A world-class insights function must start with strategic clarity around two things:

  1. Better research planning 
  2. Better research management

Better Research Planning

Research planning takes discipline. Too often, research is undertaken in haste with knee jerk reactions to crisis situations or to gather ‘nice to know’ information to deplete the looming year-end research budget. Research conducted in haste, with insufficient planning, rarely delivers results that are actionable for the long-term. However, investing in research planning upfront has many benefits.

  1. Prioritize Needs: Every business has a plethora of research and insights needs, some minor, some major, some critical. By creating a long-range learning agenda that prioritizes needs, the most critical business challenges will receive priority attention at the expense of ‘nice to know’ projects. Consequently, less important and less strategic challenges won’t exhaust the budget and leave insufficient funding for critical projects. And, when budget is an issue, with a long-range agenda in hand, stakeholders can shift discussions away from budgets and instead gain alignment of strategic plans.
  2. Greater ROII: A long-range agenda that identifies the most critical business challenges will almost always generate better Return On Insights Investment. Solving critical challenges may take up more of the budget but they’ll also deliver much greater value for that budget.
  3. Direct the Discussion: Solid research planning will demonstrate to the larger team that research and insights is not simply a commodity that can easily be bought, but rather that they depend on in-depth knowledge of a company’s internal processes and strategies, and how different research methodologies would be beneficial in various areas. In this manner, a research team can work to influence the organization’s strategic plans.
  4. Strategic Leadership: Research teams often bemoan the fact that they don’t have a seat at the table. However, companies that create a best-in-class insights team with a strong structure and delineated processes that demonstrate clear, strategic plans will elevate the team from order takers to strategic leaders. 
  5. Maximize Tools: Finally, a bit of planning will help you get more out of your best research tools and help you identify when to retire others. With a research plan in hand, projects using the same tools and techniques can be planned together, and sometimes even converted into single, less expensive, projects. In other cases, tools that no longer meet needs can be dropped from the toolkit and any associated costs, such as licencing or management fees, dropped.

Better Research Management

Research management goes hand-in-hand with better research planning.

  1. Actionable Outcomes: World class insights are built on the fact that they are actionable. Nice-to-know research often fails because no actions can result or be approved from the findings. However, research that is designed to answer specific hypotheses around a true business need lead to actionable outcomes.
  2. Engaging Outcomes: Well-managed research is not only planned from a research design perspective, but also from a research presentation perspective. Whether clients need written reports, video reports, infographics, or something else should be a key question from day one. With this knowledge in hand, the entire project can be managed to suit that end goal. Research presentations will be more interesting and engaging, and far more impactful and actionable.
  3. Training: Research that is well-managed can easily serve as a training tool on best in class research execution for new team members. This leads to better quality research processes resulting in better quality research, results and recommendations.
  4. Education: In addition to training, well–managed research helps teams codify wins and losses and make continual improvements. As experts identify aspects of a research project that out-perform or under-perform, future projects can be adjusted to accommodate those findings. Better quality research is the end result.

Research is a strategic weapon, not a commodity to be bought and sold. It provides true return on investment through identifying new actions or avoiding costly mistakes. Further, presenting results in a compelling, visually impactful ‘story’ galvanizes the results in a clear, easily digestible and memorable way. Team members not only remember the content but are keen to implement the results.

Great research is a gift of knowledge that provides confidence and courage to act. And hopefully by doing so, businesses can rise to their challenges super-charged by research and insights.