IIeX NA 2016: News and Notes
As usual, IIeX North America 2016 in Atlanta was a whirlwind of short but informative sessions mixed with quick stops at vendor booths and hunts for the King of Pops cart. We at MMR survived and left with some inspired ideas of what is to come in research, as well as reinforcement for our core values based on industry direction.
Here is our perspective on some key themes that stood out during the conference.
BE A CONSULTANT FIRST, AND METHODOLOGIST SECOND
Joan Lewis confirmed that Market Researchers aren’t in fact a vanishing species (phew), but suggested that we must continue to move away from the 90s research model based on “the art and science of getting things done” to a more consultative model focused on determining answers for things going on now. Getting to these answers requires a collaborative approach focused on the business decision at hand, paired with an understanding of a library of research tools available in the background to select from when appropriate.
Heather Malenshek, Harley Davidson’s Director Global Consumer Insight, believes that corporate researchers should “set the damn table” not wait to be invited.
If we set our own table, executives aren’t going to line up to hear about the latest and greatest methodology. However, they will line up to hear what actions should be taken to solve their business problems.
MMR has always firmly believed that consultation must take place throughout the entire research project process. This process starts with first defining relevant hypotheses and then selecting the best research tools to address them; the end result will be an actionable POV. It’s the actionability of the end product that makes the research invaluable – it provides a roadmap for current (and future) business challenges.
AUTOMATION WILL TRANSFORM OUR PROCESSES
Text coding automation, machine learning, and automated data collection were very hot topics this year; all of which can help us move faster. Computing power and new technology is enabling this shift, one that will continue to transform our industry farther and farther away from the days of hand-written tab plans.
What makes sense to automate? According to Melanie Courtright from Research Now, the best candidates are things currently completed by “doing hands.” Automating then will free us up as researchers to be “thinking minds” and provide consultation. Melanie also described how to automate in your organization using the SAIV method:
Standardization: create standards to guide the process. This step will likely take the most time, but the set-up will be worth it in the long-run.
Appification: create an app, an Excel sheet, a standards doc or whatever is needed to execute the standards.
Integrate: communicate internally and get everyone on the same page! Integrate the new standard across your organization to ensure buy-in and usage.
Visualize: Visualize the output, when applicable, to make results more accessible and easier to digest.
The MMR business model is built on this principle. We hire staff to think, and we augment our team with a strong bench of trusted partners who automate our repetitive processes (e.g. processes that are part of nearly all projects such as programming, tabbing, etc.). This frees us up to consult and collaborate with clients about their business to ultimately create a better end product.
Internally, we also view this as a challenge to identify additional processes that can be streamlined through automation with a goal of freeing up even more “think time” for our team and ultimately reducing project timelines.
TAKE A “NEW VIEW” OF REPORTING
Ultimately good reporting is the result of good consultation, and this was addressed in a few ways at IIeX this year.
Business partners want “snackable” reports: Caroline Smiley, Manager, Consumer Research & Insight at Delta Air Lines, quoted a stat stating that executives spend only 26 minutes a week in front of their computer. If you want your report to be digested as part of that time, it must be concise and relevant or, even better, easily readable via mobile device.
Visual reports have more impact: When used effectively and judiciously, visuals are impactful and help with report brevity. Inclusion of visuals in the project process can start as early as questionnaire development; they can aid consumers with question comprehension as well.
Balance rigor with speed: Information doesn’t need to be held as currency, and decisions should not be delayed just because the researcher doesn’t have a finished deck with a bow on it. If a decision has to be made, some information is better than no information at all. Sometimes there is only enough time to produce an Excel sheet.
MMR is known for providing expedient, focused, “ready-to-distribute” reports with actionable POV. This is achieved through a focus on outcomes from the start, and the high level of confidence our clients have in our team. They trust us to quickly boil down research to just the actionable insights and recommendations, knowing we’ve explored many different avenues and angles along the way. And if they want to see all the paths that led to the recommendations, the detail is always included in the appendix of the report.
We continue to challenge ourselves to make our deliverables more visual, and just this year we began producing graphic video summaries as a complement to or instead of Power Point slides.
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