Soft (qualitative) data is data that is difficult or impossible to measure, quantify, and express as figures. It is subjective and generally requires interpretation. Therefore, it is often considered to be less reliable than hard data. Soft data is descriptive in character and available in an unstructured manner in the form of text or images. Examples of soft data include opinions, assessments, impressions, rumors, expectations, ideas, experience, and knowledge. In the context of strategic planning processes, soft data appears mainly in competitor, trend, and market analyses.
Soft data plays an important role in strategic planning. It can provide subjective assessments and forecasts of future trends which are relevant for strategic decision-making.
See also: hard data (quantitative data)