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.