How to set & achieve research goals without a research team

Jane Davis
November 30, 2023
How to set & achieve research goals without a research team

Whether you don’t have any researchers, or your team is stretched thin, every team can benefit from learning how to set their own research goals.

But getting started can feel daunting: how do you decide where to start? How should you think about choosing between options? And how do you know which project will be the best use of your time and resources?

Getting started

To make it easier to get started, we’ve put together a quick exercise teams can use to identify their research priorities: The Research Goal-Setting Worksheet.

  • Sit down and look at your roadmap or team plan for the next quarter
  • Do a rough sorting exercise and group everything into three buckets: High Confidence, Medium Confidence, Low Confidence
  • Then plot those on the risk/confidence matrix

Once you’ve identified the projects that fit into the red squares, you’ve got your list of potential research projects. From there, you’ll need to prioritize. There are several things to take into consideration with this:

  • Which projects do we realistically have the skills to do ourselves?
  • What’s coming up soonest?
  • What's the highest risk?

For most teams, you’ll want something that fits with your team’s existing skills. For example, you shouldn’t pick a big, exploratory project that requires a complex method like a diary study if you don’t have someone on the team who can commit to running the project full-time for several weeks. Instead, think about the highest risk project you have that could be improved with a few in-depth interviews or a survey to your users.

Whatever you do, don’t try to do everything at once.

You probably have multiple research needs, but it’s best to start with your top priority and work from there. Once you’ve gone through the process of identifying your research priorities a few times, setting research goals becomes a much quicker process you can engage in regularly, even without researchers to assist.

Identifying discrete vs. ongoing research needs

If you found yourself with more than five projects in the red squares when performing the sorting exercise, your organization would likely benefit from setting up continuous discovery.

Continuous discovery ensures that you can rapidly get the information you need without spinning up a new research project each time. If you have ongoing demand for research, continuous discovery is a simple way to reduce the overhead of conducting research and get ongoing feedback and input from users.

Some questions to ask when setting up a continuous discovery practice:

  • How often can we commit to running sessions? It’s best to start with a less ambitious cadence than to wind up canceling your sessions because other priorities come up.
  • How will we find people to talk to for sessions? To make things simpler, you may want to start by running sessions with your existing users, and then find ways to invite non-users once you have your continuous discovery program up and running.
  • Who will be responsible for running the sessions? This is usually a shared responsibility between cross-functional team members, but you’ll need to determine in advance how much time each person will be committing and ensure no one person is trying to take on too much.
  • Who will be responsible for the logistics? Setting up a continuous discovery program relieves a lot of the burden of logistics, but you still need someone to own the program to ensure that it runs smoothly.
  • What will we do on weeks where we don’t have designs or concepts to test? These weeks can be a great opportunity to do more exploratory calls with your users to stay in tune with their needs and pain points.

Setting up a continuous discovery practice in Great Question

If you’ve decided that continuous discovery is right for you, the next step is getting a program up and running. Great Question makes continuous discovery seamless by enabling you to easily set up recurring research for you and your entire team.

Setting up continuous discovery in Great Question is as simple as setting up any other study:

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1. Go to “Create a new study”.

2. Select “Customer interviews”.

3. Under “Participation limit”, select the number of people you’d like to talk to each week, and choose “Every week” from the dropdown menu.

Tip: If you think you might want to use external recruiting at any point, be sure to toggle “Recruit external candidates” on. That will enable you to submit recruiting requests as needed via our partnership with Respondent.

4. Set up your calendar and availability

Tip: Selecting a regular availability block every week (e.g. Thursdays from 10am-12pm) instead of letting participants book times throughout the week will help you be better prepared for your recurring calls. Predictable weekly availability also makes it easy for an entire team to block off the time so you can rotate moderators and prioritize having everyone attend the sessions whenever possible.

5. Recommended: Set your “Maximum scheduling notice” to somewhere between 2 and 4 weeks to reduce your no-show rates by ensuring participants don’t schedule so far in advance that they forget they signed up.

6. Select how many participants you’d like to pre-fund incentives for. When you’ve run through your funding, you’ll receive a reminder from Great Question to fund another round of participants.

7. Hit “Publish” and create your study

8. Add participants as you normally would, or create an external recruiting request using our partnership with Respondent. Read the help doc here.

9. When you’re ready, select the first set of participants you would like to invite. In the “Compose” slideout window, you’ll want to select “Continuous invites”. Turning this on means that invitations will be issued as new spots open up in your continuous study, meaning you don’t have to come back and manually select more participants to invite.

Jane is the Principal Researcher at Great Question, where she help companies make better decisions faster through insights. Prior to joining Great Question, she created and ran the UX Research practice for Zoom, was head of UX Research for Zapier, ran the Growth Research team for Dropbox, and led UX Research for BitTorrent. She’s worked as a researcher, a designer, a librarian, and an event planner. She lives in Oakland with her partner and their two children, and spends as much time as humanly possible outdoors. In her heart of hearts, she believes research is actually a sales role.

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