January 9, 2017

How research leaders can be future proofing plans for 2017

By Paul Laughlin

future proofingAs we all settle back into the rhythm of work for 2017, many leaders may worry about future proofing their plans. With so much unforeseen change during 2016, how can leaders better ‘horizon scan’ and prepare for the future?

To complement our content on generic leadership topics, in this post I’m going to consider future proofing for research leaders. Here, I mean those leading market/customer/consumer research teams, sometime called ‘Customer Insight’.

What should those leaders be considering in their planning for 2017? Hopefully my scan of 2017 predictions, across the research blogs, should help highlight themes to consider.

Which innovations will really have an impact?

To kick off our review, I was pleased to see this sneak peek into 2017 GRIT report, published on GreenBook blog. For those unfamiliar with it, this quarterly survey is called GreenBook’s Research Industry Trends (GRIT). As mentioned in a previous post, it’s often worth a scan, just to help keep your research team informed.

In this sneak peek of the first 2017 edition, editor Leonard Murphy shares respondents scoring of a number of current research industry ‘buzz topics’. Which ones do researchers believe are: game-changers; interesting-trend; too-early-to-tell; much-ado-about-nothing; or too early to tell.

It’s interesting to see that the trends with most votes as ‘game changers’ for 2017 (from both client & agency side) were:

  • Automation – do you automate your research collection or analysis?
  • Big Data – how are you using wider data, text analytics or social media analytics?
  • Storytelling – have you invested in storytelling skills for your researchers?

Much more uncertainty or scepticism still surrounded ‘marketplaces’, ‘VR/AR’ and use of ‘AI’ in research. Worth reading this short piece & keeping an eye out for the full latest GRIT report available soon:

Buzz Topics: Hype or Gamechangers? (A GRIT Sneak Peek)

Editor’s Note: The latest GRIT report will be released next week (watch this space!), but we wanted to give our readers another sneak peek before it’s widely available. In case you missed it over the holidays, we previously posted the analysis by Ray Poynter on the adoption of emerging methods.

Keeping your future proofing fair & compliant

When considering new methods, technologies or wider use of data, its important for leaders to also consider compliance. We have shared before on the importance of GDPR, with compliance required by May 2018 and will share more on what that means this year. But, beyond data protection regulation, research leaders should also consider compliance to industry ethics & best practice.

I’m sure most UK researchers will be up-to-date with any new guidance from the MRS, but leaders should also remember the old maxim to ’think global, act local’. In that vein, I’m sharing this news from World Association for Market, Opinion & Social Research (ESOMAR).

This news item announces an important update to ESOMAR’s International Code on Market, Opinion and Social Research and Data Analytics. The inclusion of data analytics is telling, as it becomes an ever more important part of research work & thus responsibilities. It is not only CDOs and Analytics leaders who need to ensure public confidence in their use of data & methods, research leaders should be concerned too.

The guidance here looks sounds & updates are worth scanning:


Back New Global Code for market, opinion and social research future-proofed to extend to data analytics and strengthen public trust 08 December 2016 ICC Secretary General John Danilovich said: “ICC is delighted to present the latest revision of the Code. The changes underline our long-standing commitment to promote the highest standards of ethical behaviour.

How are you going to keep your plans Hygge?

I bet you weren’t expecting a spot of Danish in this post? Hygge is a Danish word, meaning cosy, simple living. It is referenced as just one of the ‘other trends’ in this futurology piece from Research Live blog. I think Joe from GfK is right, that after so much disruption in 2016, people are ready for ‘hunkering down’, taking stock & feeling more comfortable. That includes your business colleagues, as well as consumers being researched. How can your approach to sharing research be warmer & more humane in 2017?

The major research trends pulled out in this post include ’tech’ (including both automation & AI) and ‘branding/marketing’ (focusing on growing challenge to measure return better). That latter point is another theme that this blog will return to in more detail for 2017, as it’s already proven one of our most popular posts.

This is a helpfully short piece to help you consider a few trends:

2017’s Biggest Trends | Feature

As well as those trends, some foresee the growing significance of millennials, the power of brands having a meaningful connection with consumers, and the importance of going back to basics. “Automation and AI.” Ray Poynter, managing director, The Future Place.

Could a Delphi method help you with future proofing?

Akin to the idea of the ‘wisdom of crowds’ (sometimes recommended to help us overcome our own perceptual biases), seeking the view of multiple experts can also help (if you have the patience). Informally (and because we are all ‘time poor’), this need not have the full rigour of a Delphi Study, but can simply include the discipline of intentionally reading different experts. Including a mix of mainstream & contrarian experts can make this even more effective.

So, if you have some more time for reading, it may be worth scanning this longer piece (also published on GreenBook blog). For this post, Leonard Murphy asked 40 experts in the areas of ‘Insight & Analytics’ for their predictions. What would be the most important themes of 2017, for you as research leaders to consider?

Congratulate yourself on your diligence if you read to the end of this piece. Interesting to see automation (especially automated analytics & interpretation) as a regular theme, as well as more confidence than GRIT report as to potential impact of AI. But, I also echo the thoughts of a number of the experts that the research industry needs to take a long hard look at methods (after public failings in 2016).

Top 40 Predictions about Insights & Analytics for 2017

Editor’s Note: Well, it’s the close of another year and while that means many things to many people, for me it means one of my favorite annual events: our annual year ahead Prediction post! This year I reached out to 40 of the best and brightest in the Insights & Analytics space and asked them for their predictions for 2017.

How are you future proofing?

Hope that was interesting. So, what are you going to do now?

As one of the experts in the above ’top 40’ piece challenges, it can be too easy for researchers to talk about the future but still cling to their traditional methods. If you honestly consider the accuracy & impact your existing research has achieved  during 2016, is it time for something to change?

Where will you start? (I recommend choosing one thing to change this year & managing that change well)