The topic of democratizing research can be welcome with open arms in some companies and others see a ton of push-back against implementation. But what does it mean, how can companies implement it, and why can it be a controversial topic?
It used to be that the research team only could do the research. Swing by their office with a request for a project, which could then be added to the queue of tasks to be worked on.
The process made sense when specific technical skills were needed to design surveys.
“For the early part of my career, we would never let anyone else do the research,” said Jorge Calvachi, a global thought leader, director of insights at La-Z-Boy, and member of the Voxpopme advisory board, on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “Of course, we are humans and are protecting our territory, and that’s what we were doing. But the world has changed. Dramatically. Because of technology. And the speed of needing that information has increased.”
What does it mean to be democratizing research?
Today, easy-to-use market research technologies can help us get insights through the push of a button and the whole project can be done in hours – like this one on what consumers consider when booking a hotel.
The democratization of research can include the creation of consumer research as well as the ease of accessing results.
“Knowledge is our currency,” said Jorge. “And if that’s the case, we need to spread that wealth of knowledge throughout the company. And when you do that, you give them the power to make faster and better decisions. We cannot be everywhere as market researchers all the time. So that for me is democratizing and socializing insights.”
That helps people make their own decisions, Jorge said.
How to democratize research
First, we must understand how people in an organization make decisions, Jorge said.
“And we need to understand the challenges they face daily,” he added.
- having and building genuine relationships
- understanding the business and the customer journey map
- knowing how you can help stakeholders
- creating the most helpful market research tech stack
“I like to ask, ‘what will unleash growth for the company?'” Jorge said of talking to stakeholders. “Once you ask those questions, it’s a different mindset of how people respond.”
Jorge says an organizational learning plan helps him along the way. The plan outlines the needs of the company. What questions do specific areas have?
“That document allows us to identify economies of scale,” Jorge said.
Once we know those things, we have to find a way to make it easy for everyone. That can include a:
- system of centralized data
- plan for clear and engaging communications
- process to get the most out of research
- culture of curiosity
- ideal for market research automation
“We have to understand our business partners and disseminate those learnings among our business partners,” Jorge said. “That’s part of the real insights ecosystem. We have to be able to communicate at different levels.”
Also, keep in mind who your advocates are. Who are the stakeholders that will positively push the importance of democratizing research forward in the organization? Working with these advocates can also make it easier to succeed.
Getting started democratizing research
Like many things, it starts with the awareness that we should be democratizing research, then understanding what that means, and finally, a plan of action.
“Our job is to be a connector,” Jorge said. “Every organization has a super highway of how information travels. So first, we need to do our job and connect different data sources. And nowadays, we have so much data that it’s incredible. So it does become difficult.”
Many companies stop the conversation there. It’s too complicated. Or it doesn’t move up the list of priorities. So sometimes, a fuller understanding of business needs across the organization and how they are similar might not be there.
“I want people who can connect different secondary, digital, and primary research sources and put it all together,” Jorge said. “That is beautiful, but we shouldn’t stop there.”
Then connect these insights to functional business needs. Finally, make them an actionable insight.
“When you start approaching it from that perspective, you can start asking better questions,” Jorge said. “We need to connect people in the organization with the same needs. And while doing that, we are creating shortcuts within that highway where information travels.”
Jorge said that making access to research simpler and aligning it with business goals can make decision-making more accessible and consistent across a company.
Understanding the right strategies
Jorge said it’s also essential to offer a suite of options to people and guidance on what strategy might work best for a specific project. For example, could an asynchronous video study get us what we need? Is a quant survey the best way forward? Or should we be using augmented reality with a new product?
“Like when we do name testing – why do we need to be there?” Jorge said. “We can use that time to connect with people.”
That starts with knowing what’s available and ensuring the right people across an organization know about the options.
Indeed, not every person in a company needs access to every bit of customer insights, but think about who does from a tactical level, Jorge said. And consider what’s the actual risk versus benefit of certain people having access.
But with so many Do-it-Yourself market research tools out there, people in a company may go out and use them on their own without any input or collaboration from the insights team if they don’t get access. That’s an even worse situation.
“It’s like when your kids turn 16 and want to drive,” Jorge said. “It’s going to happen anyway. So you better be there and not avoid it. You don’t know how they will drive, so you want to be upfront and proactive.”
He said it’s about insights professionals setting up the foundation of knowledge and processes and giving people the tools to dig deeper. And that can help us succeed in business together. Understanding our customers because we have the best insights available. That can happen at scale when research is democratized.