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

 

 


Facial Imaging: The “Big-Data” Solution for Emotion Research?

September 2, 2013

We are entering an era where, thanks to technology like facial imaging, “soft-data” on emotions – traditionally the province of qualitative studies or smaller scale specialised surveys –  will become “big-data” that provides very hard results.

Facial Imaging Embeded & Automatic: nViso API in Cinemax site - 1 million views and counting

Facial Imaging Embedded & Automatic: nViso API in Cinemax site – 1 million visitors and counting

At first glance facial imaging (or “facial coding”) seems like just another variant of Neuroscience testing, but in fact it has some very different features. In earlier posts we’ve written extensively on the results obtained from this technology (e.g. see “Soft-Drinks, Soft-Sell“), but in this post I want to get across the point that the really big news is not so much how well facial imaging measures emotion, but how many people and how much emotion can be measured.  This makes it fundamentally different from hardware dependent methodologies like EEG or conventional survey based methods. Two thought experiments for market researchers might illustrate: Read the rest of this entry »


When Worlds Collide – Surviving M&A and Thriving

April 5, 2011

Arising and even resulting from the GFC, has been the rapid growth of dynamic small and medium sized research agencies. Most have innovative approaches and distinctive cultures, offering exciting workplaces to their staff who repay with high commitment. Yet this very success makes them prime M&A targets and many will, in the next few years, be bought out. Is this bad for their workforce, and how should these loyal employees react when acquisitions happen? A recent article from Asia-Pacific focused of the plight of researchers whose companies were sold on by management. In essence, the hapless researchers were portrayed as helpless victims whose utopian world was dissolved by forces of evil, represented by the faceless conglomerate. 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..>


The Myth of Market Research’s Failure.

November 23, 2010
Head in Hands

Time To Get Over It - It's NOT that Bad! (Image by Alex E. Proimos via Flickr)

I am getting increasingly angry about the number of posts, books, You Tube Videos and articles – often by market researchers themselves – that imply “conventional Market Research” is a failure.

Here’s a good example, ‘futurist’ Patrick Dixon talking about why market research is “often wrong”: http://tinyurl.com/25kp34z .

These sorts of pronouncements tend to have several things in common:

  • Flashy style and grand pronouncements rather than reasoned argument,
  • Reliance on anecdote or case study (in Dixon’s case it’s his mother),
  • Lack of examples on the other side of the argument (when MR got it right),
  • A (false) assumption that the raison d’etre of MR is predicting “big” changes,
  • Failure to acknowledge that methods other than MR are not all that flash at predicting big changes or seismic shifts in behaviour either,
  • An assertion that “traditional MR” misses out on some extraordinarily key factor in understanding consumers, be it an inability to capture emotion, or failure to understand the role of Social Media or whatever uber-trend the author is fascinated by.

Let me counter this hyperbolic dismissal of the value of our traditional approaches with an equally strong counter claim. I strongly believe that good experienced, senior researchers can – in most markets – answer 70% of the key marketing questions of 70% of major research clients by means of a research programme consisting of not more than a few focus groups, a reasonable sized survey and access to some sales, retail or media trend data. There is an “if” of course – and this is sometimes a big if – they need to allocate enough time and thought to carefully design the study and analyse the results. This does not mean I am not a believer in many of the new MR methods, particularly some of the new neuroscience, customer panel and online qualitative approaches — let us ‘seniors’ incorporate some of those into the research programme and my success estimate goes up to 80 or 90%!   The core point I want to make though is that any systemic “failure” of market research is a failure to apply brainpower and thinking time – not primarily a failure of techniques. Read the rest of this entry »


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..>