The goal of research operations is to make your research practice more efficient and effective. But how do you prove it’s working?
Whether it’s through budget conversations, your annual review cycle, or research team meetings, you will get asked again and again and again...
So, be ready to answer. Knowing where you stand within your organization and team is imperative to prove your impact and demonstrates you understand where there’s room for growth.
With the job market as it is, measuring how you’re doing (hopefully amazing!) is a smart way to strengthen your resume, and personally, I’ve found it to even help with personal wellbeing at work.
A lot of UXR advice is either too nebulous or completely academic. Here, I hope to hit middle ground by sharing the benchmarks I create for myself as a Research Operations Manager, plus prescriptive advice on how you can measure them, too.
In this article, I’m assuming you’re a ResOps team of one; but if you’re part of a larger ResOps team, these metrics can still work to measure your team's effectiveness.
My recommendation is to measure these through a bi-annual survey. If you aren’t wanting to/or at the stage of doing a survey, skip to the end for other tactics you can use to build benchmark metrics.
To be clear, some metrics will be subjective, such as the person’s satisfaction and perception. This isn’t hard quantitative data, and that’s okay! We’re creating benchmarks here, and if some of these don’t work for you or you’d like to omit, please feel free.
Of course, you might want to gather some demographic information about the people who are giving you feedback. You can ask for names and emails, but since these are more for your benefit and measurement, I recommend skipping. Don’t ask for anything you don’t need, such as age or gender.
Tactical benchmarks measure speed. Everyone wants to know how fast you’re moving; with tactical benchmarks, you can tell them. If you track your project in a project management tool, great. That can be a baseline. But what about people’s perceptions of that turnaround time? Are they happy?
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All teams are at different stages of research maturity. It's important to understand your org's research perceptions and competencies today, and keep a pulse on how they evolve over time.
This also could be a great opportunity for you to gather fuel to generate the need and/or desire for a research repository tool, usability tool, or recruitment tool, if you don’t have one currently on your team.
This is the section where you can understand, beyond tactical, beyond UXR itself — what does your org think of you? How effective do they think you are? You can hope that everyone that answers would give you glowing remarks, but if you don’t, this is an opportunity to amp up your internal comms and to help other teams understand how effective you really are.
This section will really shine if you’ve done your due diligence on research socialization and the value it can bring. Relying on product managers or leadership to sing the praises of research likely will not be enough; you need to utilize multiple internal channels to communicate your work, and then others will understand your impact.
You want to understand anything else you may not have covered, such as their future understanding of UXR. Feel free to add any sections that are specific to your team that I haven’t mentioned.
Not everyone wants to send a lengthy survey out to their teams. But if UXR is new to your organization, you cannot ignore the need to measure UXR work. Some other ideas for you to consider:
Utilize what data you already have within tools and your calendar. Time spent in tools, number of readouts, number of training sessions, lines created in an Excel spreadsheet, who has utilized which tools to what amount, etc. Look at what you have over a quarter, and go from there.
If your team is heavily engineering focused, have the product manager authoring the epics add “Impacted by UXR” as a flag on their epic. This way by the end of the quarter, you can understand how many sprints your research impacted.
Create your own CSAT or NPS, either externally or internally. With CSAT, you could send after a participant engages in research with you, tracking those scores. You could also send out an NPS survey to your organization, instead of a lengthy survey, just to get a number to benchmark.
You can use these free templates to get started:
Creating benchmark metrics for your team is the first step in measuring the total impact that UXR has on the organization. Whether it’s to help satisfy a need from a leader, backing up the need for a tool being slashed by budget cuts, or your own personal review cycle, knowing exactly where you stand can feel incredibly powerful.
Research operations can be a tough sell for new UXR teams. You have a lot to do, covering a lot of tasks that cross most operational departments, with little time. Benchmarking will allow you to see where things have slipped through the cracks. But oftentimes, socializing research will help with all of your metrics. You’re the new kid on the block, a nascent role for product teams. Be loud, be proud of the work your team is doing, and share as much as you can.
Mia builds UX Research Operations from the ground up. Specializing in tech startups, she has experience building operations within UX Research and Design teams for healthcare and SaaS companies. She loves consuming and writing content about the best ways to set your UX Research team up for success. Follow her on LinkedIn or contact her directly here.