Many years ago, Jared Spool wrote about the importance of “exposure hours” for project team members:
The number of hours each team member is exposed directly to real users interacting with the team’s designs or the team’s competitor’s designs. There is a direct correlation between this exposure and the improvements we see in the designs that team produces.
Earlier this week, I attended the Enterprise Experience conference, where Melissa Schmidt and Adam Menter from Autodesk shared the work they did in conducting a mass user research effort taking advantage of Autodesk University. I don’t have the details in front of me, but basically they enabled hundreds of “exposure hours” for their product teams, and then developed an analysis/synthesis structure for them so they could derive useful insights from what they saw. (This might expose the geek in me, but it was the best thing I saw at the whole conference.)
The presentation spurred an “A-ha!” moment for my that will likely not endear myself to my UX research friends: That standing up a ResearchOps capability is more important and impactful than hiring UX researchers. The hassle of planning, coordinating, preparing, and paying for research is a huge barrier to product teams getting exposure hours (perhaps the single biggest barrier), and so if I’m serious about making my company more customer-centered, I would consider hiring a Research Program Manager and Research Coordinator before hiring a UX Researcher.
If you’re asking yourself, “What is ResearchOps?” and “Really? Another ‘Ops’?”, I suggest browsing this Kate Towsey’s deck here, and I’ll share her definition:
ResearchOps is the mechanisms and strategist that set user research in motion. It provides the roles, tools, and processes needed to support researcher in delivering and scaling the impact of the craft across an organization.