In traditional market research, the standard workflow entails several processes that need to be completed before a stipulated time. Before moving on to the next step, the output from all the previous steps needs to be generated. But we live in a time-sensitive market where the dynamics can shift any day. This approach, the “Waterfall method” is extensively time-consuming, slow and opaque.
Companies have started to adopt the “Agile method” to tackle these problems. Creativity and innovation require flexibility, structured thinking and frequent iterations. The Agile method delivers just that, giving researchers a more tactical approach.
Let’s learn from Cisco- Their Subscription Billing Method (SBP) project used the traditional Waterfall method. But this caused a delay in the development process, resulting in lengthy release cycles, late deliveries, poor quality, and a lot of overtime. This made them adopt the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). Using this approach, they managed the new release of SBP ahead of schedule. Compared to the Waterfall releases, defects were reduced to 40% and defect removal efficiency by 14%!
If Archimedes would have been alive to witness this, I am pretty sure he would have yelled Eureka for Agile. So, let’s learn more about this transformative technology-
What is Agile Research?
You would be surprised to know that Agile was built for developers, not researchers. But given how it works like a charm for market research, researchers couldn’t stay away from using it.
Agile Research works on a very simple idea- Repetition. It uses an iterative strategy with experimentation and engagement at its centre to strategically obtain customer insights. It permits testing various concepts or campaigns before they are implemented, including stakeholder opinion or criticism, and modifying business operations in real time.
Agile technique uses sprints, where each sprint moves you one step closer to the final result, rather than completing the entire project at once. The stakeholders (clients, team members, etc.) validate the intermediate outputs during these sprints, and the iterative process keeps going until the project is finished. Catching problems early significantly shortens the time it takes to complete a project and enhances its quality because changing intermediate results is much easier than changing the entire project.
Agile Research uses a simple workflow, but it can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start. Let’s look at the steps involved and understand them in brief using a Product Launch example.
Choosing the right projects
When you are getting started with agile research, you should start with a project that can easily be templatised and has scope for repeated revision. Studies like Media testing, Concept testing, Product testing, Shopper experience analysis, etc can easily be done using the agile methodology.
How to Apply: Defining product lines require experimentation with multiple concepts and prototypes. Instead of studying all this at once, the path to a product launch can be templatized. Each time there is a new concept, you can test it iteratively and use the insights for driving more innovative and relatable concepts.
Defining goals and objectives
The next step would be to carefully state the goals of a project and specify the parameters of each stage, or “sprint.” Agile is an iterative process, so setting clear goals for each sprint and identifying the insights one wants to gather at each step would be very helpful in reflecting back and using the lessons learned in the next stage while keeping the team and stakeholders informed.
How to Apply: Before launching your product, you need to decide your target audience, the market you want to target, the outcomes you want to achieve, the type of research you want to conduct- quantitative or qualitative, etc. Doing this gives structure to your entire process and help you segment areas which can best use the agile framework.
Adopting D-I-Y Platforms
According to a Greenbook survey, the COVID-19 outbreak has expedited the use of research technology, with 47% of organisations looking forward to boosting their usage of DIY research tools. AI-powered SaaS-based online research platforms give you the power to drive research your way, completely in-house. These platforms use technologies like facial coding and eye tracking with automated reports so that you can keep experimenting with your ideas but at a faster pace.
How to Apply: Testing the product pre-launch can help you get an understanding of how people will receive your product. It will also help you decide if the targetted market is the right fit. D-I-Y online platforms also help you conduct comparative analysis so that you can test your product against your competitors.
Online research platforms let you store all your research data securely. This helps in cross-collaboration while reiterating the research process and while handing over insights to other teams. This also helps you go back and evaluate all your research to better understand what you can do better and learn from your mistakes.
How to Apply: Before and after a product launch, there are tons of data gathered during the research process. Having everything in one place without wasting scrummaging through years-old data makes reiterating workflows seamless and quick.
Setting an Internal Process
The next stage is to standardise and record the research processes to maximise self-sufficiency within the team.
Assessing timelines, milestones, methodologies, research checklists, obstacles etc. and assimilating them into a standard process makes internal and external communications easy and reduces opacity.
How to Apply- A product launch is not a one-team game. Having a standard process makes the workflow much more convenient. It becomes easy to implement an agile framework when everyone on board knows how to navigate through the entire process.
Agile Research is here to stay
Agile market research leverages the collective knowledge of a team to accelerate decision-making. By identifying hurdles at the correct moment and minimising time, money, and resource wastage, researchers can minimise risk and maximise ROI.