I was asked recently whether Research Ops should be involved in UX Research strategy. My initial response was that we don’t involve Res Ops in UX Research strategy. But on consideration it is more nuanced than that. I have therefore set out the reasons why we don’t and also how we do.
The focus of Research Ops in UX24/7
We consider Research Ops a strategic capability. It has always been the case that in agencies like ours the pace of work is frenetic. At any one time we are organising and aligning any of the following:
- and more…
Coordinating these moving parts across multiple projects and timezones relies on operational excellence. And our belief is that to allow our Senior UX Researchers to be successful we need to remove all the logistical headaches. The primary focus of our Research Ops Manager is to establish a best-in-class capability.
Building best-in-class Res Ops capability involves establishing: a vision of what good looks like; strategic planning toward that vision; and execution of the plan. That is a full time job.
How Research Ops gets involved in UX Research strategy
To answer the opening question we need to define research strategy. And definitions broadly fall into two categories:
- UX research strategy incorporates multiple research methods at different stages in product UX design and development stages (ref.: Designial.com)
- A UX research strategy establishes checkpoints, reinforces the importance of research, and creates a culture of constant learning (ref.: User Interviews blog)
The first definition focuses on planning and execution of the UX Research. The plan involves the following:
- establishing research goals
- selection of the methods to be used
- alignment of methods to product development stages
- planning of research activities
- delivering insight
From this definition of UX Research strategy it is clear that Research Ops must be involved. And they have key contributions to make in alignment, budgeting, planning and execution. But they may be involved in other areas, if for example they have a background in research.
The second definition focuses on the organisation’s UX research strategy. This is a layer up in a strategic sense. It’s about establishing the environment in which UX Research takes place. It’s about culture and value and describes and earlier stage of UX maturity than the first definition.
At this level, Research Ops has less of a role to play. At the earlier stages of maturity, an organisation won’t have a Research Ops function, or person. Establishing the function will be on the road map as part of the strategy as the organisation builds the capability. Once in place, Research Ops has a strategic role to play in building best-in-class capability, as we are doing at UX24/7.