Summer School in Survey Methodology

7-11 July 2014


Designing and Conducting Business Surveys


Diane K. Willimack is Methodology Director for Measurement and Response Improvement in the Economic Programs Directorate at the U.S. Census Bureau.  Her area is responsible for aiding economic survey programs with development and testing of data collection instruments and contact strategies, along with empirical evaluation of measurement error and nonresponse bias.  Prior to joining the Census Bureau in 1998, Diane was a survey methodologist at the National Agricultural Statistics Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  She has more than 30 years' experience as a survey researcher, statistician and economist.

Jacqui Jones is Deputy Director of Business Indicators and Balance of Payments at the UK Office for National Statistics.  She is responsible for a number of business surveys and for producing key economic statistics such as the preliminary estimate of Gross Domestic Product, the Index of Services, Index of Production and Retail Sales.  Jacqui has many years of experience of designing and conducting business surveys, and monitoring and improving the survey process and survey outputs. 

Date: July 9 from 14:15h-16:15h; July 10-11 from 9h-11h and 14:15-16:15

Location: Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Campus Ciutadella. Barcelona, Spain.

Short description:

Business surveys differ in important ways from social surveys, for example:

-Business entities are dynamic.

-Target populations are often skewed requiring certainty selection of large businesses in survey samples.

-Businesses are likely to be in more than one survey and in recurring surveys to support official statistics.

-The response process is complex and often involves more than one person.

-Business records may provide a source for requested survey data.

-Surveys rely heavily on self-completion data collection modes.

-Businesses can be classified into industrial classifications based on economic rules, which may seem arbitrary from the business perspective.

-Businesses may be re-contacted post-collection, e.g. during editing, to clarify reported data.

Because of these and other differences, practical issues emerge that have implications for survey design decisions at all stages in the survey process.

Using a process-quality perspective, derived from the Generic Statistical Business Process Model (GSBPM) and grounded in the Total Survey Error framework (Groves et al., 2009), this course provides an overview of methodological issues associated with the use of surveys to collect data from businesses.  We will:

Identify key differences between household surveys and business surveys, emphasizing organizational behaviors and attributes that affect survey response. 

Demonstrate an approach to survey planning and design that utilizes understanding and consideration of this business context when developing, adapting, and implementing data collection instruments and procedures.  

Look at process quality measures throughout the business survey process to help effectively monitor and manage surveys.

This course will also include topics related to survey communication and response improvement strategies, managing and monitoring data collection processes, along with post-collection procedures such as editing, analysis and dissemination. 

This integrated approach to surveys of businesses is the subject of the 2013 book published in the Wiley Series in Survey Methodology, entitled Designing and Conducting Business Surveys, written by Ger Snijkers, Gustav Haraldsen, Jacqui Jones, and Diane K. Willimack.


This course is structured around five high level themes:

1.      Foundation blocks for business surveys

2.      Planning, designing and building business surveys

3.      Testing

4.      Running, managing and evaluating business surveys

5.      From survey data to statistics


Wednesday, 9 July 2014, afternoon

Foundation blocks for business surveys

The survey process

Considerations before deciding to undertake a business survey

Differences between business surveys and household/person surveys

The business context and response process

Response burden and trust


Thursday, 10 July 2014, morning

 Foundation blocks for business surveys (contd)

Approaches to quality           

            Quality dimensions, tradeoffs and constraints

            Total Survey Error Framework

            Sources of measurement error in business surveys


Planning, designing and building a business survey

           Overview of planning, designing, testing and managing a business survey


Thursday, 10 July 2014, afternoon

Planning, designing and building a business survey (contd)

Statistical units, sample design and sample frames



            Questions and questionnaires


Friday, 11 July 2014, morning

Planning, designing and building a business survey (contd)

             Survey communication and communication strategies

             Data capture, coding and cleaning


Testing methods


Friday, 11 July 2014, afternoon

Running, managing and evaluating a business survey

           Process measures, adaptive design and risk management

           Evaluating a business survey


From survey data to statistics

Review of the key points from the course


This course is appropriate for practitioners, researchers and methodologists in survey methodology, who work in Statistical Institutes, universities, non-profit and for-profit survey organizations, international statistical organizations (e.g., OECD, IMF, UN, Eurostat), and Central Banks.  It may also be useful for analysts and users of survey data and statistics.


Participants should ideally have some general knowledge of survey methodology and familiarity with survey procedures and sampling issues.  Familiarity with the Total Survey Error framework (Groves et al., 2009) will also be useful.


Download 2014 brochure
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