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ResearchOps: Understanding the Basics

Mónica Bohigas
June 3, 2024

In the ever-evolving landscape of product development, staying ahead requires more than just innovative ideas – it demands a deep understanding of user needs. This is where Research Ops steps in.

What is ResearchOps?

ResearchOps, short for Research Operations, is the systematic* management of people, processes, and resources in user research within a company. Picture it as the conductor orchestrating a symphony, ensuring seamless collaboration.

This method empowers researchers by relieving them of time-consuming tasks, allowing for streamlined work, scalable projects, and increased impact. By uniting user researchers, designers, and product teams, Research Ops guarantees an organized and efficient research process.

Often termed the "democratization" of research, ResearchOps aims to align everyone, Researchers and People Who Do Research (PWDR), providing tools, training and processes, for research outputs to make a substantial impact across the organization. The focus is on allocating time to tasks where Researchers and PWDR genuinely contribute value.

“ResearchOps is the people, mechanisms, and strategies that set user research in motion. It provides the roles, tools, and processes needed to support researchers in delivering and scaling the impact of the craft across an organization.” ResearchOps Community

cluster map of what researchops looks like.
https://static-assets.dovetailapp.com/what-is-researchops-map.pdf

Does this mean that non-researchers can now do research? Yes, ResearchOps also empowers those in need of research output to actively engage in research activities, particularly in situations where there's a shortage of UX researchers. This includes individuals spanning from designers to marketing or product managers. In the realm of ResearchOps, they're often referred to as PWDR (People Who Do Research), drawing a distinction from dedicated UX Researchers. The extent to which this occurs hinges on the organization's research strategy and the level of rigor required. ResearchOps facilitates this transition for PWDR by providing standardized training, documentation, templates, recruitment, and data management support. Nonetheless, there's an ongoing and extensive debate about whether it's appropriate to broaden research activities to PWDR, with many advocating for research to remain primarily in the hands of dedicated UX researchers.

The Purpose of ResearchOps

1. Efficiency Boost:

ResearchOps transcends the mere expansion of research initiatives; it's centered on precision and efficiency. A well-implemented ResearchOps should relieve researchers of time-consuming tasks—such as recruitment, compliance, and documentation—allowing them to concentrate on what genuinely adds value to the organization: conducting research.
Through the establishment of standardized processes and workflows, ResearchOps can become a driver of efficiency, minimizing redundancy and conserving valuable time and resources. It's a strategic approach that tryies to ensure not only comprehensive research but also resource optimization for maximum impact.

“Building a panel. Recruiting participants. Conducting various research methods. Paying out incentives. Synthesizing and sharing what you learn. Storing every insight and artifact in an easily accessible repository. User experience (UX) researchers do a lot.” By Jack Wolstenholm

2. Consistency is Key:

Maintaining uniformity in research methodologies and data collection is crucial. Research Ops sets forth guidelines that guarantee a standardized approach, empowering teams to accurately compare findings and make well-informed decisions.

Check out the guidelines and templates offered by the Research Ops community for almost any phase of UX Research: https://toolbox.researchops.community/
Check out the guidelines and templates offered by the Research Ops community for almost any phase of UX Research: https://toolbox.researchops.community/

The standardization extends to research methods and supporting documentation, encompassing scripts, templates, and consent forms. This not only saves time but also facilitates consistent application across teams, fostering a cohesive and reliable research environment.

Miro home page to access UX research templates.
Here is another example of Research templating in Miro for Research Ops teams. https://miro.com/templates/ux-research-repository/

 

3. Scalability:

As your organization expands, the intricacies of research also multiply. ResearchOps could be the foresighted solution, offering a scalable framework capable of adapting to heightened demands without compromising quality or skyrocketing costs.

Key Components of ResearchOps

“ResearchOps addresses a tapestry of interwoven operational aspects concerning user research, where every component both affects and is affected by the other elements.” Kate Kaplan

Ilustration of the 6 components of ResearchOps
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/research-ops-101/

Let's delve into the key components of ResearchOps.

1. Participant Recruitment:

Goal: Develop efficient processes for discovering, recruiting, screening, scheduling, and compensating participants, saving time and resources for research teams across the organization.

Benefit for Research Teams: Address a critical need for overwhelmed research teams, enhancing efficiency and saving time and money.

Main Tasks/Responsibilities:

  • Construct frameworks for reliable and effective recruitment and incentive processes.
  • Recruitment: Establish criteria for participant selection, screen and select participants, manage communication, and oversee incentive management.
  • Establish and sustain a diverse participant pool (database or panel) for comprehensive insights.
  • Collaborate with external recruiters or recruitment suppliers to optimize participant engagement and selection.

2. Governance - Data Management:

Goal: Craft guidelines for handling participant data, ensuring alignment with data privacy regulations and proper PII collection, management, and storage.

Benefit for Research Teams: Prevent PII handling mistakes, save time on learning regulations, and maintain consistent compliance, mitigating legal risks for a streamlined and ethical research process.

Main Tasks/Responsibilities:

  • Ensure the application of data-privacy regulations to the UX-research process.
  • Establish protocols for secure data sharing within the team and organization.
  • Craft and standardize compliant, transparent consent forms tailored to specific research techniques or methodologies.
  • Implement a centralized system for storing and organizing research data prioritizing data security and privacy compliance.

3. Knowledge management:

Goal: Ensure organized collection and synthesis of data from research studies, making it easily discoverable and accessible.

Benefit for Research Teams: Efficiently compiled and managed research insights facilitate seamless sharing, prevent redundant studies, and contribute to educating external stakeholders.

Main Tasks/Responsibilities:

  • Create standardized templates for data collection (reports, debriefs, documentation, recordings, etc.)
  • Build and maintain a research repository to store all findings across the organization.
  • Facilitating collaborative research to pool efforts and leverage synergies.
  • Create communication channels to share and showcase new data and results.

4. Tools and Technology:

Goal: Identify, integrate, and oversee tools and platforms for supporting diverse research activities, fostering consistency, compliance, and efficient collaboration.

Benefits for Research Teams: Accelerate collaboration, ensure adherence to data-privacy regulations, and elevate overall research efficiency.

Key Tasks/Responsibilities:

  • Choose research tools for all techniques (usability testing, surveys, remote interviews, etc.) recruitment and information management.
  • Administer access privileges and provide team members with training on the effective utilization of research tools.
  • Scrutinize the research toolkit to guarantee compliance with data-privacy regulations and maintain uniformity.
  • Manage testing locations (usability labs and external locations).

5. Training and Skills

Goal: Enable a broader understanding and application of user research skills among both researchers and non-researchers (PWDR).

Benefit for Research Teams: Enhance the research capabilities of team members and integrate basic research activities into non-researcher roles when needed.

Main Tasks/Responsibilities:

  • Create a playbook or database of research methods for onboarding new researchers and educating those outside the team.
  • Develop formalized training or curricula to educate PWDR (non-researchers that need research insights for their work) on user-centered approaches, facilitating the incorporation of basic research activities into their work.
  • Develop standardized and consistent professional development opportunities for researchers seeking skill enhancement.

6. Communication and advocacy:

Goal: Cultivate transparent communication channels among researchers, designers, and product teams, promoting a collaborative environment. Also, define and communicate the value of UX research within the organization to secure support and resources.

Benefit for Research Teams: Enhance teamwork by facilitating regular collaboration sessions. Ensure recognition and support for UX research, enabling the scalability of ResearchOps practices.

Main Tasks/Responsibilities:

  • Foster open communication channels and regular collaboration sessions to encourage information flow (regularly sharing insights and success stories with the organization)
  • Utilize collaboration tools to enhance teamwork, especially in remote work settings.
  • Create a mission or statement of purpose for the UX research team to articulate its objectives.
  • Develop case studies showcasing the impact of research findings on company metrics and KPIs.

"Original research: ReOps helps people get access to a full-time researcher or hire a contractor. Existing insights: ReOps helps people search their repository and sign up to receive new alerts based on their research needs. Empathy building: ReOps helps people develop weekly customer touchpoints and observe research sessions. DIY research: ReOps helps people get the tools and coaching they need to succeed" Jack Wolstenholm

Another ilustration of the components of ResearchOps and who they interact with the organizations teams
https://greatquestion.co/blog/scaling-research-that-rocks

How Research Ops Fits into the Broader Research Landscape

1. ResearchOps vs. User Research:

While user research focuses on understanding user behaviors and needs, Research Ops optimizes the process of conducting this research. It's the backbone that ensures user research is systematic, efficient, and aligned with organizational goals.

2. Integration with DesignOps and DevOps:

Research Ops is not an isolated entity; it seamlessly integrates with DesignOps and DevOps to create a holistic product development ecosystem. The synergy between these Ops disciplines ensures a smoother transition from research insights to design and development.

3. Impact on Product Strategy:

Informed decision-making is the cornerstone of successful product development. Research Ops equips teams with the necessary insights to refine and adapt product strategies based on real user data, leading to more user-centric and successful products.

Conclusion

In the fast-paced world of product development, Research Ops emerges as a secret weapon for organizations striving to create user-centric, successful products at a scale. By embracing the principles of efficiency, consistency, and scalability, Research Ops not only promises to optimize the research process but also ensures that the voice of the user remains at the core of decision-making.

References:

*By “systematic approach” we refer to the approach that is methodical, repeatable, and able to be learned by a step-by-step procedure.

https://thelawdictionary.org/systematic-approach/
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/research-ops-101/
https://researchops.community/about/
https://researchops.community/resources/
https://consentkit.com/research-ops

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