Building Credibility with Research Operations

Séamus Byrne

Director of User Experience

Research roles are starting to pop up on product teams everywhere. There is a lot more to researching than meets the eye but often there are not enough people to do the research right, or there is one person tasked with doing everything research related – which can be challenging! How can research practitioners successfully set up and run smooth Research operations to help provide insightful data to the wider team and gain the credibility they deserve?

Illustration representing the order Research Operations brings from the chaos.

Inventory the Types of Research to be Conducted

Research is a very broad area with a wide range of approaches, data sources and contexts. Depending on the purpose of the project you may set about conducting different types of Research. For example, when your goal is to provide direction and innovation for a new product you may decide to conduct some or all of the following:

Customer / Market Research

Customer /Market Research is also called “Primary Research”. This is where you conduct the research yourself and go directly to the source, i.e. to your customers (or the primary users of your product within your market). You find out about their needs and preferences via focus groups, interviews and surveys.

Business Research

Business Research can also be known as “Domain Research”. This type is similar to market research but instead of customers, you engage with internal stakeholders and subject matter experts. Interviews and workshops are facilitated to understand and clarify the vision, goals and objectives of the domain.

Desk Research

Desk Research (or “Secondary Research”) involves not collecting the data yourself. Instead, you are reviewing Research that has already been conducted by others in your industry through white papers, reports and studies.

It is important to have a clear understanding and an inventory of what types of research will be conducted as part of your project. The tasks associated with these research types all add up over time and may impact scope.

Accurately Estimate the Scope of the Research

Every research type comprises of several phases. Broadly these phases can be classified as:

  • Planning: deciding the focus, scope and timeline
  • Input: engaging with people or documentation – the research itself
  • Processing: interpreting and synthesising the data
  • Output: communicating the findings via written reports and presentations

The high level phases of Planning, Input, Processing and Output for Research Operations

Once you have inventoried the research types on a project it is time to estimate how much time it will take to complete the above phases for each type. Map this time projection to the time allocated for the research project. It is up to you to decide how you prioritise, order and schedule activities across the research types. Once this task is complete, the scale of the scope will be clear.

Communicate and Track your Progress

The next step is to communicate the scope of the research work to the wider team. If there is not enough time allocated to you for the project, based on your projections, push for more time or else reduce the scope of each phase appropriately.

Going forward, It is important to own all communication relating to the scope of your research project at every opportunity at stand-ups, during meetings and in frequent progress reports. Be proactive in tracking your progress and stating what you are currently working on, how long it will take you and if you need help or time to keep the project on track. This will ensure the team is aware of the work required to do research right – even on projects with agile approaches!

Use project management tools like Gantt charts, Trello or spreadsheets to monitor your tasks and progress – especially if you are working on several research projects at once.

Research Operations diagram representing the phases for good product strategy

Conclusion

Increasingly, expectations about research outcomes are rising so it can no longer be run on 10 cents a day. More time needs to be allocated to tasks behind the scenes that the wider team are usually unaware of.

Researchers not only gain credibility from the impact of the insight they glean from research work but also from the calibre of the research operations. Taking ownership through accurate scoping and communication will ensure the research function:

  • runs more smoothly
  • is valued and taken more seriously
  • provides dependable data to inform Product Strategy

If you would like assistance with elevating your Research Operations contact Seamus via info@graphicmint.com