Off the shelf question database/management system for repeated surveys?
December 7, 2016 3:04 AM   Subscribe

Is there an existing piece of software that would allow me to track and manage questions on several waves of a large survey?

I work on several surveys that run twice a year. We would like to have an easier way of tracking what questions were in each wave, who requested their inclusion, how long they take, etc.

We are in the early stages of improving our existing system, which is functional but limited, but I find it hard to believe that there isn't an off the shelf solution that would do most of this far better and wouldn't require the same time investment from us.

I'm also happy to hear about your own experiences/suggestions for how to do this beyond an unwieldy excel file.
posted by knapah to Technology (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add that the surveys themselves are delivered by external contractors. They have their own system for delivery.
posted by knapah at 3:12 AM on December 7, 2016

Usually, queries about how to do something with data which has become too unwieldy for excel is "you need a proper database"

In this case, the answer is...
You need a proper database. :)

What is your experience with databases?
A small Postgres type affair shouldn't, in theory, be all that hard to set up and once you've done that you can do all sorts of analytics on your data.
There is probably a better out of the box solution somewhere (which hopefully someone can recommend), but I would bet that it looks like a Relational database.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:35 AM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There are products that mix spreadsheets and databases, giving you lots of power in a familiar interface:
* Airtable
* Fieldbook
* Smartsheet
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:23 AM on December 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've been using Airtable for some personal projects recently and I could not be more impressed with it. It makes building a relatively sophisticated database trivial, the collaboration features are outstanding (live updates, full history tracking on everything) and it's fully cross platform - I've designed new databases on my iPhone!
posted by simonw at 7:16 AM on December 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

On choosing a database: I actually do not think it's very likely to be the right choice here, but it's surprising just how often Sqlite is the correct "real database" to choose... so I make sure I pretty much always evaluate it for at least a moment, whenever I am picking a RDBMS.
posted by teatime at 8:28 PM on December 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all. Airtable looks really interesting and like it might fulfill our needs. At the very least, it might be useful as a design tool for thinking through how we would want a more bespoke 'real database' to work.
posted by knapah at 4:55 AM on December 8, 2016

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