What is Agile Research for Business Success?

Agile research is a practice that more and more teams are using to move quickly, collaboratively and nimbly to make decisions based on customer feedback. But what does it mean specifically, and how is agile research beneficial?

Agile research is definitely a current trend in the insights industry.

“That’s a buzzword to me – whenever I hear the word agile,” said Daniel Berkal, SVP of Research at The Palmerston Group. “I don t think buzzwords are bad things at all. They focus on trends in the industry. I think they’re worth listening to, but also take them with a grain of salt.”

We asked several insights experts for their definitions.

What is agile research?

“Agility, for me, is moving at the speed of the consumer. Focusing on agility is critical. It’s about having flexibility for any type of methodology. It’s about being adaptable, efficient. Agility doesn’t mean moving fast or cutting corners. I think one of the key things for me is continuously guiding all the functions to make decisions.”

“It’s about being able to iterate and pivot, where the opposite of agility is we can only go in one direction and it’s all about validation.”

How has agile research evolved?

“From an agility perspective, it’s gone from maybe 10 years ago a balance of qual and quant, to heavy quant with very little understanding of people and the ‘why’ behind their actions/motivations, and now it’s swinging back to a balance, but a faster balance.”

“Companies or brands are who their consumers say they are. And so, the power has quite literally completely shifted. So, in that framework, it’s become important for companies to become quick with being able to get a pulse on the consumer. And so, the word that we have kind of gravitated towards is agile. It’s much more a framework around iteration versus perfection. And I think that’s probably the biggest point of differentiation.”

“Agile means being able to develop really quickly and get really quick feedback. And then make that into actionable insights and then iterate and allowing you to actually develop the product or whatever you’re trying to do in a fast way and fail fast and understand exactly what doesn’t work.”

The history and the future

Author Sherwette Mansour said on the market research podcast “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show” that the agile methodology originally came from software development, but today is also used in other disciplines – including research.

“You put all the requirements you are trying to do into all the development and at the end, you are surprised that either people love it or hate it,” she said. “Then agile came. People – like the product owners – can identify specific requirements that would be a minimum viable product that can be launched to the market, and you can get feedback and improve.”

As we are moving into the future where teams try to do more in less time, agile research can help. That’s what insights pro Jill Burnett focused on.

“I like to think of resourceful,” she said. “Just having that ability to find the right resources and bring them to the table and having those skills. I find it most helpful when we think about the tools that we use for the team.”

Read next: What does it mean when companies are democratizing research?

And certainly, the area of the tools we use in research has evolved tremendously -from paper and pen to digital research software, for example.

At the end of the day, whatever your exact definition or implementation of agile research is, the point is that teams try to get more done, often in less time and with less budget. That’s where agile research comes in and can help us continue to be successful.

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