Creating an agile Insights environment

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Last week in London I had a privilege to lead a roundtable discussion on the topic about development of an agile Insights environment in an organization. This roundtable conversation took place in the frames of FMCG Research Summit organized by The Market Research Society.

Nowadays, the topic of agile research and agile insights generation appears very frequently in the research industry. However, quite quickly it becomes very clear that professionals speaking about “agile” have different ideas in mind.

Building a common background, I asked participants of the roundtable conversation to think about their experience in the last 12 months and share the most popular “traditional” and “agile” research methodologies.

So, speaking about the “traditional” research, participants named quite broad variety of different research methodologies, like Focus Groups, Central Location tests, Brand Health Tracker, Concept Testing, Ideations, Large Scale Quantitative Research (e.g. U&A).

Moving to “agile” research, ideas became less consistent. Thus, some participants named technological solutions, like VR (for sensory testing) and on-line communities; other participants mentioned proprietary research tools, like design sprints; the rest of participants shared names of the companies which they believe provide some agile research solutions, like Zappi Store and Qriously.

That led us to the conclusion that a question “What is agile research?” still doesn’t have a holistic answer.

Further discussion on the potential definition of the “agile research” highlighted that the most important agile research components can be divided into product and process related ones.

Product related components

  1. Flexible research methodologies. Research professionals consider flexibility as a more important research trait within an organization (research buyer), while standardization as an important component for the agency’s work (research provider).
  2. Fast – “research in a day” has been called as an ideal example of agile research.
  3. Good Value for Money.

Process related components

  1. “Thinking in a different way” on how a business question can be addressed via selection of the research methodology and how study can be set-up.
  2. Interactive – research that can be updated “on the go”.
  3. Technology driven.

Despite the fact that agile research sounds very promising and inspiring for marketing research professionals, there are still many challenges that occur on a journey of agile research implementation:

  1. Cost efficiency.
  2. Adaptation of the best research practices. 
  3. “Client site mindset” in case of research provider.
  4. Proof of value – for research and Consumer Insights function.
  5. Generation of in-depth insights.

Considering the list of key agile research challenges, we should admit that it looks very holistic and definitely stays acute across all types of research.

Interestingly, currently there is a big gap in a split of traditional / agile research within an organisation, where agile research accounts for 80% to 20% of the overall amount of research projects.

In terms of the areas that marketing research professional should focus on to continue development of agile research, and as in case of challenges they look universal across different types of research: involvement of the cross-functional teams at various project stages, focus on agility in thinking and ability to generate in-depth insights.

To sum up, agile research is becoming a usual marketing research routine. At the same time, agile research brings the same challenges and areas to focus for marketing research professionals as all other research. 


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