ResearchOps 101

There’s a common misconception that research ops is equivalent to recruiting participants for U.S. research. In reality, participant recruiting is only one component within a research ops practice. A specialized practice of design ops research ops is the orchestration and optimization of people, processes and craft in order to amplify the value and impact of research at scale.

The first building block of research ops practice, but not the only one, is participant management. This includes processes for finding, recruiting, screening, scheduling and compensating research study participants. It’s often low hanging fruit because it’s often the most apparent and immediate need of overloaded research teams. Now, if we have research participants, we have governance needs. We need consent templates, documented guidelines for obtaining and storing personal information and overall governance for participant communication and privacy. As data begins to accumulate from our studies, we need processes for managing all of the research insights that we’re gathering as well. This piece of research ops is focused on collecting and synthesizing data and ensuring that data is findable and accessible to others on the UX team and beyond. The fourth area is tools. What software do we use to manage our participant information? What programs do we use to house all of our research finding? And what tools do we use to actually conduct research, remote usability testing platforms, analytics or survey platforms, or video editing and audio transcription tools to name a few? While autonomy in choice can be valuable, auditing the research tool set to create some level of consistency across the team creates efficiencies and sharing and collaboration.

Now, as research scales, it’s increasingly critical to scale research capabilities and skills. Here, we’re concerned with enabling more people to understand and do research tactics might be creating a playbook or a database of research methods to on board new members or educate others to perform research, formalizing training or putting mentorship programs into place. The final component to consider is advocacy. How do we define and share the value of user research to the rest of the organization? Does the team socialize success stories and demonstrate the impact of user research? To come full circle in this proper advocacy helps ensure resources for all of these other building blocks. This is an ecosystem where every component both affects and is affected by the other factors. The first step in figuring out where to start is understanding where the biggest pain points for your organization are, or researchers overwhelmed with logistics, recruiting and scheduling participants. Maybe participants is the starting point for you, or is research data scattered and accessible to new team members? Well, maybe. Perhaps insights is where you should focus. Just remember, when it comes to scaling research, we’re working with multiple building blocks, evolve and expand your focus within research ops as needs shift to maintain a balanced practice.

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