Two of the hottest topics at the moment are Automation (especially developments utilising Artificial Intelligence) and Agile Research. Separately, they are both interesting, but the key story is the way they interact and the role that automation has in facilitating and enhancing Agile Research.
Agile Research is a movement that has borrowed its approach (and name) from the world of agile software development. For decades, software was developed through a process of mapping the space, developing a plan, and implementing it with a big bang approach (for example the move from Windows XP to Windows Vista and then Windows 7). However, the software world realised that their planning was often faulty; the world tended to change between design and implementation, and the effectiveness of the final product was often limited by the designer’s ability to envisage how the product’s use would evolve once it was available.
Agile research picks up on many of the same trends as agile software development, for example:
- Accepting that forecasting the future more than a few months ahead is usually beyond us;
- That new products and services are unlikely to be designed right the first time (or the second);
- That an iterative, test and learn, approach enhances the chance of customer feedback being integrated into the design and optimisation process.
However, for agile research to work it needs to be fast and affordable. It needs to be affordable in the sense that testing an idea multiple times during its development still returns a positive ROI when comparing the increased value of the product or service with the cost of testing. Fast often means VERY FAST, for example testing overnight so that a team can work on the results the next day to allow unimpeded progress.
In many cases the key to making research fast and affordable lies with automation. It tends to start with standardisation, because without standardisation it is hard to speed up the processes, it is hard to improve processes, hard to reduce errors, and hard to reduce costs. With standardisation the options for automation open up, with the key being to put the investment a) where is easiest to implement, and b) where the effort of automation will generate the biggest return (in terms of speed, cost or both).
Automation removes the craftsmen from the picture and replaces him or her with faster, cheaper, system than can be more easily managed. Before ATM automation withdrawing money from a bank was slow and laborious, now the ATM (Automatic Telling Machine – the clue is in the name) allows us to access money when we want and without even referring to a manual – the same is true booking a flight or hotel.
In the world of market research, standardised products mean that designers, brand managers, and marketeers can get customer feedback quickly (even overnight), affordably, and without having to learn how to run software, write surveys, or interpret data tables (automation favouring the production of written reports or graphics in addition to data tables).
The future of a large part of research is going to be agile, and the driver of agile is automation.
Want to learn more about Automation, AI and Agile Research?
NewMR have a webinar event on 18 August, it is free, with great speakers from around the globe, and it is all about how to use and apply Agile, Automation and AI – click here to find out more or register.