million monthly active users
billion company valuation as of 2023
Research Operations Manager
Canva is one of the most innovative companies in the world. With over 135 million monthly active users spanning 190 countries and 100 languages, the $25 billion visual communications platform empowers people to design anything and publish anywhere.
Tessa Pollard is Canva’s Research Operations Manager. She supports their research tooling and recruitment needs, manages user insights and how they are shared, and leads research training and enablement. She works closely with Canva’s 14 researchers, as well as the product managers, designers, and many other people who do research across the company of 3.5k employees. She does a lot – and she uses Great Question to make it happen.
“Great Question is a big part of how we build user centricity and our deep care for our community,” said Pollard. “It enables our teams to rally together around research.”
With Great Question, Pollard has streamlined and scaled Canva’s customer research practice while meeting the data security and brand requirements of a global enterprise. It’s something she says couldn’t have been done with their legacy tool.
“There wasn't the functionality that we needed from a technical perspective to run research in a secure, scalable way.”
When Pollard joined Canva in February 2022 as the company’s first Research Operations Manager, she quickly realized their current tool wouldn’t be able to support their needs at scale. The first problem was recruitment.
“We have so many diverse research recruitment needs at Canva,” she said. “Before Great Question, it was really challenging to do research with niche audiences. At times, we weren’t able to do it at all.”
A common scenario looked like this: Canva launches a new product and needs to gather insights from real users – not from a third-party panel. In the past, Canva’s research team had attempted to recruit these audience segments by using lists exported from their data warehouse.
“Teams were doing research in a very ad hoc fashion and would manage their project participants in spreadsheets,” said Pollard. “That’s not great from a security standpoint, and it’s not very operationally efficient either.”
As a rapidly growing enterprise company with millions of users to protect, the status quo simply wouldn’t do.
“Given our focus on security, that was no longer a path forward,” she said. “So we just didn't have a way of doing that kind of research at all.”
With a clear problem to solve, Pollard set out to find a solution that was safe, secure, and easy-to-use for recruiting and managing research projects with Canva users. She evaluated a number of options.
One tool lacked the qualitative research functionality they needed. Another option didn’t have the integration capabilities to securely push customer data between the other tools Canva uses. Fortunately, Great Question checked these boxes. And more.
“With our previous research tool, I didn't get the support and the partnership I needed,” said Pollard. “With Great Question, there was a lot more flexibility to support us.”
By switching to Great Question, Canva got the additional functionality it needed to securely scale research at the same price. This included the ability to grow their panel up to 25,000 participants, compared to only 10,000 with their previous tool.
Pollard points to Great Question’s technical capabilities as a key differentiator in their evaluation process.
“There are so many different systems that research operates across and to some extent that's always going to be the case,” she said. “Having data that can be securely transferred and moved between systems is so essential to maintaining a single source of truth.”
In order to meet Canva’s enterprise-level security requirements, Pollard knew it was time to upgrade from juggling CSV files to Great Question’s suite of integrations.
“Something that really stood out with Great Question is how easily we are able to push data in and out of our data warehouse,” said Pollard. “It gives us a lot of future potential to foray into different kinds of research or push different data into the platform.”
Pollard was also drawn to Great Question’s ease of use. It’s proven a perfect fit for a company that encourages other teams to embrace research.
"One of our values at Canva is to empower others, and we wanted to set up Canva folks with the ability to run research independently,” said Pollard. “With Great Question, we still have visibility into the research being conducted and ability to support them as needed."
“We’re able to self-serve the entire research process, from pushing our data in and managing email outreach to conducting interviews and paying incentives. That was something other tools did not have.”
This ease of use has helped gain buy-in from cross-functional stakeholders. Canva’s data analysts are able to look at customer insights through both a quantitative and qualitative lens, while the marketing team is able to maintain Canva’s world-class brand standards.
“With Great Question, we're able to build custom email templates that match the look and feel of all the other email communications Canva has,” said Pollard. “It's really important to maintain our brand consistency and this helped us align with our marketing team’s vision, since we want to ensure we have a consistent way to represent the Canva brand.”
Pollard has also been thrilled with Great Question’s commitment to customer support.
“The partnership with Great Question has been really human and I think that's a reflection of the fact that research has so much nuance,” she said. “Every single project has something that's a little bit unique to it. It's been really great working with the Great Question team as we navigate those projects, especially in our first six months of getting up and running.”
This support has helped Canva deliver on its promise to put data protection first. It also helps ensure the success of every research project they run – from customer interviews and diary studies, to recruiting for focus groups and managing incentives.
While Pollard is pleased with progress she’s made in her first year at Canva, she also recognizes the full impact of her work has yet to be felt.
“Some of the research that we're doing is very discovery focused, which can take time to see to fruition,” said Pollard. “But what's exciting is that as we move into our next cycle of planning and execution, we're starting to see some of the frameworks that our research teams have used Great Question to generate be baked into team goals and milestones.”
Part of realizing their impact is better establishing how they measure success.
“We're working with Sarah from Great Question to set up metrics around efficiency and ease of use,” she said. “This will help our team become more autonomous with research so they can continue to scale independently.”
From improving access to insights to building out a structured curriculum for anybody at Canva who wants to improve their skills, Pollard has big plans for the future of research at Canva. And with Great Question, she’s confident she has the functionality and support to get there, with the whole team rallying around research.