Collaboration & Agility – Essentials for Future Success?

October 25, 2016

Many have said that mankind’s progress for the past 5 millennia has been driven by three basic motivations:-

  1. Greedy people wanting more
  2. Lazy people wanting to do less
  3. Frightened people wanting to be safe

Today, competition and self-interest, …. taking the easy options when things look too hard, ….and risk-aversion are part of the business world, MR is no exception.

We see three different values necessary for future prosperity; they will change the way we operate, the desired skill sets, and how agencies and clients work together.

essentials-for-success

Agencies, conditioned to compete for everything, will instead collaborate both to win clients’ business and then to service it.

We see idleness as the blind adoption of ‘the method we used last time’…… or ‘quick and dirty’ research used to justify a decision already made. This will be replaced by agility – smart thinking and technology combining with ‘fast and focused’ research to provide competitive edge.

Benefitting from collaboration and agility involves risk-taking – clients and agencies will be in new territory and so be more open not only to sharing but also to experimenting with new, untried methods often covering emerging areas of consumer behaviour. The payoff is potentially bigger gains from deeper insights and understanding.

In determining the desired skill sets we first consider the client imperatives then match the skills to fulfilling the demands of those imperatives.

When it comes down to it, the two main reasons to undertake research are for

  • Enhancement and
  • Innovation

imperatives-values

Amongst the many skills sets available, these four stand out

  1. Integration
  2. Agility
  3. Understanding new brand relationships in a digital world and,
  4. Staying true to the fundamentals

Enhancement is improving the existing brand portfolio by launching extensions, adjusting price, increasing performance –actions to keep the brand competitive by avoiding commoditisation.

It is time-sensitive and demands ‘good’ information speedily delivered. This has driven much of the innovation in mobile and online along with the emphasis on ‘fit for purpose’ research. But you cannot determine if something is fit for purpose unless you have a strong understanding of the fundamentals.

Enhancement demands ‘agile’ skills. Agile research is not just about technology where costs and time are saved then decision making is based on the most recent state of the ‘market’.

Agile research is about being flexible in design and not necessarily following standard methodologies to address common questions. It’s the agility of thinking and framing the issues that generates the potential for a new insight or perspective.

Innovation is a multifaceted challenge, continuously undertaken in a complex and fast moving environment. Recently, in ESOMAR’s Research World, the industry as a whole was criticised for not meeting the demands of innovation. MR was not exploiting new thinking and technology to generate innovative ideas. It was only using innovation for operational efficiency.

The adoption of new and innovative ideas is frequently a daunting task for any researcher, research team, and even research organisation. But by collaborating across the research spectrum, the integration and synthesis of disparate data sources, for example, becomes less of a challenge and more attractive.

So collaboration is a new soft skill but for agencies and for clients. Buyers need to re-engineer their research agency relationships by engendering cooperation where rival agencies can work together without compromising competitive advantages.

Furthermore, if clients demand agile research they need to embrace the increased risk inherent in innovative applications of research methods. Those clients will be rewarded with the best and brightest vying for their business – the top researchers always push to work with the most interesting clients!

David McCallum, 2016

Elements of this blog first appeared in “Partnership, Marriage, Hook-up, or One Night Stand? – Client & Agency Relationships in the Digital Age” by Tomoko Nishi & David McCallum at ESOMAR APAC, Tokyo, May 2016

 

 


The NGMR Top-5-Hot vs. Top-5-Not: Our Pick of The Top MR Trends

March 8, 2011
Talk Nerdy To Me #2

Yeah Right. What's The Really Hot Talk? Image by Constantine Belias via Flickr

Last year there seemed to be such a plethora of posts (including some of ours) about the top trends in the market research industry that we thought it was time for a break.

But when Tom Anderson of Next Gen Market Research came up with the idea of a whole lot of NGMR bloggers simultaneously blogging on the top 10 issues the MR industry has to consider in coming years it seemed too much fun to miss. Here’s our views then — to be fair we’ve dropped out a few of the more totally obvious “top 10” and maybe elevated some we think are important but often overlooked — but we’ll be interested in hearing what you think (and do look up the others posts via Tom’s blog or on Twitter at hashtags: #NGMR #5Hot5Not).

Let’s start with our 5 “Not Hot”.

  1. Reining in HR. After years of imposing restrictive salary structures and job description demarcations along with their depiction of creative staff as being ‘high maintenance’, senior management finally abandons the tedious tenants of HR orthodoxy and starts treating imaginative and innovative researchers in the same way the top advertising agencies treat their best art directors and copywriters. In some cases, they even get a place at the top table again!
    Read the rest of this entry »

Skin in the Game – in Praise of Employee Equity

February 7, 2011

A recent Research blog by my ex-boss, Nick Sparrow, founder of ICM, extolled the virtues of offering equity to agency staff. In fact, it was Nick who taught me in the early 80’s how to sell research based on its benefits not its features (which given my statistician’s focus at the time was a revelation!)

Nick expounded his vision of a business “run solely for all the people employed” where a company is best run, and gives the best service to clients, when the people feel a sense of ownership. It’s interesting to note that two of the UK’s ‘thought’ leading agencies (both of whom have won Agency of the Year) Brainjuicer and Truth appear both to have embarked on similar ownership structures.

Although, ICM was owned by 10 shareholders before its sale, Nick was interested to see research businesses go further and make all employees shareholders. Here the clients benefited as their interests were best served and reinforced by the servicing team who in turn profited from satisfied, returning, regular clients. Read On..>


In Praise of Procurement

December 9, 2010

I recently viewed a YouTube video where a senior director from a sizeable research agency expressed views on the growing presence of procurement professionals in the selection and purchase of market research services. As might be expected, there were the usual concerns and complaints about the difficulty of communicating quality of thought and creativity of design via the procurement process. This was followed up by the fear that, in the long term, research would become a commodity bought merely on price.

Whilst I can sympathise with the extra administrative process this seems to impose on the agency, I don’t agree that it will lead to a price-driven commodity market. Let’s face it, when we buy things for ourselves, services or products, we only want to pay for what we need and what has value for us. Ideally, we don’t want to pay for superfluous extras or for inefficiencies in the providers’ systems, whether they be features on the Blu-ray player we don’t (can’t) use or paying the banks for the privilege of benefiting from our own money. Read On..>


NEWS: Alastair Gordon MRA Webinar: Re-valuing Ourselves

October 26, 2010

NEWS: Tomorrow (Oct 27th US) I’ll be conducing a Webinar for the (US) MRA on the topic of:

Re-Valuing Ourselves: Why it’s Urgent to Tackle the “Soft Stuff” in the Research Process

Details are below if you are interested (It will be download-able later from the MRA website, for a small fee which goes to the MRA). Also a “normal” blog post (long overdue) will come out in the next couple of days!

Overview of Webinar:

It is often claimed by market researchers that users of research simply don’t appreciate the value of what we provide. Sometimes we feel under-appreciated and, possibly worse, underpaid!  This Webinar presents the view that we’ll never get users to value us, until we start re-valuing ourselves, and we can only do this by putting more effort into examining what exactly it is that we do that creates value for clients.

The Webinar examines why recent industry efforts to drive staff cost-savings, operational reforms, and push short-term sales may be reaching the limits of their effectiveness.  Instead, it is argued, we have to tackle some of the “soft and mushy” aspects of how we work personally and as organizations, and what we deliver to our (internal and external) clients. The interactions between various “soft skill” aspects of the research process (between taking a brief and delivering a presentation for instance) represent both our greatest costs and bottlenecks, and yet also our best hope for improving research ROI and enhancing our personal career satisfaction.

A framework for thinking about how to tackle and some of these “hard but important” challenges is discussed. The emphasis is on practical ideas for thinking about how these issues impact researchers and their organizations, hopefully providing some ideas for “next steps” towards improvements.

Date: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 (USA)

Time: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT

Contact: http://www.mra-net.org/education/description.cfm?edid=373


Minute Wise, Hour Foolish

September 22, 2010

In a recent article in Research World, Chris Forbes of Research Reporter highlighted that the traditional economic success for mid-to-large sized research agencies relied on a combination of research expertise and technological infrastructure. As data is collected and assembled faster (both formally and informally) the weight is shifting more and more to the expertise part of that equation. Thus, the agency side of MR is going to be more and more dependent on research experience and “thinking ability” to create unique value for their clients

In fact, more and more the main (and some would say only) resource the agency researcher has to sell is their time. So, when it comes down to it, the quality of how that time is applied and the creativity to which it is put are ‘de facto’ the value to the client. Future economic strength will rely almost solely on how well the time ‘resource’ is both defined and managed. Read On..>


Time To Tune The Engine? 5 Tweaks For Market Research Businesses.

June 5, 2010

There seems to me to be something about market researchers that means we are forever fretting about the “big-stuff” impacting our business: big trends in market research methodology, the value of out-sourcing or the desirability of expanding into new geographies. (I have to confess to having been doing a bit of this myself lately, and if you are interested in my view on major trends here’s a link to my article with Duncan Stuart in May’s Research Magazine) .

Time For A Few Tweaks?

All good things to think about of course, and successful research companies will be constantly evaluating the impact of such issues. However, this shouldn’t blind us to the fact that ours is a business involving a lot of detail, and if you take your eye off the everyday processes that impact your business you will inevitably sacrifice quality and margin.

The Gordon & McCallum experience is that most MR businesses make less money than they should and could often achieve considerably better results with a bit of focus on making “tweaks” to everyday business and research practices. In this post I’m going to suggest 5 “tweaks” to our everyday work that could improve the performance of most research firms.

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