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Scaling ResearchTeam CollaborationAnalysis & Methods

Three unexpected ways a research repository makes your life easier

5 minute read
Research repositories are the way of the future.

It’s an incredible time to be involved with customer research. As we previously covered in parts one and two of Predictions for user research in 2021, the demand for research continues to increase, and the democratization of customer research feels inevitable.

As researchers, we love stakeholders’ invigorated interest in our work. At the same time, our field is facing growing pains. Just think about all the tedious and repetitive tasks that have followed you throughout your career—from small occurrences like a colleague asking for a link to your research findings for the fifth time through to repeating the same research findings presentation to different groups of stakeholders. Or what about the monumental task of onboarding a new researcher to your team and getting them acquainted with all the past research the team has previously conducted? Or knowledge transfer, and the inevitable loss of institutional knowledge that happens every time a colleague departs?

The field of ResearchOps aims to address the ever-growing needs of research teams and has thrived in recent years as organizations continue encountering new challenges. ResearchOps aims to operationalize processes so researchers can focus on what’s most important: practicing their craft. Tools have become central to accomplishing this mission. Specifically, research repositories have created a considerable positive impact in organizing, automating, and supercharging customer research workflows. They’ve eliminated many drab, repetitive tasks, so researchers have more time and energy to conduct research. Let’s delve deeper into the details through three common use cases.

#1: Onboarding new colleagues

Increased demand for customer research has resulted in more budget and larger headcount for teams around the world. This is truly wonderful and worth celebrating. At the same time, the classic 1975 software engineering essay “The Mythical Man-Month” holds true decades later in the user experience discipline: adding more team members to a project can actually increase the time required for that project’s completion. Why? Projects are complex. They often require a high level of subject matter expertise and relevant experiences in the field. Ramping up new members takes considerable time.

Thus, new members joining a research team often reference the old adage of “drinking from a firehose” to express the overwhelming feeling of needing to learn a high volume of information in a condensed period of time. This typically takes the form of hunting through a maze of shared folders for past research artifacts, taking notes on what they feel is important to remember, and frequently bugging teammates when questions arise. After several months on the job, this feeling alleviates...only to arise again as new team members are hired.

Enter research repositories: a single, central place where all research and customer information lives. All notes, recordings, files, and photos in one place that’s both searchable and easily accessible. New team members can effortlessly tap into a single source of truth for the company’s entire customer knowledge base and painlessly get up to speed. Especially thoughtful research teams can even curate a “start here” project within a repository that contains all the essential information a new colleague should internalize.

#2: Sharing research with stakeholders and heightening the impact of research

In many organizations, the practice of user research is siloed. Whether intentional or not, the research team serves as gatekeepers—acting as the only individuals with the keys to invaluable customer insights. Though many espouse the importance of evangelizing user research, often the only outlet for sharing work is periodically scheduled meetings or ad hoc requests from interested stakeholders.

Research repositories make findings more accessible, retrievable, and approachable. Rather than waiting for a calendar invite for a share-out meeting or bugging a user researcher via email, repositories unleash the ability for colleagues and management to self-service insights. Offering an easy way for stakeholders to consume research can contribute to a culture where stakeholders are empowered to seek it out, increasing the chance they will see the right insights at the right time. Colleagues can revisit and explore research at their own pace and style. The breaking down of silos and increased transparency also contributes greater trust among research teams and their partners.

Rather than static slide decks and reports, repositories also enable the storage of compelling multimedia research artifacts such as pictures, videos, and audio. These are almost always more memorable and engaging than pure text and help make your research insights stick.

For those concerned about external stakeholders unintentionally drawing biased insights, Dovetail’s research repository allows researchers to configure permissions for projects and limit which users have visibility of research data, so you never have to worry about colleagues seeing data that isn’t ready to be shared. It also has a feature to send email notifications about your team’s latest findings to make keeping stakeholders in the loop even easier.

#3: Leveling up your organization’s overall research practice

Lastly, research repositories offer countless ways to enhance your current research practice.

  • Standardize and speed up your research process with the templates for commonly used research methods like interviews and usability tests

  • Share project information across teams and departments through organization-wide tags.

  • Save time (and sanity) using data filtering to help with segmenting, refining, and structuring data during the research analysis phase

  • Highlight specific evidence from research sessions to use as supporting evidence, then share your insights with teammates using Presentation Mode

  • Import and transcribe recordings in a matter of clicks, then search the transcripts of these videos for the exact moment you’d like to cite

  • Integrate to create custom workflows with thousands of apps

  • Build cumulative knowledge about your customers over time which could result in new feature ideas or new product offerings

Research repositories are becoming essential for organizations that are serious about customer research. They enhance the efficiency and quality of research, empower stakeholders to engage with research insights, tighten the feedback loop between product/service and customer, and help to heighten the impact of research across the organization. Visit Dovetail’s website for more information about research repositories and sign up for your free 7-day trial today. We’d love to hear your questions about and experiences with research repositories. Join the Dovetail Slack channel to continue the conversation!

About the contributors
Picture of contributor to Method in Madness, James Vinh.
James Vinh
President, San Diego Experience Design Professionals
Expert user researcher and San Diego fan.
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