Organizations globally use QuestionPro for various studies of complexity, nature, types, and durations. As a leading partner of choice for researchers worldwide, millions of responses are collected a year in the QuestionPro ecosystem. Now multiply that multifold by all of the research that is conducted globally. You are talking millions of data points across various studies that stretch across the gamut of insights collection and management.
We hear from a lot of our partners that there is something fundamentally broken about how research data is created and shared that:
- Research data is extremely siloed
- A lot of times, the same research is conducted over and over by various teams and stakeholders
- Reports go unnoticed and are ultimately lost
- There is no way to map past data to existing and future problems
Throughout this blog, we will dive into all of these problems and how creating an insights repository helps solve all of these problems and aid in democratizing insights in a structured workflow for knowledge management. This blog will also shed light on how smarter research data management with an insights desk or research data repository aids in the continuous discovery process, reduces time, and saves costs for research teams and organizations.
What is a research and insight repository?
An insights repository or a research repository is defined as a central source of truth that researchers and relevant stakeholders can go to uncover insights into the research that an organization has conducted, both past and present. This is a consolidated platform to organize, explore, search and discover all your research data in one organized repository.
Think of the insights repository (also known as an insights desk or an insights hub) as a centralized platform that quickly surfaces customer and research insights in an easy-to-understand model and aids in continuous discovery. More often than not, business stakeholders and researchers complain that they don’t know what research has been conducted or historical data and reports aren’t available to make sense of or even compare to. The insights repository solves that problem of allowing easy access of research data to allow for continuous discovery of insights no matter the scale or types of research, including qualitative survey research, 1-1 interviews/customer research, or even behavioral research existing data.
Think of the research repository as a Wikipedia for research teams, business stakeholders, decision-makers, and more where there is a way to search for past studies, build on insights, see the progression of a knowledge graph, and more importantly, reduce the time and cost to future insights.
An insights repository ensures the amalgamation of your existing tech stack of research, collaboration, and communication tools. It also allows for workflow management, vendor API access, real-time status and notifications, and an engine that churns out smart insights in a scalable manner.
The insights repository consists of three fundamental levels of data:
- Insights: At a holistic level, the insights desk consists of tagged, indexed, and unified insights. This is from past and existing studies of different research types, including qualitative and quantitative studies, user research, custom studies, advanced research modeling studies, and more. All of these insights are easily searchable with the use of business taxonomy and meta-tags. These insights also monitor cost spends, ROI of studies, and other factors that provide an insight into time and resource spends.
- Observations and nuggetted information: The secondary level of the insights hub aims to provide information at an even more granular level of studies a certain team or product conducts, insights from longitudinal tracking studies, product enhancements, marketing messaging, or a campaign that emanated from a given initiative. This level also stores presentations and outcomes so that tribal knowledge from siloed studies is available for all to see.
- Raw research data: The final component of this repository is the actual data, including customer calls, vendor research data, questionnaires, business taxonomy tagged studies, qualitative and quantitative data, IDI’s, customer behavioral data, and more. All of this is unfiltered data that can be looked upon and leveraged as and when required.
All in all, the insights repository is a co-creation tool that helps with breaking down the silos of research data and democratization of insights.
The business need for an insights & research repository
There is now a structure to understand why there is a business need for an insights repository but the actual causes that necessitated expediting such a solution. Broadly, research falls under two buckets – generative research that aims to unlock opportunities for brands and evaluative research that tests certain use cases and solutions.
There is a fundamental dereliction of knowledge management and scalable insights at the heart of both these insights use cases. Traditionally, there have been issues of digging into past data, bringing new members up to speed, leveraging past research, knowledge being lost in individual studies, tribal knowledge, and more. To make the process of insights scalable, businesses and organizations need to tide over these specific issues. The most prominent problems that necessitated the need for an insights or repository are:
Research and the data is extremely siloed
Organizations conduct research at various frequencies, scales, and complexities. Different groups within an organization may conduct research themselves or send it to specialized researchers who then run studies. Add to this the variable factors of research among other divisions, business units, and geographical locations with different types of studies. Think about customer studies, usability research, online focus groups, quantitative research, and then the mounds of survey data collected. All of these find their way into small groups but are never democratized. The research data is highly siloed, and there is no way for anyone to make sense of this data after a specific period. Even if this data is chanced upon, there is a lot of tribal knowledge in the data that it’s challenging to make sense of.
The same research is conducted multiple times
Another major factor that caused the need for the birth of an insights desk is the number of times the same research is conducted multiple times. More often than not, when new members join teams, they go off and run studies that have already been completed before and draw insights that have been collected before. This contributes to the loss of time and money and reduces the ROI of insights. More often than not, business stakeholders get wary of the insights that researchers send them. With time, since the research and data echo similar sentiments, it takes away credibility from researchers and the research reports.
Research reports go unnoticed
Research reports are produced at the end of each study, but unfortunately, there is little to no structure on how these are produced, stored, or distributed. Add to this the complexity of how researchers construe data, and the non-alignment of insights to business problems lead to these reports being buried. More often than not, these reports are also hard to find since they live in various places and, over time, become obsolete. Another issue with reports is that there is no data-driven structure to findings or recommendations, leading to a higher level of distrust among stakeholders.
Workflows are arbitrary
Large complex organizations have no insight into research conducted at a larger scale and the stakeholders involved purely due to the complexity of the data collected. Besides, various stakeholders look at business problems differently and may ask for various insights for similar studies. Project intake forms vary from person to person, and research methods are also varied. Thereby, each workflow becomes exceptionally arbitrary, and thereby, making sense of processes after a particular time becomes highly complex.
Knowledge discovery is non-existent
Each of the research projects has a reason. Research and research surveys are done for specific needs – brand, customer churn, etc., where these business taxonomies are typically captured in conversations, email and tribal knowledge. Traditionally, there was no way to set up business taxonomies and set up meta tags to research studies to pull insights from. Even new members do not have transparency into past studies and the findings and learnings of past studies in one centralized repository.
Existing market and tools are fragmented
One of the biggest challenges that warranted an insights repository is that the existing market and tools are highly fragmented. Add to the complexity of various solutions, softwares, current tech stacks, and communication and management tools. It is a mix of multiple levels of conversations and interactions across various levels. There are some tools to requisition studies, project management tools, software to manage studies, research reports, and more. Not just this, there are internal communication tools, and then communication with vendors, their APIs, etc., adds to the complexity of the flow and management of knowledge.
Proving the ROI of research
Due to the fragmented nature of these tools, research cycles become longer and complicated. Other factors lead to the complexity of research and can bias with the questionnaires used, vendors used, respondent sample reached out to, the tools involved, and more. Due to this, most critical research studies take a very long time from conception to actionable insights phase while still applying a layer of complexity and uncertainty. Thereby, when decisions are taken, it is challenging to tie the research process to the actual end factor and makes it tough to justify the ROI of research.
These factors contributed to the need to put together a system that makes the research and insights process simpler, efficient, and faster.
Benefits and advantages of using an insights & research repository
The insights repository consists of multiple moving parts that make researchers’ and organizations’ lives better and efficient. Some of its significant benefits and advantages include
Efficient and reusable workflows
Using a research repository helps put together new project intake processes, managing projects, status updates, templates, etc., which have all been traditionally cumbersome and inefficient for insights professionals. With the set-up of workflows of how the data flows right from a requisition phase to the insights being tagged and monitored in the user research repository, a clearly defined structure is a significant time and resources saver.
Quick access to insights
After completing research studies, there is a meaningful and searchable repository of data, key findings, and materials of all projects. It now becomes advantageous and straightforward for researchers, insights teams, and stakeholders to look up current or past data in one unified platform that provides rapid access to insights.
Enhanced knowledge access and graph
Building on past research that has already been conducted instead of starting from scratch enhances the knowledge access and graph. It is effortless to gain knowledge on past studies and build trendlines of past discoveries with current existing gaps. Since collective knowledge is pooled together, there is constant internal continued discovery on nuggets of wisdom, cost rollups to show ROI, and more, easily.
Added transparency and no loss of information
An added advantage of this knowledge hub is that there is added transparency in the research design and process right from someone requesting research to the teams that conduct them and publish reports. It is also easy to locate studies that were previously conducted, and the team members involved, so it’s then easy to pull information based on various criteria.
Quick turnaround studies
Access to information such as types of studies, questionnaires, tools used, survey respondents, and more aids in conducting quick turnaround studies where many administrative aspects are already known to the researchers and other relevant stakeholders. This allows in leveraging past intelligence and deploying faster studies that provide actionable insights faster.
Democratized data & unified warehousing
The data from across teams and business units flows into a central unified warehouse with mitigated tribal knowledge and uniform business taxonomy, making the research hub a one-stop-shop for everything insights. There is a greater hold on data management and accessibility, ensuring that you do not have to look in multiple places and reach out to various stakeholders to make sense of data. In this case, it also becomes simpler to manage multivariate research data.
By using the insights repository, there is instant and real-time access to data and analytics. Not just that, with the help of intelligent labels and artificial intelligence (AI), it is possible to surface information about projects that are relevant and interesting. This feature makes using the research repository even more lucrative for researchers and business stakeholders to leverage real-time analytics in amplified and reusable market research.
Characteristics of an insights & research repository
After having spoken to multiple researchers, business stakeholders, and brands, we have identified the five most important aspects of an insights repository. These key characteristics lead to widespread adoption and use and are also the cornerstones of successful research repositories.
An essential characteristic of the insights hub is that it needs to be very easy to access researchers and other business stakeholders alike. Team members should quickly get their hands on information easier to understand and consume without writing multiple queries and varied platforms. Putting all of this information together in one single platform is critical. Researchers should be able to pull up information from past studies and help that to build ongoing studies. Business stakeholders should also be able to pull up insights based on what is important to them, including demographic information, project costs, longitudinal studies, and more.
All the relevant stakeholders in a business should want to leverage the insights platform for their information gathering. The tool should be easily approachable to members at all levels so that the tool’s adoption is high. It should also be effortless to draw analysis and avoid complicated and clunky workflows. Stakeholders like to have access to data that is powerful but easily represented and lightweight and not have to look at complex reports and charts.
A successful insights repository shouldn’t be just beautiful charts and numbers without ever linking back to data. Being able to marry insights to data is crucial, and there should be a way to connect back to the information if there ever is a need. There has to be a reference to the original or raw data that builds confidence as it is evidence-based. The insights desk should link back to all of the data even from years ago if it needs to be validated or even check if inferences made at the time hold today. Easily traceable data also ensures that multivariate data still makes sense in the case of repeat studies or longitudinal tracking. Lastly, with traceable data, researchers should draw new conclusions and insights just as quickly.
For a research repository to have high adoption rates and make a difference, it needs to be accessible to all the relevant stakeholders. Even newcomers in the research teams should have access from day one to go in and make informed decisions and inferences about past studies without losing time. For tremendous success, the adoption of the tool should be immediate and constant. Your insights repository should be the single source of truth, and team members should not have to look at various folders, reports, documents, and spreadsheets to uncover insights.
As your research repository will house data from multiple sources and is a single source of truth for your organization, it’s likely to house information that can be confidential and sensitive. For your research repository to have widespread use across global organizations, the tool must meet guidelines of federal and other local government mandates of data warehousing and security like being GDPR compliant and more. There also have to be policies in place for the retention, encryption, anonymity, and deletion of data.
Components of an insights & research repository
Now that you know the characteristics of an insights repository and its importance in the ever-changing research environment let’s look at all the components of such a repository to set you and your teams up for success.
- Mission and vision of the team: An essential component of the insights repository is to let the larger team and organization know about what you are looking to accomplish and how you plan to go about it. Showcasing a vision to the larger organization and what the team can be approached for shows accountability and transparency.
- Research request workflows: The insights desk should consist of examples of workflows and request documents so that each request can be catered to appropriately and in the format you define. Reusable workflows also let team members know how to punch in research requests, expectations, timelines, and more.
- In-depth schedules: Being transparent about schedules allows the ability to let stakeholders know what’s due and when. Such schedules also help team members and others get involved or know when to look for research data upon completion.
- Research plans, methods, and tools: By publishing upfront research plans, techniques, and tools used, there is no ambiguity among research terms and the organization on the whole about what to expect and when to expect it, etc. This ensures that there is company-wide alignment and adoption of insights.
- Business taxonomy and meta-tags: Another significant component of your insights repository should be a clear definition of good business taxonomy and meta-tags so that everyone is on the same page while accessing insights. To a large extent, this negates the effect of tribal knowledge and localized information.
- Research reports: A vital component of the insights hub is the collection of research reports. While they are good to have in a similar format, structure, and output, centralized reports make the democratization of insights easier and kills siloed information.
- Research insights: Another critical component of the insights repository is collecting research insights about the projects, including small bites of information, cost metrics, use of the research study, etc.
- Raw data: By allowing raw data like notes, recordings, survey data to be included and tagged in the insights hub lends credibility to research teams and users. This information also comes in handy if ever needs to be accessed or analyzed in the future.
- Snapshot view and analytics: Allowing users to access a snapshot view and analytics allows greater adoption and use of the tool as it showcases the different studies that have been completed in the past. This feature also allows the ability to be compared from past studies and use them as a stepping stone for future studies.
Method to create and manage an insights or research repository with steps
If appropriately managed, the adoption of an insights repository at an organizational level is very high. This user research repository can also solve research problems at macro and micro levels and be an instrumental facilitator in uncovering and managing actionable insights. But to be able to do all of these things, there has to be extreme clarity from all stakeholders on current processes and the things they need to get to a unified research and insights platform that is scalable and provides value. It would help if you also thought through your existing technology stack used for research and collaboration, vendors and vendor APIs, existing knowledge management hubs, workflows, and other internal factors before deciding on the platform you got with.
Here is the method to create and manage an insights repository in six easy steps:
1. Appoint the team to manage the insights repository
The researchers and the broad-based research team in your organization should maintain and own the insights repository. Even within the group, appoint leaders and research champions that will drive adoption of the tool internally and across the organization. Such a team and its members need to have an overarching view of the research conducted across the organization and with various internal and external stakeholders.
This team should also be responsible for managing the taxonomy, setting up workflows, and helping derive knowledge from the insights hub. Tasking this team with increasing adoption across the organization helps make this platform the single source of truth and information across the organization. While multiple members can contribute and contribute to this platform’s adoption and success, there must be business leaders that can fully unlock its potential.
2. Organize your existing and past research
Once you have decided on the team and the tool, it is vital to define the business taxonomy, a grouping of tags, and more to organize existing and past research. This could either be by projects, products, locations, or any other criteria of your choice. The proper organization helps consolidate research and insights from varied sources and immediately build a robust and scalable knowledge graph. Not just that, business stakeholders and researchers across the organization then get insights into the volume, scale, methods, tools, and the ROI of research.
3. Add supporting insights
By adding notes, data, observation, and feedback, you can make the insights repository extraordinarily robust and powerful. Putting together relevant information and then tagging them in a manner that works best for your brand allows you to get the most concrete and precise insights needed by teams at large. It may feel like adding too much information, but if it is tagged correctly with all of the relevant insights and data, you create the most potent version of your research repository. With the addition of best practices, notes, and other supporting information, your research hub will continue to grow, and the time to derive actionable insights will be reduced.
4. Synthesize and analyze data
Using a tool that allows you to manage your research data – both qualitative and quantitative and their analysis in one platform, you are getting the best of both worlds – product management, research platform, and communication tools in a centralized location. This also allows the ability to bring all the relevant data in one centralized location to manage better and even access later if required.
5. Create critical insights, findings, and reports
It is imperative to create easily digestible reports and nuggets of information in your research hub. Cutting down complex studies into smart-tagged reports consisting of critical insights and findings would offer the best adoption for the repository. Not only this, these findings provide a snapshot view of each report and then give the ability to compare reports, draw conclusions, identify cost roll-ups and justify the ROI of research. By creating a snapshot view of each research study by name, requestor, business unit, research methodology, timelines, costs, and more offers the most concrete information about the platform and thereby increases adoption.
6. Tag and share insights
Lastly, tagging research studies with the proper business taxonomy and meta-tags help group, index, and create searchable insights reports. Grouping or adding multiple tags isn’t an issue as long as they can help draw immediate inferences. Tagging and sharing insights provide stakeholders an insight into the research process. This also aids with increasing the adoption and use of the research desk. The groupings may have overlapping insights, but that’s fine for all the relevant stakeholders as per job, research study, business group, and more get access to the insights.
Types of insights and research repositories with examples
There are multiple types of insights repositories, and we will look at the most commonly used types.
Internal insights and research repositories
Most organizations start their research repository journey by starting in-house purely because it is simpler and have tools. This means using their research platform, their qualitative research solution, various analytical tools, internal collaboration tools. These result in a haphazardly put-together platform on an internal wiki that consists of spreadsheets, reports, and documents. These are called internal insights repositories, and some notable examples are Google Business Suite, Airtable, etc.
These, however, are not scalable and aren’t always reliable. There are also pronounced limitations with these types of insights desks, including the lack of ability to search, store and tag research data, and do not use concepts for research and insights-friendly data.
Custom-built insights and research repositories
Many large organizations unsatisfied with off-the-shelf and limited viability tools generally tend to build their own insights repositories internally. There are various stories of purpose-built tools by Microsoft, WeWork, and more. The Microsoft Human Insights System (HIS) was developed internally and custom-built to a scale and use case of what’s needed internally. However, how many organizations can afford to spend the time and resources to build such solutions from scratch?
Specialized insight and research repository tools
This brings us to our last type of insight repository tool. Researchers have built these tools for researchers and take into account multiple aspects of democratization of insights while simultaneously killing siloed research and insights information.
QuestionPro Insights Hub
The QuestionPro Insights Hub is a purpose-built research and insights repository platform and solution preferred the world over by leading researchers and brands due to the robustness and tool. This platform ties into the qualitative and quantitative research tools. It also has an advanced analytical engine that brings together all of the research data under one single platform.
This research repository also allows you to tie into your sample providers, community platform, and collaboration tools, including Slack, Microsoft Teams, and more, to create a robust and powerful platform. Not just that, you can also bring together your customer research, employee research, advanced research models studies, and more under one consolidated platform, mitigating the need to use multiple tools. This platform’s research-oriented nature and ability to tie into any internal technical stack are the choice of instrument for various researchers and brands.
Aurelius Lab allows researchers and brands to use a lightweight but powerful platform to bring together research insights under one umbrella. You can easily import your data and add tags and make sense of the data on the fly. This platform needs you to import your research data but is still a powerful tool to manage insights.
Bloomfire is a searchable, easily accessible research library that provides a single source of truth to researchers and stakeholders alike. They offer valuable tools such as intelligent searching to reduce redundant research insights, search across secondary research and data, and also helps to streamline vendor publishing.
Dovetail is another purpose-built tool that aids in the process of insights management and discovery for researchers. The tool does not consist of a full-blown market research platform but still allows the ability to record and transcribe insights and quickly gain information and analytics.