When Tracy, the Insights Director for a small but mighty research and analytics team, was approached by a brand manager with a research request she was all ears. But she was deflated after learning that the research would be used to validate a decision that had already been made. Slipping in one more research project was possible but would put a strain on her team. And was this really a good use of corporate resources?
We’ve all been in her shoes at one point or another, and here’s some speculation on what Tracy might be thinking:
- Let’s say Tracy does the research:
- Will it limit the team’s ability to do something else that could have more impact on other decisions that need to be made?
- If it invalidates the decision that has been made, is it even possible to take corrective action, or is it already too late?
- Let’s say Tracy doesn’t do the research:
- Will it hurt her credibility with the business partner?
- Will the business partner simply find another avenue for getting the research done; and perhaps not done well?
- Let’s say Tracy does the research:
What would you advise Tracy to do?
To help answer that question, here are three best practices to help balance the business’s needs for insights to support improved decisions and the reality of limited time and money.
1. Develop, share and stick to a Team Charter that identifies how projects will be prioritized. For example, a Charter that’s co-developed with insights and business leaders could identify how research and analytical resources will be allocated to activities that are ‘more deserving’ based on criteria such as the following:
- Fits within strategic goals
- Will be used to improve high value business decisions
- Has a payoff within two years
A Charter that includes these types of prioritization guidelines in the Principles section is an excellent way to focus teams on when and why to consider research. It provides the context for a discussion between the Insights team and the business partner to address whether or not the value in the research outcome is worth the effort, and to what degree. (Read more about a Team Charter in our last blog)
2. Use a disciplined process to probe the need and use of the resulting information from the business partner, such as one outlined in our Smart Insights Brief process. Specifically, it would be important to identify the responses to such questions as:
- In what ways will the research be used to make better decisions?
- How impactful will the learnings be on the decisions?
- Is there existing information that would suffice?
- Can available methodologies answer the key questions?
Clarifying the business partner’s needs and intentions can sometimes be enough to assess the role of research in assisting with a decision. (Read more about the Smart Insights Brief)
3. Utilize a Decision Model Scoring System. It’s typically not as simple as a “yes” or “no” decision on whether or not to do research, but rather a question of how much time and money to allocate. The Insights team could create a scoring system that fairly and quickly helps to prioritize projects based on how much value they bring to the organization as well as its feasibility.
The Olivetree Insights team has developed a model based on the following three steps:
- Score Fit and Impact: Score the research need on how closely it addresses a strategic initiative; how impactful (financial threat or opportunity) it is to the company and the impact breadth (how widely the results can be applied across the company)
- Score Actionability: Score the research need based on the decision stage and risk of a bad decision.
- Methodology Considerations: Are there other sources of existing information that could suffice? Is it a researchable question? Is there enough time and resources available to address the topic adequately?
We’re seeking beta testers of our Decision Model Scoring System. Let us know if you want a free trial.
Whatever process an insights team uses to guide resource allocation discussions, there will be instances where the business partner has to be told no. Having an established and shared process can take some of the emotion out of the decision, but it can still be tough to say no! We don’t want to disappoint our colleagues; that’s just human nature.
So when you must say no, also work to find a yes. Perhaps there’s trade articles or other secondary research sources that could shed light on the topic. Share former research that might provide answers; reach out to other research/brand members for ideas; or guide them with DIY research.
Each of these techniques serves to set the team up for successful resource discussions because much of the heavy lifting– standards about when to allocate research/analytics funds – have already been made. So now Tracy can have a great conversation with the business partner and jointly determine how best to use limited resources.