January 13, 2016

How will you resource your insight team this year?

By Paul Laughlin

How will you resourceContinuing our January theme of goals & planning, how will you resource people to do the work?

Amidst the merry-go-round of new business objectives, targets & budget allocation that can keep many a leader busy in January, there is the question of who? Who will do the work? Probably accompanied by how many people will there be in my team and do they have the skills & motivation they need? At first this can all feel rather daunting. But it will be helped by first being clear on your goals. If you know what matters most & why, you’re in a better place to make those ever tricky people decisions.

Staffing your team up to do this has more potential options than in years past. With more data, analytics & research agencies, consultancies, contractors & sometimes difficulties with recruitment – which route to take requires some thought. Talking with leaders, it sounded like different businesses favoured different resourcing models, but it was unclear which was most popular.

For that reason, towards the end of 2015, we ran a survey amongst our readers about Customer Insight team resourcing models. Thanks to all of you who took part. The time has come to share those results.

First we asked about how Customer Insight leaders currently resourced their four technical teams that make up Holistic Customer Insight:

Poll question 1

  • Customer Data: For this team, as you can see, most leaders (67%) replied that all the members of the team were employed by their company. The only alternative resourcing approach captured was a mixture of employed & contractors, but still all part of an ‘in house’ team. Perhaps its the greater ease of recruiting these skills, or the sensitivity with regards to sensitive customer data, but they don’t appear to be a focus for outsourcing at the moment.


Poll question 2

  • Customer Analytics: For this team, there was a similar picture, with an even bigger majority of leaders (80%) stating that all the members of the team were employed by their company. Once again the only other alternative captured was a mixture of employed & contractors as part of an in-house team. This results it perhaps more surprising, given the much touted difficulty recruiting analysts or data scientists required. Perhaps it reflects that, despite the hype, many businesses are still recruiting rounded analysts rather than the more limited pool of data science graduates. It certainly flies in the face of advertising by many of the outsourcing analytics providers.

Poll question 3

  • Customer Research: Here we began to see a slightly different picture. Only 50% of leaders replied with the most popular resourcing model so far; all the members of the team were employed by their company. The other half were split between outsourcing their research provision entirely and a mixture of both approaches. Sadly this does not surprise me. I’ve found many a CMO or CEO assume that research is an ideal candidate for outsourcing and just asking the agency to ‘do more’. Sometimes this is down to the internal team not demonstrating clearly enough the value-add they provide on to of simply being perceived as ‘research buyers’.

Poll question 4


  • Database Marketing: Last, but definitely not least, is this commercially focussed insight team. This revealed the most variation in resourcing models. More leaders (40%) still chose the most popular option, all the members of the team were employed by their company. But all the options we have seen so far were also used, contractors, outsourcing & mixture of all of them. Given the more visible dependency most businesses have on this team to hit income targets, I was slightly surprised by this.

Thanks again for your candour in sharing those resourcing choices so far. However, as always in business, change is here to stay. Past approaches are no guarantee of the business strategy, funding priorities or resourcing model preferences going forwards. So, we added a couple of questions to capture personal preferences. Past experience have taught me that the preferences of two key parties tend to influence the way customer insight teams are resourced. First is the CEO & any recruitment policies mandated in their businesses, second is the Customer Insight Leader who is leading the recruitment.

So, how did you vote for those two personal preferences in resourcing models & does that give us any clues as to how Customer Insight teams may be resourced in 2016?

Poll question 5

  • CEO preference: Hopefully it reflects that CEO’s value customer insight and via it as a potential competitive advantage, so the majority prefer all the members of the team to be employed by their company. There were also votes for use of contractors within ‘in house’ teams, a mixture of both & some having no general preference (it depends on the team). This appears to be a continued opportunity for Customer Insight leaders to build on in 2016; to demonstrate to their CEOs that they offer that competitive advantage and are a key internal skills within their business.

Poll question 6

  • Your preference: So, we finally come to the resourcing model that Customer Insight leaders themselves favour. Which has given them the best results and so they would prefer to have at their disposal to achieve 2016 targets? Well, based on your votes, it would seem the answer is definitely in-house teams. 60% favour all the members of the team employed by their company, with the other 40% voting for a mixture of employed & contractors making up this internal team. For what it’s worth, that was my own experience too. Growing your own talent internally worked best.

Thanks again for your participation in this survey, I hope you found the results useful. Do they accord with your experience?

One final thought, if you are seeking to build a strategic insight capability within your business, one that will empower your company for years to come, are you thinking long-term? Rather than be at the mercy of whether the jobs market has the candidates you require, or graduates have the skills & aptitude you’re seeking, why not shape the latter? I know a couple of businesses that have seen real value through building strategic partnerships with local universities.

If you are fortunate enough to have a local university with a good reputation for numerate graduates (from business school or maths/stats faculties), why not work with them? Are there opportunities for internships to try out potential future employees? Would it benefit the university for you to go in & speak to students, even teaching them some of the skills they will need within business? How much better would it be for you to know students are being trained in the skills you require?

Do let us know if you have built a sustainable pipeline of talent to resource your insight team for years to come. What’s working for you?