Conducting an online Delphi : the Mesydel platform

A structured and productive conversation

Mesydel is inspired by the Delphi method, an expert methodology used to facilitate a panel consultation and to help making decisions by taking each participant's point of view into account. As a didactic process, the Delphi method was designed to provide the benefits of sharing and exchanging opinions, so that respondents could discover the opinions of others without this excessive influence which is sometimes found in conventional face-to-face situations (which are generally dominated by those who speak the loudest or have the most prestige). The technique allows participants to deal with a complex problem in a systematic way. During each round, the relevant information is shared and enriches the knowledge of the panel members. They are then in a position to make recommendations based on more complete information.

How does it work ?

A Delphi survey in short

  1. Step 1 : selection of the stakeholders panel and constitution of the respondent database
  2. Step 2 : first round of questionnaire - each participant gives his opinion anonymously by answering a first questionnaire. Responses are only visible to the moderator and not to the participants, to avoid the self-moderation bias.
  3. Step 3 : synthesis of the first round - the moderator gives a feedback to the respondents after having analyzed the first round, then the results of the first round are used to build the second questionnaire.
  4. Step 4 : iteration until the desired consensus level - the iterative process allows for progressive co-construction with the panel, such as structured real-time discussion. The process uses as many rounds as necessary to a satisfactory level of consensus or saturation.
  5. Step 5 : closing the survey - a final analysis synthesizes what emerges from the varied opinions of a panel on a specific topic.

Description of the Mesydel process -- 2017

Consensus & dissensus

The method is inspired by the Delphi method which was constructed to encourage consensus on specific themes such as prioritization, technological foresight, or decisions on certain technical or medical options. More precisely, the Delphi method creates conditions that are favorable to the convergence of opinions, while at the same time making it possible to discern clearly the points of dissensus. The study of the latter is important, as it legitimizes the method and often leads to redefining the initial problem, again favoring the attainment of consensus.

Multiple rounds and controlled feedback

Unlike conventional surveys, the Delphi method consists of an iterative and interactive consultation: a panel of participants is consulted during several rounds, and in each of these rounds, the panel receives a return from the previous round while taking again position with respect to the previous results (controlled feedback process). In addition to giving their opinion, participants are aware of the opinions of the entire panel. They can then provide complementary feedback and refine the results.

When to use a Delphi-type survey ?

Usually, one or more of these features require the use of the Delphi method:

  • Using collective intelligence: the problem is not suited for precise analytical techniques but can benefit from subjective judgments on a collective basis
  • Difficulties to communicate: the people required to participate in the examination of a large or complex problem have no experience in communication and can present different professional paths with their expertise and skills
  • High number of stakeholders: the number of people required is too high to interact effectively in a face-to-face exchange
  • Unproductive face-to-face meetings: the effectiveness of face-to-face meetings can be enhanced through an additional collective communication process
  • Conflictual situation: disagreements are so important or politically unacceptable that the communication process must be arbitrated and/or anonymity must be guaranteed
  • Hippo effect : the heterogeneity of the participants must be preserved in order to guarantee the validity of the results, that is to say in order to avoid any domination imposed by the number or by a strong personality

Advantages of the Mesydel solution

The Mesydel platform is an online application of the Delphi method. The advantages of this online Delphi method are numerous, as it centralizes the logistical and analytical tasks of the method within a single platform. This includes the management of the participant's address database, e-mail communication (invitations, reminders and acknowledgments) and qualitative and quantitative analysis tools.

Logistic

  • Simpler and more direct communication with participants: send grouped and personalized e-mails with a fine selection of recipients
  • Centralization of all content: database of addresses, questionnaires, answers and analyzis
  • Follow-up of the survey: permanent access to the server and live monitoring of the progress of the questionnaire and response rates
  • Extension of deadlines (if necessary) and notification to participants
  • Logbook: track all actions with their date and content (eg: number of emails sent for the first round, content and date)

Content

  • More content: higher response rate, better involvement with the targeted reminders
  • Better content: participants can log in as many times as they wish during the tour to review and edit their responses
  • Link between the content and the logistics data: report on facts and figures for each round and/or panel (number of participants, response rate, etc.)

Analysis

  • Facilitation of quantitative analysis: visualization of responses to closed questions with instant graph generation
  • Facilitation of qualitative analysis: possibility of generating tags, highlighting specific arguments and keywords facilitating qualitative analysis of open questions
  • Emergence of qualitative results: creation of facets that allows grouping answers and tags into larger sets, with visualization in the form of tag clouds
  • Filtering respondents during the visualization: additional analytical tools such as filters showing responses related to a specific predefined variable (eg age, gender, occupation, industry, etc.)

References

  • Van der Duin, P. (ed.) (2016) Foresight in Organizations. Methods and Tools. London: Routledge.
  • Claisse, F., Laviolette, C., Reuchamps, M., & Ruyters, C. (2013). La participation en action.
  • Hsu, C. C., & Sandford, B. A. (2007). The Delphi technique: making sense of consensus. Practical assessment, research & evaluation, 12(10), 1-8.
  • Landeta, J. (2006). Current validity of the Delphi method in social sciences. Technological forecasting and social change, 73(5), 467-482.
  • Slocum, N., Elliott, J., Heesterbeek, S. and Lukensmeyer C.J. (2006) Méthodes participatives. Un guide pour l’utilisateur. Fondation Roi Baudouin.
  • Linstone, H.A. and Turoff, M. (eds.) (2002) The Delphi method: techniques and applications. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley.
  • Rowe, G., & Wright, G. (1999). The Delphi technique as a forecasting tool: issues and analysis. International journal of forecasting, 15(4), 353-375.
  • Gupta, U.G. and Clarke, R.E. (1996) Theory and applications of the Delphi technique : a bibliography (1975-1994). Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Vol.53, No.2, pp.185-211.