What’s your New Year’s resolution? More staff? A larger budget? Restructuring to better support business partners?
Despite early reports that the struggling global economy would pick up steam in 2010, it was a pretty challenging year for business. Unemployment remained high, previously larger teams continued to do more with less, and consumer confidence remained “so-so.”
As our members close the books on 2010 and start thinking about 2011, we hear a lot of “What will 2011 look like?” And as Research Heads start to think about what the coming year holds for their teams, we receive lots of questions around budget, spend, team size, and team structure.
One of the best ways that we can support all those questions is through our annual benchmarking survey. Keep an eye on our site. Each year, we upload member responses into an interactive tool that allows members to slice and dice the data to compare their own responses to peers across several different dimensions. Business model, industry, team size, and revenue are all popular cuts. And once you’ve cut the data—you can download it into PowerPoint to enhance presentations and business cases!
So what did we learn coming out of 2010? Here are just a few insights from this year’s survey:Flat Was the New Up Research budgets declined from 2008-2010—at rates of a little over 4% each year. All things considered, the cuts weren’t that dramatic, and compared to other functions, the recession’s impact on Research was not as bad as it could have been. As we’ve spoken with members over the past few months, many of them report they their budgets will rebound in 2011—although not by a lot. So at the MREB, we like to say that in 2010, flat was the new up. In 2011, up will actually be up.
Greater Vendor Spend on the Horizon? When we looked at budget breakdowns for members across business sectors (B2B, B2C indirect, and B2C direct), the numbers were very comparable. The vast majority of our members spent more than half their budgets on vendors or agencies and approximately 15-20% of their budget on personnel. These percentages have held relatively steady in all the years we’ve done the survey, although they dropped a few points in 2009 and 2010. And that decline is clearly linked to tighter research budgets. With less budget, Research is commissioning fewer projects and trying to handle some of the work in-house to fully use team members’ capacity. As the purse strings loosen a bit next year, we may see that percentage inch back upward.
Not Just a Marketing Support Service This year’s survey showed that Research is really expanding its reach within the organization—serving people outside of Marketing at a much more meaningful level than we used to. In years past, we may have picked up occasional projects from other functions, but members are telling us—and we see in the data—that Research is becoming increasingly involved with other functional areas. While 98% of us support Marketing (not surprisingly), 80% of Research functions support Strategy and Planning, 80% support R&D or Innovation, 76% support Sales, and more than half of us support Corporate Communications! And we expect this cross-functional expansion to continue—leading to a busy 2011 J.
The Heat Is On The ratio of how many budget dollars each researcher represents is a pretty good proxy for how much work they are doing. In 2009 and 2010, that number has been higher than what we’ve seen historically ($868,500 and $778,800, respectively). We’re trying to do more with less, and given the recession and shrinking budgets, we are trying to prevent that from becoming less with less! The pressure is on for the research community to be more efficient. Typically in the past, research spend per FTE has been a slow and steady increase for most companies. But as the number goes up, the fear is that we may be doing a lot of work that’s not focused on the most strategic aspects of our jobs. As people get busy, Research managers need to make sure that teams are continuing to dedicate adequate time to high-value activities like insight generation and consultation of business partners.
To learn more, visit the data & diagnostics section of our site and see for yourself. This data asset is unique to the MREB and has helped our members bolster their business cases for years.
And Happy 2011!