By Stephen Phillips
In research we are often accused of being too conservative; trying to give our (typically marketing) clients what they are used to rather than rocking the boat. But we all know times are changing and we need to provide great quality research, faster and cheaper than ever before if we are to stay relevant.
The times, they are a-changin’
You can see its effects right now: areas of research are being taken from under our noses. The likes of Qualtrics, Medallia, and Survey Monkey have snatched swathes of revenue particularly in customer satisfaction, while not being hugely engaged with the research industry itself.
With the advent of programmatic ads, there is a chance this shift could spread to the whole creative development area of research. More and more, we might see micro surveys cut into areas such as tracking, product development, and general brand positioning – all owned and managed by technology companies who may not value the training and rigour of our research thinking. We need to fight back, fight for great quality research, and to do this we must embrace a technology mindset.
This of course requires using new technology, but few of us have had the technical training that would helps with this transition. As someone who has made the jump from a research company to a technology company (in the field of research), I thought I could suggest some things that have helped me on my journey:
1. Read ‘The Lean Startup’
Whether you’re starting a new business, trying to change a company you work for, or launch a new product or service, you must read this book by Eric Ries about testing your vision and learning what your customers want. It is also a great help in understanding how technology is built and how you can work with it.
2. Understand AI (or IA)
Uncover which role you can play in and around the emergence of Artificial Intelligence. AI will compliment everything we do in research in less than two years. Get a view of how we as human researchers can overcome the ‘AI will do everything’ crowd by watching this Ted Talk by Gary Kasparov. At Zappi, we believe in IA – see my Greenbook blog post on this.
3. Code in a day
As technology continues to swamp not only market research, but life in general, it’s important to contextualise its inner-workings even if you don’t work in code. To do this send yourself on a ‘code in a day’ course (via decoded.com). It will give you a much better appreciation for what software development is.
4. Imagine a single platform and your role in it
Imagine a world wherein clients have just one technology platform for running all of their market research and data analytics. As SalesForce has taken over CRM, Google is search and Amazon is retail; clients will come to have one single data platform and your job will be providing something within that platform. Try to understand what your role could be in helping facilitate their use of this platform.
5. Stop thinking questions, start thinking data
Too often we think about question formats when actually it’s only the data that matters. It is a hard shift, but important. See how you can add value to the morass of data clients already have (whether making sense of data, integrating data, analysing data, or helping clients act off data).
As usual, I will await the GRIT Report with baited breath. It’s important to keep a finger on the pulse (rather than bury your head in the sand) and make moves to embrace disruptive technology – or risk becoming a research dinosaur!
I would love to hear any other suggestions for making researchers more technically astute; if you post comments, I will compile the ideas and post an updated version soon.