“Without data, you are just another person with an opinion” - W. Edwards Deming.
The quest for continual improvement drives the demand for data and information. All of us at some point in time have experienced a need for data and information from our customers, partners, employees, peers, suppliers, and others. Academician’s, product managers, customer success professionals are just some of the diasporas who have a need to generate these insights from this information.
To get us all on the same page, here are some typical situations from day-to-day life as a professional where insights are required, and most of these situations can be handled the DIY way.
• Gathering perspectives from friends, family, customers, communities and the like about their perspectives, experiences, preferences, and suggestions related to a topic, product or service.
• Understanding key drivers for customer satisfaction.
• Conducting informal interviews or observation sessions with users to gather qualitative feedback on the usability, functionality, and overall user experience of a product or website.
• Engaging in one-on-one conversations with individuals who have relevant knowledge or experiences to gather qualitative insights on a specific subject, domain, technology or industry.
• Validating hypothesis and plans before action or implementation.
There are multiple methods of research, and multiple ways in which they are classified. Essentially, there are 3 methods – qualitative, quantitative and observational.
• Qualitative methods are used to understand people's experiences and uncover the deeper meanings behind their thoughts and actions.
• Quantitative methods help to study larger groups of people and find patterns or relationships. Usually, they help us test a specific hypothesis, such as what would be willingness to pay for a larger pack size.
• Observational methods involve watching and describing what people do in real-life situations, without interfering. It helps us understand behavior and the context in which it occurs.
Of course, these methods are not mutually exclusive, and often one has to use a combination of approaches to gain more comprehensive insights.
That is why research design, framework and the right tools are so crucial in getting the answers that you seek, isn’t it.
Before embarking on any research study, careful planning is essential. As a thumb rule, you need to have clear answers to the questions Why, What, How, Who, and When.
Define your objective, clearly articulate the insights you seek, so that you (and others) have the end in mind. It is important. We often succumb to scope creep, and that can be self-inflicted too ????).
Scope it out – articulate what data and information you need to get to those insights. Identify the sources of the data too (primary data, research through papers etc.). And finally, the data collection instrument as well (survey, discussion guide, observation guide etc.) The more clarity you create for yourself here, lesser the chances of hiccups during the execution.
Finally, remember that DIY research can also have some costs associated with it. Identify those costs as early as you can, as they can influence how you are going to execute.
Now the rubber hits the road. You need to decide what will work best in terms of
- method/s to collect the information you need (observation, qual, quant or a mixture)
- setting for the interaction (online/offline/phone/in-person or a mix, in a group or individual)
- the tools you will need – ideally an easy to use, and cost-optimal tool that takes care of the end to end process (like flowres.io)
We have briefly touched upon situations when different methods can be applied. That said, if you need an assist, do reach out to us and we will do our best to do so.
It always helps to have support from folks or tools skilled in different aspects of the design and execution of research. For qualitative methods, using an end-to-end platform like flowres.io will take care of managing the interaction, automating many downstream activities, and setting you up for generating your insights. There could be a friend or neighbor who could help you determine better sources of information.
Determine the time for each step of the process, consider all sources of delays and countermeasures. Have a schedule that you can share with folks who may be involved/required. It does not have to be perfect, but it definitely seems to be realistic.
At the end of this exercise, you should have a plan all ready for you to proceed with your research. Now you can go ahead and execute. But wait, its not as simple as that. There is just one more thing.
Remember, Plan-Do-Check-Act? Always keep checking progress and outcomes with what you had planned for. While this is not a planning primer, it never hurts to point out (again) that scope creep is an enemy. You do not want to be in a situation where you have to compromise on your insight generation time because your execution took longer than expected, or needed rework because the method wasn’t working.
- If you are collecting primary data, remember that establishing apport with the participant is crucial. If they are comfortable and relaxed, chances are that the information you collect will be more authentic.
- Always ensure authenticity of the data. Ensure that verbatim transcripts and recordings are always available for fact checking, check your findings with accessible experts, do dipstick analysis (review snippets, key moments in qual interactions)
- Don’t be afraid of being proven wrong, remain as unbiased as possible (without abandoning common sense), and be receptive to new ideas.
As a decision maker, or someone supporting decision making (kind of covering the whole adult population of the world ????), we should never be afraid of finding out ourselves whether our hypotheses, our impressions, and our plans will work or not.
DIY research is surprisingly accessible, and you must make use of it whenever the cost-befit is in your favor. While some things are best left to experts, it helps to have a first-person view.
There are enough and more tools available today to make this simpler. Flowres.io, for instance, is a platform that is entirely self serve, and can be used by an individual or by an agency alike. End-to-end platforms often take care of the grunt-work, so you can focus on ‘finding insights’. ChatGPT is another tool that can be used (with due care, and within reason since there are disclaimers aplenty) to get quick insights. There are messaging tools that help you engage in a Q&A socially. So many more.
So go ahead, give it a shot.