Will anything replace PowerPoint soon? – A 2011 prediction revisited

Jigsaw chartPosted Ray Poynter, 17 February

Back in 2011, I posted a blog addressing a question that had been posted in LinkedIn, “Will anything replace PowerPoint soon?”. Below I have reposted the original post answering this question. Clearly, my prediction in 2011 that PowerPoint was not going to be replaced soon were right.

But, is the picture going to change soon? What do you think?

Will anything replace PowerPoint soon?
Posted by Ray Poynter, July 2011
It is hard to imagine anything replacing PowerPoint in the foreseeable future.

There are some key elements that a system for delivering results and insights has to have to be a standard, including:

  1. Available technology, the system needs to be able to produce PDF files and a file format that can be widely read by clients (e.g. Excel, Word, or PowerPoint 1997-2003), or WMV
  2. The standard deliverable must not need to access the Internet, the intranet, or supporting files
  3. The standard deliverable needs to be static, so that different clients see the same view, this rules out deliverables like What-if models, GapMinder, interactive tables.
  4. The standard deliverable needs to be supported by tools and skills in the supplier side, to ensure that the deliverables are cost effective.

In the foreseeable future I do not see anything coming along that does what PowerPoint does better, cheaper, or faster.

I think there will be some great developments in reporting tools, but most of these will be for analysts, not end clients. I think that interactive infographics will facilitate analysts gaining better insights. But when that insight needs to be shared with 40 non-specialist clients spread across 20 offices and perhaps 8 countries, it needs to be turned into something like a photo, or a book, or a newspaper, or a report, i.e. something static, reliable, and which requires relatively few skills to read and interpret.

Most end-clients want results and findings, they do not want a method of finding the results for themselves. Most interactive systems are a method of finding results, they are not the findings themselves.

One of the problems for vendors is that many clients say they want a system that is really easy to use and is at the same time flexible. But what they mean by flexible is inescapably linked to harder to use. As an example, SPSS is a relatively powerful way of storing quant data, it is relatively flexible in its analysis, and it is pretty easy to use. However, most end clients would not dream of using SPSS to access their results.

BTW, when I say end-clients I do not mean insight managers inside client companies, many of whom are perfectly willing and capable of working with interactive analysis tools. I mean the people whose full-time job does not include analysis, for example: brand managers, finance teams, creatives, designers, i.e. people who would like to be informed by the outcomes of research, but who do not have the time to learn how to do or analyse research.

In the longer term I think we will produce a reporting paradigm that reflects the fact that different people learn in different ways, some people like pictures, some like numbers, some like written text, some like to hear it, some like videos, and some like interactive learning. The results product would include the raw and processed data (but out of sght to 99% of users), the analyst’s findings would be linked to the data and would be capable of being presented in text, infographics, in colour or black and white (remember colour sucks for colour blind people), in sound rather than images (images suck for people with visual impairment), and with differing degrees of abstraction (a senior exec might say – show me it in 100 words, a doubtful exec might say about a particular finding “substantiate that”). Such a system would also seek to have a natural language processing system for queries, perhaps a bit like WolframAlpha, so the exec could simply ask, “Which concept performs best amongst our younger customers?” and the system would report back the answer.”

Join the Discussion
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One thought on “Will anything replace PowerPoint soon? – A 2011 prediction revisited

  1. PowerPoint does a great job for market research – a blank canvas, to distil multi-faceted information into simple ideas. However there are several big problems.

    1. Management are getting used to higher quality communication of insights from information thanks to the likes of Google Analytics. PPT is boring and non-interactive by comparison, and research presented in PPT loses a lot of its activation value.

    2. Doing interactive / immersive delivery for market research is harder than for analytics, as the data is much more nuanced and multi-faceted.

    3. Client budgets are nearly all spent on gathering insights, and generally not enough on communicating them, so PPT becomes the only affordable option.

    The likes of Tableau come closest to crossing this divide, although this creates a new challenge of getting market research data “tableau-ready”. Hence, Tableau in research agencies becomes an expensive white elephant.

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