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First of all, ResearchOps are relevant in different industries, from It and software to the space business. It is the shorter version of Research Operations. It is similar to DevOps, SalesOps, and DesignOps, which are used to operationalise specific departments of the company, as can be understood from their names. Even though related, the job roles similar to the Ops Research Assistant are still too new to have a descriptive research report as yet. However, the closest definition describes the term as anything that supports researchers by easing their shoulders off operational work. It can be anything from people, strategy to software. If it causes researchers to save time from data collection and processing for data analysis, it can be considered Research Ops.
1.1 Research Ops: Purpose in a company
Research Ops aims not to help a single scientist or analyst, but to make the department reach its optimum efficiency and effectiveness in a company. The goal is achieved in the following ways:
- Automating tasks
- Taking care of the logistics behind quantitative research
- Creating a framework for both quantitative & qualitative research
- Establishes a workflow and process
- Initiating repeatable methods
- Ensuring that the process and implementation matches the strategy
With the increase in competition in the consumer world, customer centricity is gaining more and more importance. Businesses and entrepreneurs are increasingly moving towards niche marketing and customisation. The importance of a unique selling proposition has reached newer heights. But where does Research Ops fit in all this? With companies focusing on consumer insights, which is a changing phenomenon, quicker access to reports or the research paper outline has become almost mandatory. The emergence of this requirement sheds light on the pressure created on the Research & Development department and the need for operationalisation for faster processing.
To put it into simpler words, the following are the main requirements of a company’s R&D department that the Research Ops helps in meeting:
Usability: Research Ops makes it possible for different departments to access any research data needed by them from a central operating system or software. As a result, everything from a research proposal, research paper outline, status, and analysis to reports becomes accessible to anyone within the company. In addition, it makes usability very easy, thereby improving the quality of the product and changing the overall focus and vision of the company.
Productivity: Research Ops promotes developing a framework, templates like research proposal example, workflow, and repeatability methods to ensure saving maximum time on operational work. It is an umbrella with several components that manage to reduce the processing time to a large extent, hence optimising efficiency. Here you can find some valuable tips on how to scale UX research.
Cost-Efficiency: The same factors affecting the efficiency of the R&D team of a company also helps in cost-cutting. A proper strategy, well-researched, and experimented method makes Research Ops responsible for saving budget and managing many other factors controlling and affecting the smooth operation of the department.
Quick reports: The automatisation and workload division with Research Ops helps the team produce quick and almost dynamic reports matching the spontaneously changing consumers. It allows companies to evolve with incredible speed and enjoy a competitive edge over others in the same industry.
With the growth and scaling of companies, the operationalisation of departments becomes necessary. The reason being, increase in sales affects each department, impacting the workload exponentially. Therefore, efficiency, resource-saving, and smart work become the ultimate goal in the growth stage of startups. And why not?! The management of several departments becomes an unknown territory for companies going through a sudden transition from a one-room startup to a multi-departmental corporation. Hence, the emergence of systems like DesignOps, DevOps, SalesOps, and now ResearchOps, for easy management of several departments. It also signifies that these Operational Practices are responsible for more than one component in a department, and so is the case with Research Ops as well.
2.1 Research Ops: The eight pillars or components
A R&D department has eight areas of operation which need the attention of the team. These areas, from time to time, cause hindrances in smooth and fast report delivery. Research Ops makes the process and delivery of consumer insights reports seamless, irrespective of the research question, team requirements, and challenges, making them the eight pillars of the practice.
2.1.1 Budget management
Similar to any other department, R&D also has its own expenses, which need proper planning and management. For example, some standard heads in a budget include salaries or fees to recruiting participants, travel expenses for outdoor research, regular costs of licenses, online tools and software, etc. The Research Ops solves the budgeting challenges by bringing a proper structure where the outflow is tracked and accounted for. In addition, allocating the budget for new research paper topics by negotiating with the company’s finance team for approval also falls under the responsibility of the Research Ops.
2.1.2 Tools and infrastructure
Analysing and evaluating user data, both quantitative and qualitatively, requires maintaining a lab with software and other IT tools. Since IT may not be the forte of researchers, the team may need to coordinate with the responsible departments for smooth functioning. Besides being a liaison between departments, Research Ops also takes care of the lab infrastructure over time.
2.1.3 Data and knowledge management
With the growing size of data and topics, data management and reports become increasingly difficult. Hence, forming a data repository becomes a significant role of the Research Ops to make the data accessible to the entire company from a central system. The emergence of operative practice also introduces structure into the R&D department. One of the first activities of the practice is to create a strategy for data collection, analysis, archiving, and sharing. The standardisation of a framework process makes a systematic direction for the R&D team, helping them to increase efficiency in their delivery.
Scaling in a team indicates an increase in people, which instantly reveals the need for a system. A more significant number of people not only requires management but they are easily lost and confused. Thus, it becomes the Research Ops’ responsibility to develop a framework for processing, analysis, and reporting of the people in the R&D team. The documentation of frameworks like how to write a research paper, guidelines, etc., makes it easy for any new member to learn the process and quickly fit into the role. An adequately documented framework ensures consistent, high-quality reports without compromising on efficiency.
2.1.5 Internal communication
The R&D department is one area that every department uses, which indicates the role of internal communication. Research Ops takes the responsibility of socialising within the organisation in emails, newsletters, blogs, etc., to share monthly reports, latest findings from the department.
2.1.6 Sample pooling
User insights always require sample subjects for participation; however, attracting these participants for data collection from the desired demography is a massive task. Therefore, Research Ops strategies incentives based on the demography and then builds a pool of subjects for participation and aid in the data collection.
Again, human resource management and recruitment are needed in every department. Research Ops monitors the team’s requirements in terms of hires, training, skill learning, mentorship, conducting off-site or on-site meetings, etc.
Today, the privacy and security of user data is a sensitive topic. The Governance section of Research Ops assures that the collection, processing, and storing of information is ethically abiding by the legislation. In this article, you can find all the information you need to know about UX research.
The scope of Research Ops can seem overwhelming in the beginning. Despite its possibilities, one of the most common worries surrounding the practice comes from companies asking how to get started? Since it covers eight pillars and each of the eight areas has a department of its own in a company, it can seem like a massive task. However, the key to a successful Research Ops team is taking it slow. Similar to a business idea, one of the first steps to starting the operative function requires finding its necessity through communication within the team.
Leading companies like Microsoft, Spotify, and Deliveroo pointed out that their R&D team became good at multitasking with the growth of the company. While it sounded great to the ears, the reality was that the team was giving away time from the job that they were hired to do, like studying customer needs, developing strategy, etc. Some even realised the blurry lines between their job requirements, noting that there was no ending to the list of jobs, while they knew where they had to start. Another big challenge that Microsoft said was the absence of documentation could cost the R&D team making similar expensive mistakes again in the future. Finding the challenges to the respective team became the first step to developing Research Ops in the companies described above.
3.1 Steps to build Research Ops
Following the footsteps of the well-known organisations with successful Research Ops, mentioned below are the four easy steps on how to get started:
Follow the format of a feedback form to ask your team the challenges they face. If the unit cannot find any obstacles, take a detour and ask about their tasks during the day. Suppose they have any suggestions for improvement. If forming questions is a difficulty, then concentrate on how the four areas mentioned below affect the respective team in the questionnaire:
- Environment: What is the process? How are the participants found? Any constraints in the data collection or processing.
- Scope: Frequency, methods, how and when of the research process.
- People: Strengths and weaknesses of the team.
- Organisation: Questions regarding task division, structure, internal communication.
3.1.2 Audit and analysis
Similar to data processing, after the collection of responses, audit and analyse to find the significant challenges faced by the team. Create a spreadsheet with the report of the findings for the next step in developing Research Ops. However, before moving forward, classify the challenges into areas, for example:
- Human Resource Management & Recruitment
- Data Archiving & Knowledge Management
- Tools & Infrastructure
3.1.3 Start small
Post classification, it becomes much easier for a company to start Research Ops. However, again, it is best to not concentrate on all challenges in one go. Instead, it is best to begin by focusing on one area, solving the challenges, and moving to the next.
3.1.4 Grow and evolve
Once the Research Ops gets started, similar to other company departments, let it proceed and evolve to find continual challenges the R&D team faces. Then, with regular communication and feedback from the team and auditing responses, the Research Ops can grow and get a comprehensive structure for itself.
It is interesting how certain companies can’t have enough Research Ops, while others are yet to realise its need. The bandwidth of the practice is so large that in larger companies where research is an integral part of the company practices, they have already started crossing interdisciplinary ops for better integration. However, before jumping to conclusions and following the trend, it is necessary to lay out the challenges of the R&D and scopes of Research Ops. The absence of planning and rushing can lead to budget wasting, says Spotify Research Ops lead. She made the mistake of giving away tasks to Research Ops that the researchers couldn’t have handled, and thus emphasises planning before execution.