The pandemic upended industries and dramatically impacted consumer preferences and behaviors. While technology leaders have long recognized that consumer expectations are always increasing, the pace is now accelerating rapidly. Today’s executives demand that their organizations operate on faster iterations, using customer feedback to inform decisions. It’s a paradigm shift in culture, with research at the front and center.

The emergence of Research Operations

For research leaders, the emphasis on data-driven decision-making coupled with speed is an immense opportunity and challenge. On the one hand, it situates their teams prominently as a key facilitator and engine for customer-centric organizations of the future. On the other hand, the speed and scale of research demands can make it difficult to keep the wheels on the bus.

This is in large part why we’re seeing the emergence of Research Operations (ResearchOps). Put simply, ResearchOps is a set of practices that combines research techniques, technology solutions, and processes in order to transform research into a repeatable and scalable system that serves the decision-making requirements of the organization. There is already a vibrant ResearchOps community focused on developing best practices for the systems and culture to meet the needs of modern organizations. 

An organization’s ResearchOps capability is the limiting factor for achieving customer centricity. That’s why fostering a culture of research is so important and is often a precursor for executing on other company objectives.

Fostering a culture of research operational excellence

Before your organization begins investing in the tools and capabilities to achieve excellence in ResearchOps, focus on the roles and people who will be responsible for setting strategy. Let’s explore three important steps to developing a culture of research within your organization.

Step 1: Research gets every seat at the table

While a strong research leader with a “seat at the table” is critical, it’s perhaps even more important that every member of the company’s leadership gets directly involved in requesting and participating in research studies. This achieves three important objectives:

  • Company leadership will make customer-informed decisions
  • Company leadership will develop an appreciation for the resources required to execute high-quality research
  • Company leadership will set an example for the rest of the organization that customer feedback needs to be a part of decision-making processes at all levels

Step 2: Make research both a centralized and integrated function

Historically, research was a centralized function that facilitated strategic studies like market segmentation and Van Westendorp pricing studies. In many ways, research still is centralized and needs to execute such studies. But given the aforementioned consumer trends, research teams today need to operate much closer to decision-making which frequently isn’t happening in the C-suite. 

Research teams need the budget and staffing to integrate key people and capabilities into agile teams across the organization. Collaboration between researchers and decision-makers ensures higher quality studies, consistency in decision-making, and customer centricity.

Step 3: Create incentives for data-driven decision-making

Even with engaged leadership and research integrated across the organization, the reality is that data-driven decision-making just isn’t intuitive or habitual for most stakeholders. Iteration isn’t the default behavior, so it’s important to develop strong incentives to encourage behavior change.

Consider stage-gating innovation initiatives and requiring data-driven decision-making. For example, funding for projects could be allocated based on the number of customers that have given feedback. Some organizations develop benchmarks for market demand that must be achieved during research studies before projects can continue.

Research leaders in the driver’s seat

While the pace of change can be overwhelming, it’s important to recognize that this is one of the greatest opportunities that research leaders have ever had to redefine their function within their organizations. There is an openness to paradigm shifts and culture change unlike ever before. 

To learn more about ResearchOps and fostering a culture of research and customer centricity, download our report on Leveling Up Your Research Operations featuring data from 100+ corporate research teams.