In organizations that fully leverage their market research teams, consumer and customer insights are a key factor in decision-making throughout the business. Keeping the customer’s voice at the center of strategic and tactical decisions is job one and nowhere is that more important than in product development and management.
Depending on how they are structured—built around individual products, product lines, features or skill set—product teams may be well positioned to collaborate closely with engineering, marketing and/or sales. Focusing in so many directions, they may or may not recognize the insights team as a valuable collaboration partner.
For market research teams that are looking for strategic ways to improve collaboration with product teams, especially in relation to product testing and development, one of the best things to do is to demonstrate how consumer insights can benefit the product function.
The good news is that there are tools and best practices the market research team can deploy to foster close collaboration with product teams while simultaneously delivering on product teams’ priorities: faster and richer research outcomes.
Speed + Immediacy + Context
Current technologies enable faster turnaround on primary research and offer the ability to conduct qualitative research on a broader scale than was practical even ten years ago. At the same time, with agile product development processes becoming increasingly prevalent, the need for speed continues to intensify.
Market research technology also provides the ability to capture consumer feedback in ways that are so direct that research findings can feel like a firsthand conversation with product users. Working closely with product teams enables the research team to leverage that immediacy in the stories used to convey insights.
As with so much else, when it comes to research, context is everything. Product teams commission specific types of market research that typically focus on product development, product testing, and user experience. Those teams may not be aware of the extent to which research commissioned by other teams can yield valuable product insights—which is where market research teams can offer additional context. For instance, researchers might highlight customer satisfaction surveys and even branding or communications research that contains useful nuggets about how consumers perceive and experience a product. The market research team is best positioned to be sure product teams tap all the information that is timely and relevant to their questions instead of relying mainly or exclusively on “their” research.
Be Knowledge Brokers
According to research from the Boston Consulting Group, leading market research teams are evolving beyond being service providers who fulfill line managers requests on a project by project basis. Nowadays, the market research team’s optimal role is informing and inspiring strategic and tactical decisions—including product-based decisions.
Knowledge silos are out, and data integration is in—or should be—everywhere. At the same time, people have only so much bandwidth individually and collectively. Everyone cannot be an expert in everything. The market research team is best positioned to ensure everyone has easy access to the organization’s collective expertise.
The adoption of data democratization has been a positive trend, eliminating gatekeepers and bottlenecks and making data accessible to everyone. But data is not precisely the same thing as knowledge. And available does not necessarily mean accessible. While gatekeepers are obsolete, there is a crucial role for knowledge brokers: a team that makes sure everyone can find not just the data but the insights generated by analysis of the data and thus, the knowledge created by placing insights in relevant context.
In many organizations, one or more market research team members manage a research library or knowledge management platform, ensuring research reports and other finalized insights documentation is uploaded to the platform and encouraging stakeholders to turn to the platform when they have research questions or feedback. It may be particularly beneficial for these market researchers to meet with product team stakeholders to walk them through the research library, demonstrate how it’s being used, and make sure they know how to search for specific information within the platform.
Making knowledge—data, insights, stories that illuminate meaning—accessible to everyone represents only part of the value the insights team can bring. The next piece, considered equally valuable by many, is offering a venue where people engage not only with the knowledge but with each other.
It’s long been said that the best market research generates as many questions as answers. Data-driven insights should spark conversations across the team that commissioned the research and other stakeholder groups. And it marks the beginning of another valuable role for the market research team: facilitating engagement.
The benefits of close collaboration between the research team and product teams are clear: precisely targeted research, and nuanced insights that drive smart product decisions. The key is deploying tools that facilitate the two-way engagement necessary to cultivate close collaboration. And the same tools can encourage and nurture dialogues and collaboration between the product teams and others in the organization who have a stake in the work at hand and those with relevant specialized expertise.
A Knowledge Engagement Platform Can Foster Close Collaboration
In the approach outlined here, the insights team is the go-to resource for access to knowledge and ways to engage with that knowledge and with other teams and subject matter experts. One way to implement it is by using a knowledge engagement platform.
A knowledge engagement platform puts everything the organization knows, including market research results and customer insights, into a searchable library. Product testing and development, customer satisfaction, brand awareness and usage, user experience: all the organization’s consumer metrics and the stories they tell. A platform user does not need to know or guess where to look for additional relevant material. Everything is accessible from one interface.
Now more than ever, as so many companies continue learning how to function optimally with most or all employees working remotely, it’s important to create opportunities for informal discussions where the most productive brainstorming often occurs. A knowledge engagement platform provides a searchable place to ask and answer questions. Along with expanding easy, convenient access to specialized expertise, this can facilitate the two-way conversations that lie at the heart of authentic collaboration within and across teams.
A knowledge engagement platform enables the market research team to deliver to product teams the insights they need and do it in a way that fosters collaboration, creating expanded opportunities for the connections and conversations that drive innovation and creativity.