Before jumping into how to create a perfect agile market research project, let me just clarify the meaning of truly ‘agile’ market research. You’re probably sick of hearing that agile market research is faster than traditional research. It is when done right but that’s not the point.
The point is that when done right, agile market research reduces the risk of development failure by providing relevant insight, and only relevant insight, for the development cycle in question, consistently. Waste is minimised, return on investment is maximised. Sounds great right? So now, how do we implement it?
Step 1. Understand the Agile Research Method Objectives
First and foremost, it’s vital that the perception of agile market research as a quick, cheap fix for a client problem; be they internal or external, is dispelled. Its purpose is to create a balanced bridge between efficiency and effectiveness.
Your methodology objectives are to ensure all customer insight is used, development downtime is eliminated and the ultimate item outcome is an end-to-end customer-centric success. The key to this is process or more specifically lean iterative process, and considered task allocation.
Step 2. Map the Agile Research Project Process
The unique component of agile research, the component which puts it on a different plain, is its iterative nature. Each stage of research and development should be broken down into iterations or ‘sprints’. After the first research sprint the first development cycle begins during which time the second research sprint takes place.
Outcomes from the second research sprint are fed back for the second development cycle during which the third research sprint takes place and so on. You are effectively breaking your market research down into ‘chunks’, the detail of which will be defined by previous sprint outcomes and developmental requirements. Do map these chunks, even agile research needs a structure! But keep their actual content loose, the specifics will change.
By mapping the agile research project process in relation to the development project process you will:
- Reduce time waste. Research and development happen in tandem
- Reduce resource waste. The product development team are utilised from the outset
- Reduce insight waste. Iterative ‘chuck’ insight briefs ensure consistent relevancy
- Reduce risk. Iterative customer feedback keeps development on a customer-centric track — no tangents to be rectified, no misinterpretation, no guessing at the end of a project which has had to shift slightly in specification due to barriers only discoverable midway.
Step 3. Match Research Team Strengths to Agile Project Tasks
Now we’re looking at efficiency from your market research professionals themselves in term of project execution at task level and this means team, not individual. This is absolutely essential market research agility. Matching the strengths of department members to the research tasks that need completing is the key.
And do do this on a project-by-project basis; different project, different skill set. Ensuring each team member works at maximum capacity, by completing tasks according to their strengths, is at the core of every successful agile research project.
In an agile setting, it is also essential that the research project team members are semi-autonomous. There should never be a team hierarchy — both hierarchy (bureaucratic procedures, unnecessary information filtering, etc.) and overlapping specialties can cause waste within teams, and therefore defeat the purpose of adopting an agile philosophy.
Instead, a research project leader should be appointed who works alongside the rest of the team members. They are responsible for eliminating obstacles that are impeding the research success and facilitating the exchange of information between the research team and development project owner.
In order for an agile research project team to function at its full potential, it should not consist of more than 8–10 members. Any larger and the team will lose agility.
If you do need to scale your agile research capability overall, add a new team, not new members to the existing team. An example of the team strengths that may be required to fulfil a product development (digital or physical) agile market research project is as follows. Remember, these are skills, not job titles.
- 1 research strategist
- 1 qualitative researchers
- 1 quantitative researchers
- 2 community moderators
- 1 qualitative analyst
- 1 quantitative analyst
- 1 research presenter
Step 4. Put the Agile Research Software Tools in Place
Whether you’re doing qual or quant research, having user-friendly, intuitive, fast, and efficient software with which to conduct, analyse, and report findings will naturally support the agile market research objective.
Lack of access to such software is seen as a barrier to research agility, even project completion and as such sourcing the right platforms, programmes and packages falls to the research leader.
An agile market research team isn’t something that you can create overnight. You need to carefully assess the benefit of agile market research to your organisation, in order to decide whether to create or to outsource — it’s not a one size fits all approach.
There are certain market research projects which don’t suit the agile methodology at all. If you do decide to develop in-house however, I hope that the steps above provide you with a sound basis on which to do so.