In conversations with members I hear a wide variety of challenges Research & Insights teams are facing. Inevitably these will repeat across groups, but some challenges seem to recur more frequently than others. A handful of the most commonly stated challenges I hear from members are:
- “We’ve just started working with [insert business unit/category/geography], and they don’t know how to use us”
- “Some parts of the business/business partners don’t even know we exist”
- “While my team is always busy, it’s with a lot of small tactical projects”
- “I just found out that we have some ‘rogue researchers’ in x group who are working directly with vendors”
These come from groups both large and small, B2B as well as B2C, and all across industries. And what do they have in common? They’re all variations on a theme of needing the business to see research as a strategic partner.
Of course we all strive to be more of a strategic partner – when one has that higher relationship with business partners, they get a “seat at the table”, can be a part of the most important projects for a company, and their value as a function is widely known. Who wouldn’t want that?
But this isn’t just a “nice to have” – there’s a real danger here. If we don’t get our teams to push to this higher level partnership, and get business partners to see it, what reason is there for our colleagues to come to us, rather than a vendor directly with questions? What’s the benefit for those business partners? We may know the benefits, but if we can’t get colleagues to see it, our value as a function may be in jeopardy.
So as we strive to push past the “order-taker” and “methodology expert” roles, how do we get to a strategic partnership?
Some of the strategies that members have been pursuing include:
- Engaging Business Partners in the Insight Generation Process (MREB members, see how Eli Lilly trains business partners to generate insights)
- Ensuring that the Research Team has the skills to interact with business partners (we blogged earlier this year about business problem solving, influence, and communication)
- Focusing research on projects that matter to senior executives (MREB members, see how Alticor identifies business drivers)
- Synthesizing and socializing insight to raise the company’s customer acumen (it’s all about embedding customer knowledge in a way that fits executive decision-making processes)
- Integrating non-traditional sources, including those owned outside of Research, to tell a complete customer story (we’re excited to present more on this topic in our Annual Executive Retreat this fall).
What’s worked for you? Is your Research/Insights function an accepted strategic partner to the business? If so, how did you get there? Or, if you’re still working on it, what do you see to be the biggest hurdle to overcome?
Join us for our webinar “Positioning Research as a Strategic Partner” on August 9th at 11am EDT where we’ll look at 2-3 of those above strategies more in depth. Have a preferred one of those five you’d like to hear about? Respond to our poll to help shape the focus of the webinar.