior to joining Dapresy, Tobi was the Vice President of Hermelin Nordic Research.
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Jamin Brazil: Hi. I’m Jamin Brazil. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Tobi Andersson founder of Dapresy and Chief Product Officer at Confirmit. . Founded in 2008, Dapresy is a data visualization platform for market research and customer experience data. Recently, Dapresy announced a merger with Confirmit, and early entrant in the DIY survey space, as well as a leading CX platform. Prior to starting Dapresy, Tobi was the vice president of Hermelin Nordic Research. Tobi, thanks so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.
Tobi Andersson: Thank you very much. Glad to be here.
Jamin Brazil: Let’s start with our marquee question. Give us a little bit of context for the audience. What did your parents do, and how did that inform your current career?
Tobi Andersson: Yeah. That’s a good question. Actually, I didn’t plan to work within the market research industry. I originally grew up on a farm, and I was very much focusing on – during my time at school to become a farmer. And I also started very, very many years to get a master degree in farming. But during the studies, I realized that the farming industry, they needed to be more – using more technology. And at that time, this was the late ‘90s, there was not that much of IT solutions for the farming industry. So, during my study – the time at school, I started to learn how to program, because I wanted to create software for farmers. And I think I did that quite well, because I became a quite good programmer. And then when I was finishing my studies, and I was going to apply for my first job, that was actually at a market research agency, a fieldwork house, which is primarily market research. So, I applied for that job, and I started my career as a software programmer instead. So, yeah, that was a big change in my – to my focus. But that’s how I started in the industry.
Jamin Brazil: That’s so interesting. And we have seen an explosion over the last, I’d say five years, but it’s been obviously a lot more than that – earlier than that, that really mass adoption, with companies like John Deere, in the actual technology space. So, farming is now probably one of the more technologically enabled industries or sectors in our economy.
Tobi Andersson: No, I fully agree. The farming industry, it’s really much into technology nowadays. And here in Sweden I run a farm, in parallel with everything else I’m doing. And you can clearly see now, that technology has been very, very presenting in all the modern tractors and combines, and really supporting the farmers to get more out of each square of crops.
Jamin Brazil: So, I live in Fresno, which is in the center of California, and it happens to be referred to as the breadbasket of the world. And it produces about nine billion dollars of agricultural product, which is a fair amount. And there’s a tremendous amount of innovation happening out of – where I live. And so, I apologize about this slight divergence, one of the things that I’ve come to love is the satellite imagery of you know, acreage, and how that informs things like irrigation, or as you said, fertilization of – anyway, so, it’s just been – it’s such a – it’s such a data driven ecosystem. And the – I think there’s some parallels that we can draw from that, and apply to actual consumers.
Tobi Andersson: Absolutely.
Jamin Brazil: I mean, just kind of finishing the thought, you know, there is this like information that’s provided to us, whether it’s satellite imagery, or in soil sensors, or in the field sensors, and that really helps farmers make decisions on what they should do, and when they should do it. Which is, you know, functionally what business is at any level. And these maps that we use to guide those decisions, in every way, that’s what market research is trying to do too. And I think that really gets to what you’ve built with Dapresy, with respect to like data visualization.
Tobi Andersson: Yeah. No, absolutely. And you can clearly see that there is a common denominator between the different industries, and that is, normally, you always have data, you have a lot of data. And it’s always about, how can we put this data together, in a form that people understand and know how to act on. So, this is actually why I founded Dapresy, because I was working a lot at this fieldwork house, collecting a lot of data, and I was delivering huge files of tables, and Excel files with various data that was not that easy to consume. So, I decided very early on that that’s, hey, I would like to read it to provide something to the world, where they very easily can consume data. That’s actually how I started Dapresy, and focus has at all times been to consolidate data, and make it presentable in a way that people understand. That’s more tricky than you think, because it’s so much more than just putting a shot on the web page. It’s all about creating a story around the data, and also understanding that it – depending on who you talk to, and what role they have, and the level of experience. You need to present data differently. So that’s all what my professional life has been about. It’s, how can we make data accessible? And as we have been talking about the farming industry during this call, I clearly see that there is the same type of challenge that we are in for in that industry, that once you start to make data available, people make more decisions, and more correct and faster decisions. So, yeah.
Jamin Brazil: So, give us the elevator pitch, or the overview of the listeners, what Dapresy is doing right now for the market.
Tobi Andersson: Yeah, sure, yes. So, Dapresy, we are focusing on providing insights professional, we report based on market research data. We have, from day one, been focusing on being really good at understanding the market research data. And basically saying that once you have collected data anywhere, you should be able to, in a very, very short time, present this data in a consumable format. And so, we focus on the market research industry, corporate research, and professional buyers of insights that wants to consume data in an easy, understandable way.
Jamin Brazil: Could you describe for the audience the actual like outputs that you’re generating?
Tobi Andersson: Absolutely. So, where we are – what we have seen really resonates with people is when you can create infographic based presentations of the data, because very often an image tells the story, and people can connect to that. So, at Dapresy, we are very focused on driving data in infographic lookalike dashboards. But we also provide, from this very easy to consume dashboards, you can really drill down into data, and at the end of the process, you can generate tables as well. But, the high ambition – infographic piece, that’s something that has been the focus for us.
Jamin Brazil: You merged recently with Confirmit, which I thought was a very interesting move. Confirmit, for those that don’t know it, and I’m sure everybody does know that listens to this podcast, but Confirmit is one of the earliest survey platforms that was the first, to my knowledge, that pivoted into embracing like automated NPS and CX. And they experienced rapid growth. And of course, we all know that story as it sort of continued, and languished for a little while. It now seems to be back on the rise, which is very exciting to watch. But, to give us a little bit of understanding of the overall benefits of this merger to the market.
Tobi Andersson: Yeah. I’m very enthusiastic about this merger, because as you refer to, I’ve been knowing the Confirmit team for very, very many years. And I actually got trained in Confirmit back late ‘99. And I have at all times admired the software for its capabilities to collect data in a various set of channels, and also have to present this data in a very interesting way. So when this opportunity got on my radar, where we were going to evaluate if it makes sense to merge Dapresy and Confirmit, I was very positive to this, because, by heritage, the two companies has been focusing within the same type of niche, but still with a little bit of a different focus. Dapresy, we have been very much focused on customized reporting, and being able to present in a very appealing and visual way. And Confirmit, they have a super strong heritage and a software collecting data through a multichannel mode, an all to make to processes, and present this information to the end user. So, when I really looked at this case, it was like a very, very good match. And we really believe that by providing the two platforms as one platform going forward, we can provide an end to end platform for professional insight managers, that more or less solves all the types of use cases that a modern insights professional is looking for. It spans from doing standardized surveys that are more of a volume play. But also then to be able to deliver on customized research, with complex CX studies, and brand checking studies. So, I think the combination of the two companies, it’s really giving something to the industry that they will be looking for what our – that they will see it as a positive move.
Jamin Brazil: I actually really agree with that point about it being a positive move. And what I find very interesting is, from my survey of the industry, there actually isn’t a data reporting or dashboarding tool that exists like what you’ve built at Dapresy. And I know this sounds a little infomercial-y. But I really mean this. Like, it probably does exist, and I just haven’t seen them. So, let’s – in full transparency. But, the combination of integrating the actual like data collection piece, with the highly engaging dashboards. I mean, that is a powerful combination. And so, I know it’s relatively early in the merger. Do you have a specific case where a customer is being able to add on the Dapresy dashboards?
Tobi Andersson: Yeah. So that’s – this has been really interesting, because we have already now quite a significant set of customers that are using those platforms, and maximizing the value from both of them. So, we clearly see here, as you point out, that it’s very much about supporting the industry with a technology platform. The market research agency, or the insights professional can really – where we can support them to create more efficient products processes, but also where we can support the industry to really provide results from market research to the buyers, that is a little bit different than in the past, and maybe easier to consume. And where you can really get more value for the data that you have. So I clearly see, I think it’s [INAUDIBLE] where we have a complete platform that supports all the different faces of our professional insights program. And also combining this with a powerful visualization capabilities and Dapresy, that’s really something that we – we have seen that’s been very positively received by the market.
Jamin Brazil: So, we’re in the middle of COVID-19. This is a very unusual spot for all of us. I mean, as we were talking before we hit record, right, we’re both working from home. I had to take a break in the middle of our conversation to help my daughter, who is in the process of being potty trained, because my wife was working on a call at that moment. So, anyway, it’s just kind of – there’s been a lot that’s happened. I’d like to chat briefly about your point of view of how the world will be different post COVID-19. Right? So things are really different right now. But, like, we’re gonna come out of this at some point. How will market research as an industry be different?
Tobi Andersson: I think it’s – in order to understand that, maybe we need to take a step back, and understand, how will the world be different? And I remember back in 2008, when we had the last financial crisis, and how that changed the behavior of – people maybe were traveling a little bit more before that, and then they started to move to video meetings. And I think what this crisis has done is that it has created even more focus on being digital, working remote, and using different types of technology to communicate with each other. I think that itself will then change the type of requests for what insight professionals or market researchers need to do, because, all of us out there, we need to mesh our reality from a different type of audience, that is basically an audience that is behaving differently than in the past. And also, the way people will buy different things will be changing, et cetera. So, I think there – I mean, we can go back to something that is closer to normal than it is today. But, I think still, the whole world and the way it works will be changed slightly, and we have to adapt to that, and understand what are the different type of methods that will work for the future.
Jamin Brazil: Do you have a bet? Like, do you see that there’s different methods that’re gonna work for the future?
Tobi Andersson: No, I mean, it’s super difficult to predict the future. But, I mean –
Jamin Brazil: That’s true.
Tobi Andersson: It’s – you know, I guess one example is, that maybe we start to see that interviews will be probably done more remotely, for people working at home, than it was before. And then, maybe we need to understand more about social media data, because people will have a different behavior, and communicate more through these types of channels. So, I mean, it’s really difficult to say something. But, I think that these things could be impacted. But I also think that you will see these – on the area where we are working, where you start to digitalize even more than before the type of way that you communicate information. Because I think it will be much more of a mode where you collect the data, depending on different needs. And then you distribute this [INAUDIBLE] that you really would like to be more of a self service mode. And that will then put more focus on us as insights professionals, how can we provide data to people, where we can be assured that this data is being received correctly, and understood correctly. And also help people to explore things differently than before. That maybe was the case when you had a face to face meeting, presenting PowerPoint slides. So, things will change. And we believe it will be more on the – yeah, more digitizing.
Jamin Brazil: Did you use Zoom? Or, actually, do you currently use Zoom?
Tobi Andersson: We do. So –
Jamin Brazil: Did you use Zoom before?
Tobi Andersson: We did, actually. Yeah. So, we switched to Zoom a couple of years ago. But, I can tell you that the usage on Zoom now has been increasing a lot. I think what has been really interesting during this pandemic, is that people have thought to use video. It’s not only noise, it’s also the video. And people get used to having these types of meetings. So, it was like – we’ve been here, in our company now, the combined company, we’ve been doing this for – we are at week six now. And I think nowadays, we are very much used to it. And video is always on, and we use voice and video together.
Jamin Brazil: Do you use Zoom personally now? Like your children or – ?
Tobi Andersson: Well, no. We actually use FaceTime the most.
Jamin Brazil: FaceTime most? I was just curious about that. [CROSSTALK] Why do you think – because it’s very obvious that Zoom has won – I mean, I presume – I actually don’t know if that’s the case in Sweden. But, in the US, you know, Zoom is very dominant now, whereas, you know, none of my family did video conferencing, and now all of them do it. And they all leverage Zoom most of the time. Sometimes we’ll do FaceTime also. Is that the case in Sweden?
Tobi Andersson: Yeah. Yeah, Zoom has been like – yeah. That’s the case here.
Jamin Brazil: Why did they win?
Tobi Andersson: I think it’s, you know, that’s a really good question. And I have a little bit of experience in this topic, because I was using different providers before I moved to Zoom. And I think that the key thing for us making the decision, is the ease of use, and that it’s not complex software to use. It’s very easy to get going, and it’s not overwhelming with different types of functionalities. So, I think it’s about, you know, making technology easy to access to people. Also that it has been a very stable platform. You have had very few interruptions in the service. So I think it’s you know, being available, being predictable, being easy to use. As with all softwares, it’s not the software that has the most complex functionality that wins, it’s the way that it’s being used, and how easy – accessible it is.
Jamin Brazil: My three and four-year -old are doing a weekly Zoom playdate with some friends. And my 80-year-old – my parents are in their 80s are doing a – every Sunday night, we as a family get together and do Pictionary through Zoom. And it’s been interesting – because obviously neither of them used Zoom before, and all of them are very capable of doing it now, which is hilarious. And I think there’s a lot of lessons that we as an industry, especially on the technology side, can apply to our businesses.
Tobi Andersson: Yeah, because what I’ve seen is that, you know, being in this industry for some 25 years, you can clearly see that there is like a generational difference in the way our colleagues are in the market research industries adopting software. Because if you compare to the type of people that work with software 15, 20 years ago, the majority of these types of people, they were people that had a background in programming, or was very, very into technology. But nowadays, we see that it’s more about the business use or that is using the software. And that also puts a completely different expectation on the software that we provide to the industry, because it needs to be more of a do it yourself, easy to use, easy to access, and self learning mode. And I think this something that we will see even more in the future for the industry. The software will continue to be much, much more advanced, and to do much, much more complex programs. But at the same time, the way it’s being used, and the user interface, and the support to get going with a software will – we will see heavy improvements in that area, in the next 10 years, because we are addressing a different type of target group nowadays than we were in the past.
Jamin Brazil: Yeah, I totally – so, it’s funny you’re bringing this point up. I completely agree with you, in terms of market research. I think that you’re gonna see a three to five x in adoption of easy to use tools – market research tools, or user experience tools, or whatever consumer insight tools. And then I think you know, you’re gonna see a very steady state in the more com – the, you know, highly sophisticated tools, like the Sawtooth Softwares. So, right, these highly niche, but very important. But you need to have like an understanding of statistics, and maybe even programming, to be able to leverage them to their full extent, right? So, I think it is gonna be a tale of two cities. But, you know, in terms of the growth, I would definitely see the growth in the easy to use space. A common theme we’ve heard over the last year on the show is that companies are data rich, but insights poor. How does that line up with your point of view?
Tobi Andersson: No, I agree to this. It’s a multidimensional question, how to address that, because it’s very easy to collect data, and also to comingulate from different data sources nowadays, because you can basically use standard APIs, and then you get like a big database with a lot of data. The challenge you have is, what are we going to do with this data? And what data can we put together that as – that will make any sense? And I think that’s one thing that we haven’t been able to really solve in the industry, how to really make data aligned, and then understand that we can work with the same data set and adjust what’s in there. And then also it’s – what we clearly see is that, once you have these big data sets, and you have a lot of data accessible, all of the sudden, you are going to address a completely different group of people in the organization, in order to benefit from this data. Maybe in the past we did research, and we provided this to a limited number of people, that were really experienced professionals, and that really could understand quite complex data tables, and significant testing reports, et cetera. But, if you’re going to really benefit from all this data, we really need to commoditize the data, and make it available for everyone in the organization. And basically, you know, make people enthusiastic about, hey, this is the data we have. This is what it means for you. And learn more about this data, because this will help you to make more decisions, and faster and more accurate decisions. So, I think that you’re absolutely right. Data – we have a lot of data. Now it’s just a matter of understanding, how can we structure this data, and how can we get this data out to everyone, to really create more value of it. And I think that’s – a lot of things go wrong in that sector. But, you know, still much things still to be done.
Jamin Brazil: Right. And the – you know, one of the big – I don’t want to say problems, I’m gonna put opportunities there, is that you have this multilayer data set now. So, you know, it used to be the case that we had a survey, and we reported on that self reported data. But now we have market data, sales data, previous study data. I mean, there’s just like multiple layers that then has to somehow be aligned in a way that it provides context to the self reported data, that really builds a more complete story and point of view of the consumer. At Dapresy, have you guys – or are you leveraging multiple data sources?
Tobi Andersson: Yes. Yes, we do. So, we started quite early on [INAUDIBLE] different data streams, in order to provide the right context. And each time I see the effect of this, it’s so fantastic, because we recently deployed something to an organization that really wanted to distribute this data out to everyone. And we were really able to combine a few data sets, and make them very easily accessible. And when you see people reading data, and understanding data, and really be proud of making decisions on that data, that’s when you really feel that you created a software that will fill some needs. So – and I think we will see more of this, because, the future is, make data available to everyone, because that’s the only way to make sure that we really benefit from the value that we have in all this data. But, on the other hand, you also need to make sure that you use powerful technology to combine the data, and have the ability to co-mingle this data in a really correct and efficient way.
Jamin Brazil: When companies are – when you have inbound leads, what is the pain point that the customer is experiencing, that they’re hoping that you’ll address?
Tobi Andersson: Yeah. So, it’s two or three things. If you look at the corporate researchers, they are very often asking about, can you support us to get more value from a CX study, for instance, because we really have a good CX process in place. We are collecting data, and we are really getting good results. But, please help us to visualize this in a way that people understand what it means. And you need to understand when the customer says that, we need to address people that are maybe not used to working with data on a daily basis. So that’s one use case, visualize data, make people understand it better. When it comes to the market research sector, which is where we’ve been operating for more than 20 years now, it’s very much about a streamline [INAUDIBLE]. Because that – we are – even if we are focusing on infographic dashboards, we are a multitude of reporting tools. Within the tool that you generate, PowerPoint X, Excel Tables, and Dashboard. And the normal ask is, that people come to us and say, hey, we really need now to optimize the production process, because we really would like to spend more time on value creation works, and we would like to avoid copy paste data in order to create shorts. So that’s when we come in and support companies to optimize their reporting process. And that – the interesting thing here is that since we’ve been so focusing on the market research sector for so many years, we also provide this – I call it the layer around the software, where we really have a team that understands the challenges that you have in the market research industry. And I think that also is something that customers appreciate from that, because we really – with all our experience in understanding how to optimize processes can understand, how can our software support you in your specific case, because each company is unique. You can’t make a template and push it out to everyone. You really need to understand how to customize the usage of the software for each company.
Jamin Brazil: I’m gonna ask – I’m changing this question, which I have asked of most of my guests, which is, what are the three characteristics of an all-star employee, and I’m – which is usually dealing a lot more with like core values, and the actual like substance of the person, the character of the person. But, I’m changing it to, what – and I feel like this is really important for us as an industry, what skills should we be learning or developing, in order to be relevant in a post COVID insights function?
Tobi Andersson: Yeah. Well, I think it’s a – maybe you can’t find all the skills in the same person. But, one thing that I think will be very important is that you need to understand that, most likely, in the future, you need to communicate with people that are working remotely, or that is not in the same room as you. And I think that storytelling is something that will be some – a skill that will be very much appreciated, because, I have seen, working with different colleagues, that the type of skills where really see that someone understands, how can we take this data and present a story around this data, when you see someone having those skills, you really see that you can get so much, much more out of the data, by us having this storytelling perspective. And that could be like, telling a story about a specific data set, or also understanding how to create a story around several data sets, that means something. So I think that’s something that will be very much appreciated in the future. And then I think also, to maybe come back a little bit to this, call it process optimization. Because I think that in the future, we will need to just understand that we need to spend more time on analyzing the data, and understanding what type of recommendations we will like to give based on this data. And then having a layer below this – an automated production align, that will be very, very much a benefit for those companies that can achieve that. And then we need to have people that are really good in technology, but also understanding how to connect different systems into our environment, because the future, as I see it, will be an ecosystem, where you will have different software providers working together, and providing what the inside professionals need. So I’m not sure what the type of specific skills set is here. But, a technology enabler that automates the research process. I think that would be very important.
Jamin Brazil: Last question. What is your personal motto?
Tobi Andersson: Yeah, that’s a – yeah. So, it needs some background to this, because otherwise, it would be difficult to understand. But, you, I’ve been founding Dapresy, and I’ve been running this company from nothing to what it is today. And it has been a fun, but very challenging journey, because it’s always painful to grow. And you need to make sure that you continue to grow and make everyone happy, both your colleagues, and also your customers. So, 15 years ago, I started to say to everyone that, hey, guys. We are having so much fun, and we are running at a super fast pace, and we are really growing a company. And we used an expression that we are really building the rocket while we are flying. But, as part of that, it will also be that we will be in challenging situations. And then I said to people that, from now on, I will be using the following sentence. And that is, no surprises. And no surprises is actually what I tell everyone nowadays, because it’s about to make sure that – we all get into challenges, if it’s the private life, or if it’s the professional life. But, as long as you can communicate about the challenges that you’re in for at the very, very early stage, then, as a team, you can help each other to solve that. And that has really resonated really well among the Dapresy team members, that no one is ever afraid of talking about challenges and things that we need to improve or do differently, because as long as we do that, we will have no surprises. And the people really you know, replicate that. And we have a really good culture and momentum around this type of setting.
Jamin Brazil: My guest today has been Tobi Andersson, founder of Dapresy and Chief Product Officer at Confirmit. Thank you, Tobi, for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.