This interview is part of an on-going serie we are conducting with UX researchers. The goal is to shed light upon this role: its diversity, practices and the people moving it forward.
Mathilde is UX researcher at Frog, a consultancy agency part of Capgemini Invent. She has been working there for more than 6 years, working with her clients to make their organization more user centric.
I chatted with Mathilde on April 4th about research ops and repository tools.
Mathilde started out as a general researcher and slowly evolved into a role more focused onsearch operations and search systems. This evolution grew out of her personal interests andthe needs of her clients.
When research operations became a thing, I investigated it and realized we had been doing it for some time. […] The same process happend for some of my colleagues with design ops.
Design activities are growing inside organizations for strategic reasons. […] I use my experience to help my clients structure their research: creating new processes, implementing methods to become user-centered.
Implementing a repository is a good way to challenge an organization’s perception of UX
With the growth of UX maturity in organizations, Mathilde is faced with an increasingnumber of customers looking to implement a repository tool. In her opinion, this can beexplained by 2 phenomena:
- a growing need to structure UX practices, linked to the growth of teams and the searchfor a better return on investment
- repository tools are the talk of the town, creating a positive hype around the subject
She emphasizes just how ambitious these projects can be: scoping the project can take severalmonths, depending on its scale and the availability of the parties involved. Implementationitself is a never-ending process, with constant changes to keep pace with the needs of theteams. The initial experimentation phase can take around 6 months.
Mathilde has noticed that a repository project prompts a lot of reflection on an organization'sUX research processes. This is because a lot of questions need to be answered to launch arepository project:
- Who are the stakeholders of UX research? Are there different types of roles and needs who will use the tool differently? Which teams (marketing, product)? How do they use UXR data?
- What type of feedback will be fed into the tool and in what form, how will they be processed?
- How is research conducted? What types of documents are used?
- Is there to input all pre-existing feedback into the new repository?
- Are qualitative and quantitative data combined?
For these reasons, implementing a repository can be used as an opportunity to start a conversation with stakeholders to rationalize and standardize the research process.
The standardization that happens concerns templates, protocols, formats for restitutions, note briefs etc. The goal is that no one conducting research starts from scratch and there is a clear direction along the process.
Different tools for different UXR maturity levels
Although clients often come to her with a tool in mind, part of her role is to make sure the tool is adapted to stakeholders’ needs.
She has worked with specialized tools like Dovetail or Condens and with more generalistic tools like Airtable, Confluence, Sharepoint or Notion.
She used several criteria than can affect the choice of a repository tool:
- the number of team members who will be using the tool
- what meta data and tags are needed
- what tools are used at the moment
- the UX maturity of the organization
- what needs are expressed: centralization, automation, project-based repository or inter-project
Research ops never ends, it’s a cycle. You constantly need to rethink your processes.
For these reasons, there is no one-size fits all tool when it comes to repositories because they address such a wide variety of needs.
Depending on your environement, implementing a research system (repository) is not necessarily a good idea. […] When your team is still trying to prove the value of research, your priority is not to centralize data yet. Once more team are involved in the research process, a research system might become relevant.
Mathilde has observed that implementing a repository tool is not always the best thing to do depending on the situation of a team. Because answering the questions mentionned above is a prerequisite to implement a repository, an organization has to gather stakeholders to answer them which can take several months.
It’s not about saying no you are not ready, you shouldn’t implement a research system. It’s about reaching the answers that unlock the right choices. […] Maybe it’s too early to build the architecture of the repository, let’s work on creating a common structure in your research projects first.
Specially designed repository tools like Dovetail and Condens are best for UX-mature companies with complex needs, high volume of insights and of stakeholders.
They often take a little longer to implement because they require standardization of searchprocesses to keep the repository organized. If adopted too early in the process, these tools canbecome a burden for teams with simpler needs and less time. That's why it's important toinvolve stakeholders upstream, to assess their needs and availability. A repository that is tooadvanced will be detrimental to the organization's UX practice.
Simpler, non UXR dedicated tools have less specific features and won’t go as far as dedicated repository tools. However, they are more common in organization and allow to onboard more people faster. They can be a great way to kickstart the centralization process while maintaining the setup as light as possible.
Implementing a repository is a trigger to work on an organization’s research ops.
There are very complex ways to implement repositories such as following atomic research in the structure which can feel temptating because they bring a lot of value. However, they are not suitable to all types of organization and maturity. There is no copy pasting possible. It’s not possible to copy and paste.
A research system takes time to implement and our clients realize that. No one has found the ultimate solution yet. Starting the process is already a great step.
A repository might require change management processes
Because a repository project can involve a lot of stakeholder and drastically change the way they work, it has to include a reflection on change management.
Mathilde gives the exemple of 2 new processes with different levels of implementation difficulty:
- systematically sharing research results in a newsletter and on a channel
- process research data into 4 categories: experimentation, observation, insights and recommendations into a new tool
To ease the transition into new research processes, there is an option to implement changes with pilot project(s) with designated teams before scaling the practice.
It’s nice to work with a core team in the early steps of a new research process. Their best practices will then spread throughout the organization.
Mathilde shared examples of repository implementations she encountered:
Tracking KPIs is also a good way to move forward with a repository project. Mathilde recommends a few:
- number of users
- UXR process duration before and after the project
- number of insights used/reused
- satisfaction score
For Mathilde, implementing a research system within your organizationrequires applying the same philosophy as in UX Research process: focus on your users and their ecosystem to make the right choices and develop a product that is useful and usable byand for everyone.