Increased agility, BUT NOT less thinking ability

In this latest blog, Colin Auton explains how an obsession with agility and immediacy could risk devaluing the insights profession.

I attended the Market Insight Forum a few weeks ago, where I got to meet 1-2-1 with a number of clients to discuss their research needs and share our experience, capabilities and USPs.

It was no surprise to hear a few clients highlighting the need to be able to capture insights more quickly. The trend for agile research is well established in the sector, with clients increasingly keen to be able to engage at short notice with relevant target audiences and get quick answers to any new or emerging themes for their internal stakeholders.

Interestingly, we’ve also been approached by two senior level researchers in the last month enquiring about opportunities to work with us. In both instances, these individuals had only been in post for a month. They had found themselves working on agile research programmes where all data and charts were generated automatically and then shared with the client with no further analysis or interpretation. The focus was more on productivity and margins than delivering quality outputs. Consequently, both felt effectively redundant in their role and unable to add value for their clients.

Knowing both of the agencies that these individuals were working for, I would guess that their clients are still paying consultancy fees for what has become an automated service without any strategic input. Should they really be expected to do so if the quality of output is reduced, even if results are being delivered more quickly?

Over the last 15-20 years, the industry has placed great emphasis on ‘less data, more insight’, which many agile research models seem to disregard. From our own perspective, we recognise the challenge of exploring new ways of capturing and delivering quality insights as quickly and efficiently as possible, but not at the expense of cutting corners. Yes, automation has its place, but for us it’s more about giving our team access to the results in the quickest and best way so that they can pull out the key insights themselves, interpret what the data and comments are telling us, and share the findings with clients in a clear and concise way – not just hitting send on a set of self-generated charts and tables for the client to work things out for themselves. One of the key skill requirements for researchers of the future is to be a storyteller, but this won’t be the case if we’re just a cog in the machine sending automated reports.

Also, if we’re not adding value for our clients then we’re only going to devalue our profession and reaffirm our status as the poor relation in the marketing mix.