A few weeks ago, we spent a couple of days with a client collaborating on innovation workshops for their teams. As the days went by, workshop participants tested different ideas in real time; we helped them to propose new products that would be launched in the following year, and refine and test creative paths for a new advertising campaign. All this iteratively and in real-time. By the time the workshops were finished, they could go into the next planning phases straight away with the confidence that their action points had been validated by their consumers, a process that usually takes several weeks (if not months) was dramatically shortened to just days.
Why agile anyway?
This type of agile approach is borrowed from the software development industry, and is now extending into many other disciplines. Its multiple iterations of concept and validation help us focus on the customers’ needs and desires every step we take. It’s adapted to new market conditions, which demand flexibility and efficiency to catch and keep consumer’s interest. The digital economy has redefined the shape of many of our “traditional” clients and companies’ ever-increasing need for a well-developed online presence to engage with people on a public platform is an essential marker for their success, among others. As Goldhaber predicted, the web has changed the nature of our economy to an attention-based one, and in light of consumer’s “information glut” the development of high-quality products (and their respective marketing strategies) has reached new heights of competition. Understanding the people you want to communicate with, in all their complexity, has never been more important than now.
Working with clients and considering all this made me wonder, are clients making the most of these new technologies? Could we be ignoring some setbacks and downfalls of the new-found potential of agile research? For some time now, clients have been pushing Market Research suppliers for faster and faster turnaround times. It’s a never-ending race against the clock, but why? Are we missing the plot somewhere?
In this context, the concept of FAST research, express or overnight methodologies, started being thrown around as an attempt to deliver results at the pace the new era requires. At Snappy, we’ve observed how research teams struggle to keep up with the pace required by the market, and seen the compromises needed when rushing through old processes to obtain faster results: forgetting about representativity in samples, not questioning the ‘truthfulness’ of their respondents, not taking the time to develop well-crafted and insightful surveys, or observing causation where we can only establish correlation… We’re rushing through the steps to deliver results faster, but not better. Overall, we don’t have the appropriate tools to keep up with the market.
My feeling is that not too many companies have stopped and taken a hard look at themselves, to ensure they are agile, but not fast or accelerated. Can they bring the customer’s voice to new areas of the business? Can they interact with them at different stages of brainstorming, creating, planning and executing? Can they co-create to ensure quality and relevancy? We’ve already written out a series of ways and potential uses of agile research, should you need to see specific cases.
What to do when fast is not agile
So how do you ensure agility, without forcing accelerated timelines that bowl over essentials? Agile Market Research gives you results, fast, but most of all it encompasses a series of tools that can be used to accelerate the processes at hand. In responding to this conundrum, Zinklar is aiming to target two aspects of current market demands: obtaining in-depth, high-quality research at more modest expenses so that you can recurrently use research throughout your work. The Zinklar platform lets you design research independently, allowing you to use it on a case by case basis that will respond to the specific problems you’re facing. Should you not have any research experience, our research team is on hand to offer support, help you plan and execute the research you need.
There are multiple technologies to help execute this agile workflow (and Zinklar is one of the best), but different clients have expressed that this change doesn’t seem to be happening. It is not too clear for them how to integrate these technologies to current structures or decision flows within their teams, what is clear is that they need results fast.
Ultimately, the teams and companies that can successfully integrate these new technologies and adjust their decision making processes to be AGILE rather than FAST, will be the ones leading innovation and redefining success.