Writing a retrospective of 2020 feels like summarizing a decade. So much has changed since last year's post when I recapped our product accomplishments for 2019. Never in our lifetime has our global consciousness and daily life been so majorly and uniformly shifted in a single direction.
It has been the year of working from home and going virtual by every means. My 10-year old daughter is now an expert in Google Meet given her in-person schooling gets regularly interrupted with regional lockdowns.
No one has been spared in having to adapt to these new realities, and market researchers are certainly no different. Researchers are in fact at the leading edge as they seek to accurately assess the impact of this pandemic and its lasting influence on our economic, social and political lives.
We have witnessed an accelerated shift towards online qualitative research and it's a shift we think is here to stay. Many market researchers are retooling and developing a new skillset. Those making the shift to online research are quickly realizing how effective they can be while ultimately saving time and reducing their costs.
For us at Recollective, we feel fortunate that our business can continue to execute as a remote team while experiencing significant growth. This post is a summary of our product accomplishments in 2020 which were among our most significant since we began its development 10 years ago.
I'm a big believer in the agile approach to product development. We aim to quickly prototype, validate, build and release product enhancements every 6 to 8 weeks. That's not to say improvements must be incremental. It was a prophetic decision in 2019 to embark on a major product extension to fully incorporate synchronous activities.
As usual, it's our active customer base that strongly encouraged us to make the jump—but none would have known how essential the new tools would be in the coming year.
Live Activities, as we've named them, have become the perfect complement to the asynchronous Standard Activities already core to the Recollective experience. We began where we thought we could add the most value: the in-depth interview.
Our general objective to scale qualitative research helped us to focus on automating the interview workflow from invitations, scheduling, tech tests, rescheduling, recording, transcription and more. We want moderators to be comfortable to take on daunting projects such as individually interviewing dozens of participants in just a couple weeks.
In February 2020 we begin a private beta of Live Video Interviews and launched it a month later to all customers. It features a participant self-scheduling workflow that can automatically balance the workload across multiple hosts.
It includes prepared items, which can be questions or stimulus, for smooth and consistent interviews.
It supports a private backroomfor client observers to communicate privately with the host while remaining hidden. Note that the front-room and backroom chats are now shown separated for clarity.
We also incorporated our automated video transcription and interactive playback features. As already exists elsewhere in the platform, a simple text selection within a transcript can be saved as an "excerpt" which includes a perfectly-timed video clip that is easy to download and share.
We didn't stop there as we quickly released live screen sharing in both the live interview and group chat activities.
We later enabled dedicated audio channels for both backroom attendees and simultaneous translators. The audio from the backroom and translators are also transcribed. The translations are identified by their language and even offered as video subtitles.
With nothing more than a web browser, Recollective customers can now engage their participants on a deeper and more personal level and do so in a single, unified platform. Everything you need to onboard, screen, profile, schedule and meet is now at one's fingertips.
In 2021, you'll see us continue to make important investments to Live Activities. We know we can help make the lives of our moderators even better. We've already released an improvement to the text chat feature in live meetings so it can be resized, repositioned or just pinned to the right side of the meeting screen. We also split the front and backroom chat messages into their own tabs for greater usability.
Soon, various scheduling needs will be better accommodated such offering greater meeting start time flexibility (relative to meeting durations) and a simpler setup when participant self-scheduling is not needed. We'll also be working to minimize last minute technology hurdles by improving how meeting tests are promoted and tracked.
Although much of the product development focus was on Live Activities in 2020, we still worked to advance the core experience of Recollective. There are countless usability tweaks made throughout the year based on internal and external feedback.
Here are a few of the improvements worth noting:
Automated Screening Redirects: When applicants to a study are screened out, you can now automatically redirect those individuals to another site while also passing back user-specific data. This enhancement can help streamline integrations with third-party panel providers.
Study-level Time Zones: When multi-market studies are undertaken on Recollective, support for a variety of languages is key but so is ensuring that scheduled activities and notices are tailored for the correct time zone. Each study can now override the site's time zone which simplifies the scheduling of activities, discussions and email broadcasts.
Agreement Visibility: Recollective includes a robust capability called Agreements to collect, track and re-affirm consent to legal, privacy and marketing statements. Such agreements can now be focused on a user's role. For example, participants can be asked to agree to the collection of their personal data while moderators and clients formally agree to non-disclosure of that data.
Discussion Guidance: Studies feature structured activities but they also support open discussions grouped into topics and categories. In 2020, we added the ability to customize the guidance shown in the Discussions area to ensure moderators can provide the right context for those topics. It can be used to describe intended usage, outline a code of conduct or just encourage participants to create their own discussion topics.
Activity Preview Improvements: A consistent experience among administrators and participants is important as we believe it yields a more usable product. We also understand the importance of testing. Previewing tasks and activities has been improved by providing greater control over the preview flow. One can now quickly jump between tasks or simply skip ahead to ensure full coverage of the programmed questions.
Security Improvements: An area of work that easily goes unrecognized is the investments made in data security. Safety and privacy of your information may be assumed but it's an area of work that Recollective takes very seriously. We have our platform penetration-tested quarterly to see if security issues can be detected. We are always learning best practices which help us mitigate the impact of such attacks. While most improvements are behind the scenes, we did add the ability to define stricter password policies for administrators relative to participants. This is in addition to the ability to require multi-factor authentication based on a user's role.
The greater adoption of online research and the growth we've experienced at Recollective means that more customers will benefit from our philosophy of continuous improvement. If you've been a customer for years, you know this already. If you're a new customer, welcome and we look forward to serving and delighting you more in 2021.