Information and updates from the team at Paradigm Sample.

Walking The High Wire: Why Data Quality And Price Is A Tough Balance

Walking The High Wire: Why Data Quality And Price Is A Tough Balance

It has been at least seventy years since project management experts identified the "Quality-Price-Speed Triangle" in which a manager can only pick two. In those seven decades, there has been no shortage of suppliers claiming to have solved the equation - and no shortage of end clients demanding all three.

Of course, it is not that simple. Even the most basic trade-off within the triangle - that of quality and price - creates headaches for managers, in research as in any other industry.

Quality is imperative. Anyone working with consumer data needs that data to be accurate. Incomplete and inaccurate data results in ill-informed decision-making, sometimes with disastrous business implications. What makes things worse is that inaccurate data often looks more decisive and actionable to the untrained eye, since a heavily skewed sample can produce very strong results.

At the same time, every manager is working with tight budget constraints, particularly at a moment of profound uncertainty like the present time. Limits on cost are real and cannot simply be dismissed as short-term thinking. For end clients or procurement teams who do not come from a research background, the financial case for data quality may not be clear.

While there is no magic formula for balancing methods of data collection, quality, and price, the best vendors approach this as a high-wire act. Just as in a real high-wire act, the keys to success include experience, preparation, and a cool head.

The goal of any research project is to get the right information about the right people. The information part of this equation is in the hands of the researcher and their end client. For the purposes of this blog, we will assume that Project Managers have that part right - they know what the scope of the research needs to be.

The “people” part of the equation is where the quality and cost balance come in. Some audiences are hard to reach: they are reluctant, or too busy, or badly represented in online sample providers’ panels. Others are easy to reach but provide poor data because they are trying to finish as quickly as possible. At a basic level, the relationship between quality and cost is linear: the more someone is willing to pay, the more likely it is that they can get hold of hard-to-reach participants and avoid poor-quality ones.

Fortunately, there are things a research manager can do to optimize this relationship and get the highest quality data without breaking their budget. Here are three tips to get the balance right.


Research Managers face a major issue - their own internal teams don’t always understand research well enough to ‘get’ the need for higher quality data. Education is needed, but managers simply do not have the time to add it to their workload. More suppliers are now providing resources and case studies which explain why data quality matters and why seemingly cheap alternative sources of data can incur hidden costs. These can help increase the overall level of research literacy in an organization.


Optimizing your budget requires as much clarity and transparency as possible. If vendors are up-front and honest about likely difficulties, it greatly reduces the risk of a last-minute compromise or added expense. To get to this stage requires mutual trust and a strong relationship, which is why experienced vendors can add greater value to projects.


At the vendor selection stage of the project, there is often an emphasis on capabilities. These are important - but the existence of capabilities is no guarantee of their effective implementation. There needs to be an equal emphasis on varying scenarios. The teams involved should break down exactly what the supplier will do in the event of common project pitfalls, like unexpected difficulties finding sample or a sudden extra data request. Projects with proactive thinking from the onset are more likely to come in on budget.

All these considerations will help stabilize the walker on the high wire between quality and cost. What they have in common, though, is vendor selection. Experienced vendors who know the value of research, can be transparent and are willing to talk through scenarios are not common. This propensity and actual commitment to proactive communication throughout a project is key.

A final tip for organizations looking to walk the high wire is to refine their vendor list. In a rapidly shifting market like the insights industry, it is tempting to keep a large roster of suppliers so as not to miss any new developments. But it is more important - and far more cost-effective - to build strong relationships with a smaller number of vendors. Refining your list can save both cost and time - without sacrificing quality.

With results-oriented researchers just like you in mind, we created this guide to help you design and field a successful study. So what are you waiting for? Click below and let our team of experts guide you through the complete process.

Deep Dive into Online ResearchNew call-to-action


Subscribe to the Blog

Recent Posts