Looking back, the main reason we developed okapi was to make data collection in the field as fast and painless as possible. The second most important reason was to give non-technical users the power to fully configure their system in a matter of minutes without writing a single line of code (major props to our engineering team for doing just that). In the end, one of the most important outcomes of achieving these two goals was the creation of okapi Question Banks. What are Question Banks? Those magical containers store all the questions our program admins use to build their Recap and Survey forms.

Standard vs. Custom

But we didn’t stop there. Rather than simply creating a series of questions we went one step further and created two types of questions: Standard and Custom. Custom Questions are those questions that every program needs that are very specific to the data they’re trying to collect. This could be something like, “Comments Regarding Product XYZ.”

Standard Questions, on the other hand, are questions we found to be most often used across lots of our client base. When we began to study the questions each individual client was using on their surveys and recap forms many of them were nearly identity. That said, one program may use a question worked like “Activity Attendance” and another might use “Total Activity Attendance.” In this case, the words were slightly different but the data stored within the question was exactly the same. So rather than making each client create the same question with slightly different verbiage we built a series of Standard Questions that programs could share.

Benefits of Standard Questions

The most immediate benefit of having a fully stocked Question Bank was it gave an okapi administrator the ability to literally create a survey or recap template in minutes. Because 90% of the questions programs need are already in the bank, all an administrator needed to do was select a few check boxes and click add. This was one of the primary ways we cut our setup time from weeks to minutes.

But there’s much more to a standard question than meets the eye!

For starters, Standard Questions are directly tied to many of the default widgets on the dashboard. For instance, the Standard Question “Total Samples Distributed” ties directly to the dashboard widget “Samples Distributed by Market.” What this means to our users is that if you’re willing to use the Standard Question, you automatically get access to a powerful widget that comes with every edition of okapi. That’s not to say you can’t create your own Custom Question named “Total Bottles Distributed.” But just know that doing so would require a custom widget to show “Bottles Distributed by Market.” Both easily done…one is 100% free, the other would require a couple hours of custom development time.

Other widgets tied to standard questions are: Samples Distributed by Event, Samples Distributed by User, Top Activities by Attendance and Top Events by Attendance. Additionally, the okapi team is constantly creating new widgets all the time; all of which use our Standard Questions.

Another benefit of Standard Questions is their integration with other features within the platform. The ability to calculate Event and Campaign ROI is based on Standard Questions on both Surveys and Recaps. Simply using a few Standard Questions on your Survey Template will automatically generate Experiential ROI; calculations otherwise very time consumer to create by hand.

And finally, later this year okapi will be introducing industry benchmarks into the platform. These benchmarks will be fully anonymized to ensure the security and privacy of our programs but each benchmark will be based on one of the Standard Questions available in the Question Bank. To provide some context, knowing your program is handing out 20% more “Samples Per Hour” compared to other similar programs is a very powerful insight. Even more powerful if you’re handing out 20% less. More on benchmarks in the coming months.   

We Hear You! Every Program Is A Little Different

The biggest problem we’ve run into with Standard Questions is knowing every program is a little different. Not all programs want to use the term “Activity” in their “Activity Attendance” recap question. Some programs want to use the word “Training” or “Mission.” We definitely get that and we’re exploring ways to make our standard questions more flexible. Adding variables to our Standard Questions is something we’re exploring so if you have thoughts on this or would like to share your ideas please let us know or leave a comment below.

Pros and Cons

okapi never wants to pigeon-hole any of our clients or force them to use our Standard Questions. In fact, we built the platform to be 100% configurable so you can create all the Custom Questions you’d like. The challenge we faced (and our doing our best to overcome) is how do we deliver the maximum amount of insight and features while still building a platform that remains scalable across many clients and verticals.

The biggest pro in using Standard Questions is you get access to all the built-in features and dashboard widgets that come standard with the platform. In the future, you’ll also be able to benchmark your program against your peers. These are huge advantages we can offer to those programs who choose to be flexible enough in their terminology to use some out-of-the-box terminology. Additionally, using Standard Questions makes building a recap simple and painless. 80-90% of the questions most programs need are already waiting for you in the bank.

The biggest cons of using Custom Questions are two-fold. First, instead of getting a free widget to show “Samples Distributed By Market,” you may have to budget a few extra dollars to have your own custom widget built to show “Bottles Distributed By Market.” The data still exists it just takes our team a little development time to make it yours. We’re investigating new ways of allowing users to build their own widgets but we’re still a ways off from that.

The second biggest con is losing access to some of the built-in features and calculations we’re constantly building into the platform. Most B2C or CPG programs struggle measuring experiential ROI so we’re taking the heavy lifting off your shoulders. But to do that we need to have a standard formula. By its very nature, our standard formula has to use Standard Questions. Much like a custom widget we can also build a custom ROI formula based on your Custom Questions and exact needs, but again, put a little extra in the budget to handle some of those development costs.

We’re Here To Help

In the end, the okapi product, customer success and engineering teams are here to help however we can. Every day we’re balancing the needs of all our clients and determining how far down the “custom” path we want to let each client go. The farther down the custom path a client wanders the more difficult it is the offer all the standard features in the platform. Having been in this business for over 20 years the cost to customize is usually far greater than any long-lasting benefits you’ll receive. Splitting off from the pack is great for a while until you want to rejoin…but by that time your system is customized to such an extent that reentry may be even more expensive that just starting over. That’s not a situation we want to put our clients in.

So if you’re debating on whether to use a Custom or a Standard Question and would like to discuss it with our team please reach out. Or if you’re unable to use some of the features in the platform now because you were using Custom Questions before we had Standard Questions please let us know. We can help you migrate all that data so you get access to all the new features. We’re here to help and will do our best to help you explore the cost/benefit of both directions. And again, if you have ideas for these or future features please submit them on our Ideas Portal and vote for the ones you want to see developed.