Operations teams are the unsung heroes of market research organizations. They wear many hats and bring together all the moving pieces of research projects. Doing this adeptly is both an “art” and a “science” and demands a wide range of skills and knowledge. In this blog, we delve into both sides of Operations, drawing examples from Op4G.
This blog post is guest written by Op4G Operations team members, Laura Atchinson and Rachel Raisanen.
The “Art” of Operations
Bringing a research project from start to finish typically involves a variety of teams/employees. However, the Operations department plays a critical role by providing oversight throughout the entire process. The team works to set project goals and supplies the resources needed to achieve them. It guides the project through various stages, continually monitoring quality and suggesting improvements. Finally, it serves as a critical “connecting” function between various other departments. At Op4G, for example, the Operations team facilitates collaboration between sales, the sample team, and survey programmers.
The kick-off call with clients isn’t the end of communications – it is just the beginning. To build an effective working relationship, Operations team members must connect with clients on an ongoing basis. Early in the project, it's crucial to discuss client needs, expectations (e.g., project specifications and design), and the work plan. Once the project is underway, team members should provide clients with regular progress updates and advice. Finally, at the end of the project, be sure to follow up with clients to seek feedback and thank them for their business.
Another "art" of Operations is the ability to foster a positive work culture, both internally as well as with clients and panelists. Sometimes it’s as simple as giving team members sufficient time and support to complete their part of a project. Externally, it's important to build and sustain healthy relationships with clients and panelists. One crucial aspect of this is working to provide high-quality, timely insights to clients, while at the same time minimizing the burden on panelists. These efforts result in a happier, more productive workforce, and clients and panelists that keep coming back.
Sometimes, reaching goals requires thinking outside of the box. In those cases, our team is quick to set aside traditional methods and experiment with new processes, tools, and solutions. The team also regularly organizes brainstorming sessions with colleagues and key stakeholders to elicit more creative ideas.
The “Science” of Operations
Executing a market research project demands careful planning. In consultation with colleagues, our Operations team outlines the specific steps and corresponding timelines to successfully complete a project by the target end date. We also detail the resources needed, such as staff time and expertise, the sample size, and specific tools. Lastly, we validate the plan with the client, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
It isn’t enough to know what tools are available for a project. At Op4G, our team is constantly striving to improve our knowledge of the latest tools and technologies: how they work, their strengths and weaknesses, compatibilities, costs, etc. Only then can we ascertain the best tool (for a given project, client, or for internal use) and accurately respond to client questions.
Even the best Operations teams have room to grow and learn. After projects are completed, our team reflects on what worked — or didn’t — and why. We openly share experiences and “lessons learned.” Lastly, managers will recommend training or conferences to help colleagues fill skills or knowledge gaps wherever needed (check out this list of our favorites to attend).
As you can see, the daily work of an Operations team is multifaceted. Team members must frequently exercise both the artistic and scientific sides of their brains. This can be taxing (particularly for those lacking the skills outlined above). But as our Operations colleagues note, it also “brings excitement to the day-to-day management of projects.” For more advice, insights, and glimpses into Op4G’s work, be sure to check our blog regularly!