Does All Research Need To Be Agile?
Agile market research can be quicker and more affordable when executed well than traditional approaches
Agile market research is usually cited as the ‘silver bullet’ for success in a world that continually demands that market research produces insights in ways that are better, faster, and cheaper. Agile market research can be quicker and more affordable when executed well than traditional approaches. However, not all projects and not all organizations are suited to Agile research processes. Let’s explore what Agile is and isn’t and how we can apply Agile principles to improve all research projects.
What is Agile Market Research?
The term ‘Agile’ comes originally from Agile software development. Software developers realized their traditional development methodologies were overly bureaucratic, took too long to plan, and focused on processes and documentation rather than getting a usable product out. Agile made development about the team, communications, and an iterative process. Instead of trying to get the whole software product right in one go, Agile development approach broke it down into smaller pieces and focused on continuous development.
Because the Agile approach has proved much more efficient and yielded better results, other disciplines and industries have adapted for project management, including market research. Traditional research used methods that took a long time to plan and set up, were unchangeable once the fieldwork was underway, and involved a long wait for the results. As a result, large-scale projects using a significant part of the budget could become unfocused. After all, if you’re spending that much money, you should get as much information as possible from the respondents.
In addition, Agile market research means the stakeholder team must be more actively involved in the research process. In traditional methods, the research and insights teams would take a brief from the stakeholders, design the project, conduct the fieldwork, and analyze the results before presenting them back to the stakeholder team.
In Agile research, the stakeholders are involved at every step, working with the research and insights team as results as they come in, making decisions, and then going into the field again to research a new iteration of the product or concept.
The Agile Research Project: What’s Needed?
Agile market research projects begin in the same place as traditional research: with clear and carefully articulated project objectives. And that is where the similarities end. Here are the 5 steps to create an Agile market research project.
1. Tightly focused objectives. In Agile projects, objectives must be much more tightly crafted, with the project scope in mind. By starting with tightly focused objectives and a precise scope, you can map the iterative process in a way that lays out the phases but leaves the content of each one flexible. Remember that specifics will change as you incorporate what you learn into each cycle.
2. Create an Agile team. Agile teams are generally small, with 8 to 10 members at most. If you need more people, create a second team rather than increasing the original team. Forget about job titles and assign the work to the person with the skills to do it. Another criterion of an effective Agile team is that there is no hierarchy. Within the team, the project leader serves as the point of contact, but the team works collaboratively without regard to title or position.
3. Stakeholders must be Agile, too. In traditional research projects, the manager who commissions the research is typically very involved initially and then uninvolved until it’s time to share insights. A hallmark of Agile research is close collaboration throughout the process. The stakeholder team should engage with the findings throughout the phases to evaluate what is learned and give feedback to continue. Stakeholders must be prepared for this different way of investing their time and intention in the research process.
4. Have an Agile toolkit. Agile research needs user-friendly, intuitive software to support the team in data collection, analysis, and reporting. That does not mean you must invest in all new software, but your existing software may need to be deployed differently. Your toolkit must also include agile providers and partners, so you won’t be slowed down waiting for research services.
5. Keep findings accessible to stakeholders. Because Agile research moves quickly, the team must find a way to frequently get their findings in front of stakeholders. By providing frequent results and getting feedback on direction and scope, you will ensure results are immediately relevant and cumulatively relevant to the project’s success.
The Agile Mindset
Agile research is not just conducting traditional research faster. Even with the requirements outlined above, your project might not be Agile. You must also have an Agile mindset, which may be an obstacle for many organizations attempting Agile research.
The Agile mindset relies on the following:
- Discipline to keep the project focused and to keep all team members and stakeholders engaged and effectively productive.
- Communication to keep everyone up-to-speed. It is critical that team members and stakeholders understand where the project is, what is required of them, and when.
- Collaboration is required to get the best outcome. There is no place for hierarchies in Agile research. Everyone’s voice counts equally.
- Prioritization of the project in the team and stakeholders’ schedules will be necessary to promptly get all of the needed communication.
- Freedom is necessary for the organization to empower Agile teams to change course as needed without a lengthy approval process and for team members and stakeholders to believe they can voice their opinions without fear of a potential negative impact.
The core of agility is responding to change over the dictates of a plan. Agile market research reduces the risk of development failure by consistently providing only relevant insight to the research question. As a result, you don’t waste resources, and you maximize ROI. But none of the Agile principles and processes discussed here are required explicitly for teams to be Agile. Instead of focusing on Agile, focus on working in a flexible, collaborative, and creative fashion to leverage the power of continuous improvement. That is truly Agile.
Bart is Chief Research Officer at OvationMR and is responsible for Global Business Insights and Online Panel and Online Sample Data Quality. He also consults with clients on sampling design for various types of online research campaigns and political polling. Bart can be reached at Bart.Borkosky@ovationmr.com
To learn more about OvationMR Business Insights Solutions, Online Sampling, and Online methodologies for ensuring your success, you can visit Panel Quality & Recruitment or Download 2022 PanelBook or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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