inefficiency is the death of effective research

In our “always-on” society, researchers and insight professionals are under continuous pressure to produce impactful insight on increasingly tight deadlines. Due to this, inefficiency at any stage of the process can cause tremendous headaches and seriously hamper their ability to deliver.

In the case of fieldwork, there are a few repeat offenders consistently throwing a spanner in the works of the insight process.

 

How does inefficiency occur?

To meet the demands of the globalised world, companies in all industries have expanded across borders, determined to meet these new markets made accessible by the proliferation of technology.

However, in doing so many fell into the trap of assuming a one-size fits all approach, often merging with or acquiring existing competitors in those markets and changing them to fit the company mould.

Aside from the evident cultural implications, this approach has the downside of relying on a global infrastructure. Companies structured in this way can take an extremely long time to implement new technological or functional change, meaning they are often burdened with out-of-date tech and time-intensive processes required to grease the wheels of the big machine.

One project manager (PM) for example, may need to align 5-10 global teams for a single project, resulting in a lack of autonomy at the client contact level. Often this approach involves significant offshoring, causing even more of a delay in decision making.

 

What frustrations do these inefficiencies cause?

In an industry where time is of the essence, inefficiency proves costly for clients and suppliers alike.

Sample research either becomes time intensive or expensive to meet deadlines, as projects can require sign off from multiple global divisions. It has become the norm, for example, that a 10-minute questionnaire will take 3-4 days to set up. In practice this simply isn’t the case.

Furthermore, accountability is diluted as the project expands into different divisions, potentially even different companies. Whilst the point of contact retains accountability in theory, given the number of people involved, they have almost no control and often can’t provide a direct answer to a client’s questions.

This unavoidably causes frustrations for the client: their project is taking much longer than it should, and to find out why, they must contact multiple divisions, potentially in different time-zones for an answer.

 

How can efficiencies be met?

It might appear that fieldwork is doomed to a life of long turnarounds and impossible to reach contacts. Fortunately, this isn’t the case, in fact the solution is a simple one. The core issue is that tasks are spread over too many teams, and as we know, too many data professionals in the kitchen is a recipe for disaster.

Instead of splitting capabilities between teams, it’s more efficient to hand-select experts who can provide complete control, and therefore a single point of contact, over every element of the study. For example, instead of building a scripting division, it makes more sense to hire/train PMs to script surveys themselves.

Naturally, every PM won’t be able to perform the more niche tasks asked of them, but by building a division of complimentary skills, they are only one contact away from a solution, rather than: one contact added on to a list of dependencies who can early undermine that person’s work; which results in a lot of chaff cut from the process.

From this, clients have the peace of mind of knowing each person involved in the project and their responsibilities.

Similarly, devolving autonomy to a divisional level avoids PMs being weighed down by outdated technology. This, combined with an ethos to challenge the status quo and look for a better way, allows for efficiency and often automation to be built into the process at every level, ultimately resulting in faster, more consistent delivery.

 

What benefits does breaking inefficiencies give you?

Moving away from inefficient structures and processes affords a number of benefits. To begin with, it removes of the pressure of research delivery from your team. Not only will the project take less time, the researcher can make better use of their time when project is in field, both of which make internal deadlines easier to meet.

Secondly, researchers can dream bigger with their projects. The flexibility afforded by a more efficient approach encourages them to be more reactive, taking in quicker, more challenging research, that would otherwise be problematic due to inefficiency in the fieldwork process.

Finally, it boils down to faster access to data that paves your insight – the insight professional can concentrate on delivering insight, and therefore impact, across the business.