A new era for product teams
Research roles are starting to pop up on product teams everywhere. There is more to researching than meets the eye. Often there are not enough resources allocated to conduct the research or one person is tasked with doing everything research related for the product or service– which can be a tall order!
ResearchOps is an emerging area to help research practitioners successfully set up and run smooth Research Operations. In this article I delve into this new discipline. How can researchers provide actionable, insightful data to the wider team and over time build credible and robust Research Operations that positively impacts the business.
What type or research should I do?
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:
1. 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.
2. Business Research
Business Research is 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 business area.
3. Desk Research
Desk Research (or “Secondary Research”) differs because you do not collect the data yourself. Instead, you review Research already 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 to be conducted as part of your project. It’s good practice to assess how much time and effort is allocated to each Research type. The tasks associated with these research types add up over time and may impact the overall scope.
How to scope a research process
Each type of research has a similar process which includes the following 4 phases:
Research Process Phases
- Planning: deciding the focus, scope and timeline
- Input: engaging with people or documentation to glean data about the topic – the research itself
- Processing: interpreting and synthesising the data
- Output: communicating the findings via written reports and presentations. Translating data into information and knowledge
As you map the types of research to be conducted across the 4 phases the true scale of the project will emerge. Decide how to prioritise, order and schedule activities across the research phases. Even though rapid validation and guerrilla research are in vogue, doing the research with rigour is worth the extra time.
Track Research Progress
Tracking Research Projects
The next step is to monitor and 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 reduce the scope of each phase appropriately. (Josh Seiden wrote a good piece about what to do when user research doesn’t fit in a sprints).
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 track your assumptions and hypotheses and to monitor your tasks and progress – especially if you are working on several research projects at once.
Researchers gain credibility when the output from their research informs the team to make better decisions about products and services. Investing time to plan and standardise your ResearchOps processes will improve the overall efficiency and quality of your research. Taking ownership of the research project through accurate scoping and communication will ensure your research team:
- runs more smoothly
- is valued and taken more seriously
- provides dependable data to inform Product Strategy