I was talking to a senior researcher who works for a research agency recently about how long research projects take from brief to debrief and how that doesn’t sit well with marketing agencies and clients increasingly working in agile, or at least agile-ish.
When the project is in a constant state of flux, timelines are tight and you need insight in order to get going, or to move onto the next phase, a 12 week timeframe on research isn’t very practical. I’ve noticed that in organisations going through digital transformation that have fully embraced Agile project management like the Government Digital Service and Co-op, they embed user researchers within multidisciplinary project teams who research on a ‘little and often’ basis.
While it isn’t terribly practical for research agencies to farm out embedded user researchers into clients or agencies for weeks or months at a time, this researcher’s confident reassurance that it was fine because they always do an interim debrief between the qual and quant stages rather missed the point. I’d much rather work with a research methodology that a) could turn projects around faster than most of the research industry currently seems able or willing to do and b) involved 3 or 4 interim catchups, with the opportunity to make minor tweaks to the format/respondent profile/content each time if necessary.
I suppose the key difference between client-side agile multidisciplinary teams and the researcher/agency/client relationship is that in most cases neither the researcher nor the agency have autonomy to tweak the methodology or act on research insight without getting client signoff first. So we’d need clients to be working in Agile too.
Sarah Christopher, a UX Researcher at HotelsCombined has written a great piece on Medium about the pros and cons of Agile User Research and one of her key points is the need to drip-feed data and findings to the team. If anyone agency-side has found a way to make this work for client projects while working with external research agencies, please let me know!
And don’t get me started on getting hold of client data in the first place in the new world of GDPR…