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Ryan Sorley, Founder & CEO
Ryan Sorley, Founder & CEO Posted on November 30, 2021

How Dovetail is Transforming the Way We Analyze Qualitative Data

We use Dovetail every single day at DoubleCheck Research. We use it to take all the qualitative win-loss data we collect on behalf of our clients and create highly informative reports, summarize those reports, do text analysis, and then use the insights we gain to help clients understand exactly which themes are trending in areas like sales performance, product feedback, competitive intelligence, and so forth.



Dovetail has been a game changer for us. Honestly, it’s a game changer for the entire research field. This product, which started out as a fairly simple diary studies product used in longitudinal research, has transformed the way teams analyze qualitative data for insights. 

The old way was a messy and chaotic process that involved ad hoc spreadsheets, notebooks full of handwritten notes, collaborative workshop sessions, and so many sticky notes. And the final output of this process was usually a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation or a confluence page that offered little relevant insight and had a very short shelf life. Sound familiar? 

With Dovetail, researchers are embracing a whole new way of analyzing qualitative data that is built around a centralized repository that accepts all kinds of input, advanced transcription and tagging capabilities, data visualizations, strategic integrations, and more. 

I had the chance to talk with Benjamin Humphrey, co-founder and CEO of Dovetail, for the Blindspots Podcast. He explained that one of the things that makes Dovetail unique and so much more effective than other types of automated text processing tools is that Dovetail provides the human touch by allowing users to tag as they see fit. “To get really accurate insights out of qualitative data, you have to have a human do the tagging,” he says. “Because the context you apply coming into that data set—whether it’s context on your own customer base, the product, your roadmap, the problem set, or even your internal culture—makes a huge difference on how you classify that data.”

The concept behind Dovetail is not that their product will completely automate an analysis task for you, but that it will give you analytical superpowers in the form of features, keyboard shortcuts, integrations, machine learning- or AI-assisted features, and other tools that make you faster and more productive at every step in the process. 

The Dovetail use case has something for everyone.

Dovetail is a product that has a lot of use cases, but most of the time it’s someone in design, research, or product management who is the first to get the ball rolling. “Typically, the folks who get involved with Dovetail first are the people doing customer interviews, usability testing, or survey analysis,” Benjamin says. “We also find companies using Dovetail in high-volume areas—support tickets, sales call transcripts, tweets and other social media posts, Slack, forums, community posts, recordings from Zoom or Google Meet (video), and so forth. Basically, any unstructured, qualitative data that someone needs to break into classifications using tags.”

What’s interesting is that once Dovetail gets a foot in the door of an organization, it often takes on a life of its own. For example, Benjamin shared that when Dovetail first started working with Canva (the fifth most valuable private company in the world), they were engaged exclusively with the research team. Now, Canva’s customer success, support, sales, market research, and product marketers are also finding ways that Dovetail can benefit their efforts. 

Here at DoubleCheck Research, we’ve had similar experiences when we get a client started with Dovetail. Often, we’ll discover that someone else at the company is already using it. Or, in cases where we are making that initial introduction to the product, once people start to see what it can do, it spreads like wildfire from department to department.

Dovetail has a lot to offer, particularly to product marketers. It helps them wrangle data from many disparate sources—interviews, win-loss interviews, churn interviews, customer experience interviews, Zoom recordings, transcripts, analyst reports from Gartner/Forrester/IDC, social feeds, competitive battle cards, etc.—into a consolidated knowledge base. That in itself—the ability to bring everything together under one roof, so to speak—is a major epiphany for most organizations. 

From there, the use cases kind of create themselves.

It's time for something new. Enter the era of pull-versus-push research. 

One of the reasons we are such Dovetail fans is the way they are leading the way into a whole new way of thinking about research that hinges on how research is consumed. 

In the past, most research efforts boiled down to a research team creating text-heavy reports, which they then delivered—pushed—to other parts of the organization. This approach usually fell short in two key areas. First, the format of the insights was so dense that making sense of it was challenging for anyone not already a research expert. Second, because the information was being created in a silo and then pushed out to potential audiences (sales, marketing, product, etc.), there was no guarantee that it would be at all relevant in the moment. 

Dovetail is essentially creating an entirely new research dynamic that focuses on building a research repository that makes specific insights and data readily accessible to whomever needs them, whenever they need them. 

Using Dovetail, researchers can build up a comprehensive and centralized database that puts information at the fingertips of product managers, designers, CEOs, stakeholders, and so on. This allows anyone to go into Dovetail and find the answer to a specific and highly relevant question. “We wanted to flip things around and make research more self-service,” Benjamin says. “This way, the researcher contributes data and insights, and then anyone with a question can jump into Dovetail, search for an answer, and access the relevant research. It’s more of a pull rather than a push mentality. And it allows people to snack on research insights rather than having to eat a whole meal.”

In addition, Dovetail has a lot of features that help bring research to life in an entirely different kind of presentation. Dovetail replaces the text-heavy approach with data visualizations and embedded video clips, making insights more accessible, engaging, and therefore impactful.

How We Use Dovetail at DoubleCheck Research

We don’t just recommend Dovetail, we use it every day in our own work—in both our internal and client-facing workflows. 

To begin with, Dovetail is an integral part of our program design and onboarding process. We use it to collect and house all of the intelligence we gather on behalf of a new client or about a new client. Dovetail is a great repository for all the information on a program, from why it was built in the first place to program assets like interview guides, online surveys, and specific program learning objectives. 

Then, once we get rolling on a program, we publish all the completed reports within Dovetail, where they are accessible to the client. In addition, we text code all of the key findings sections in each report. This allows a client to see what’s trending in real time as research happens, making it super easy for them to stay up-to-date as themes within the data emerge and evolve.  

From there, we can provide clients with additional access and insights in a number of ways. There’s the dashboard, for instance, which provides each client with their own private, secure workspace and a quick snapshot of all their program activity. We also create data visualizations for clients to use in presentations or to track progress for key stakeholders. 

We also love one of Dovetail’s newest offerings, called Stories, which allows us to collect a wide variety of data points from across different projects—video clips, quotes, complete reports, research alerts, and so forth—and compile them all into one page. This page can be tailored to focus on a specific role, like the chief marketing officer, and provide the person in that role with a one-stop-shop for all the data and insights that align with and inform their unique learning objectives.

Finally, Dovetail makes it easy for us to embrace the pull-versus-push approach to research. Because you can search by keyword across the entire Dovetail workspace, it’s easy to find exactly what you’re looking for exactly when it’s needed most. This includes all the recorded interviews, which means that search results will include not only the text, but also the relevant parts of a video so that in addition to transcripts, you can also quickly and easily access other layers of meaning like body language and sentiment. It’s truly exciting.

We've come a long way, but there's more great stuff ahead. 

Dovetail has already accomplished a lot, but that certainly isn’t slowing them down. They have a very exciting roadmap for the next eighteen months, which they make available to the public on their website. They are also experiencing a big growth spurt that will see them expand from 42 to 110 people in the very near future. New additions to the organization will include specialized teams for analysis and repository. 

Some of the key projects on the product side include new ways to view data (tables, Kanban boards, grids, canvas, affinity maps, etc.), embedded charts, and new integrations that will continue to position Dovetail as an API-driven, integration-first product.

“We want to strike the right balance between innovating with new features and opportunities, while also continuing to solve customer pain points,” Benjamin says. 

It’s been a long road since Dovetail was just a simple diary studies product. Today, the company is legitimately changing what people can do with their qualitative data. They have a lot on their plate, and they are excited about all of it. Ultimately, Benjamin hopes that Dovetail will make some kind of meaningful difference in people’s lives. 

“Whether it’s a customer who is benefitting from our product by winning more customers or providing a better experience, or people on our own team, we love that we get to have an impact on people’s lives,” Benjamin says, adding, “We’re really proud that we not only got through COVID, but continued growing and providing jobs to people here in Sydney, including many young people who’ve never worked in a startup before.”

If our experience here at DoubleCheck Research is any indication, Dovetail is definitely making a positive difference for a lot of organizations and people. Giving people in-the-moment access to relevant research creates a ripple effect of positive change across organizations, customer experience, and whole communities of companies, customers, and employees. We look forward to seeing what’s next for Dovetail. 


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