ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, PARTNERSHIPS AND CUSTOMER INSIGHTS, SERVICES AUSTRALIA
In 2017, I accidentally changed my life, and changed the nature of the way we saw user research in my organisation. Looking back, we created a revolution. I had no idea the ripples it would create around the world. After some years working as a researcher, data analyst, in metadata management and ontologies, and finally working as a user researcher, I moved into the growing user research team at my agency. I was there as the 'quant' expert. But it quickly became clear that quant was only a small part of what we really needed.
Applying a human centred lens to the challenges our growing team was facing, we needed solutions to problems I now know are persistent across the discipline.
How to scale our impact without losing the time for the craft of research?
How to learn from what we already knew?
How to help others learn, understand and apply our research?
How to be more strategic, less reactive?
In practice, I built a team, then two teams. Together, we designed and delivered a platform for gathering, storing, discovering and sharing qualitative research.
In 2019, I realised that the work I now recognised as Research Operations was service design for research. That good Ops requires a systems approach. I began to conceptualise a research pipeline ‘research in and insights out’. I developed a map for understanding the many people, processes and tasks involved in making research happen. I realised that the there were new powers that user research had that are yet to be fully explored - the ability to use the tagging structure of a library to help the organisation to understand itself from the outside in, to really make that human centred revolution stick.
Together, we gathered more than 20,000 interactions with customers, delivered research to thousands of 'users' of the research throughout the agency, across government, and even internationally. We put the customer into meetings, workshops, design sessions, boardrooms and classrooms all over the country. That work continues today, and the library and the insights teamthat grew from it are all continuing to deliver value for the organisation and the public.
SMALL REVOLUTIONS - RESEARCH AS AN ASSET
The Customer Insights Library generated a revolution in my life, my work and my practice.
It revolutionised how we think about what is possible with qualitative research. We began where the user need was - with the researchers needing to find their work, make sense of it where researchers were spread across the length and breadth of Australia with increasing demands on their time, on pressure to reduce the cadence of the work, and with a steadfast belief that the data we were capturing, being about people rather than things, was durable and reusable long term. That the work had value.
The team grew from myself to a team of 7. We became two teams - a product team working on the platform and governance of research, and another team working on socialising research, in helping users (within our government agency, in other government agencies and across the world, understand the research and apply it in their contexts. We brought down the timelines for getting insights out to our stakeholders, at one point, delivering one new report every day.
It also changed me - I joined the ResearchOps Community, ended up a co-chair, and set about changing the entire industry. It's been the most wonderful, enriching experience of my professional life to date.