More than a few times a month, I find myself working with members to define what the next generation of Research looks like for their organization. These conversations take all different forms, as you can imagine. For some, they want to look at next-generation skills. What skillsets should they emphasize as they work to transition their teams from data providers to insights professionals? For others, it’s often a conversation around evolving their vision or mission as a function – or even renaming or rebranding the Research department.
Like the function itself, we’re seeing many of our members evolve the name or brand that they use to describe their functions. In fact, while our brand, the Market Research Executive Board®, has stayed consistent during our 10+ years of existence, many of our members no longer call themselves “Market Research.” We did an informal poll late last year and estimate that about half of our members lead functions with the name “Market Research”. Our membership now includes Insights, Intelligence, Analytics, and Customer Knowledge functions, and I’d invite you to leave a comment below to let us know what other names exist for Research within our membership. While the names vary, the responsibilities and areas of focus tend to remain consistent, with a majority of our members working to position themselves as strategic partners.
So what’s in a name anyway?
Some of our members rename their functions to more accurately describe the value they provide to the business. Market Research, for example, can imply a focus on process and data instead of insights and decision making. With most of our members aiming to be more than “data providers,” a rebranding often makes sense.
As part of our work on Embedding Customer Knowledge into the Business, we identified three different eras or phases for Research. Fifteen to twenty years ago was the Era of Research as Methodology Expert. The primary value that Research provided was around research innovation and project execution – and because information was scarce and Research was still perfecting methodologies, all customer information was new information. Since then, the function has continued to evolve. Approximately 10 years ago, we saw the advent of the second era – the Era of the Insight Consultant. Sometimes I describe this as the “so what” era, where Research has transitioned from providing data and information to calling out the implications of that learning – and helping business partners plug that knowledge into business decisions.
We don’t see the Era of the Insight Consultant disappearing anytime soon. Having said that, becoming a trusted advisor requires most researchers to spend a lot of time with a limited number of decision makers. As functions work to increase their impact and improve the company’s overall customer acumen, we’re seeing many functions focus on capabilities that include synthesis, socialization, and storytelling. All of this is typically in an effort to share customer knowledge with a greater number of decision makers. It’s what we call the Knowledge Era, and it’s led a few of our members to brand themselves as Customer (or Consumer) Knowledge functions.
As you consider what the next-generation of Research looks like at your own company, here’s how we can help:
- Anatomy of a Business-Impact Focused Research Organization – prioritize those opportunities most likely to create value for your business partners
- Research Skills Diagnostic – evaluate your team’s current strengths and opportunities when it comes to developing Version 2.0 Researchers
- Planning for a Next Generation Research Function
- Embedding Knowledge into the Organization