Reflections from IIEX: Agility in Research is No Longer an Alternative Approach

Myself and several members of our team recently had the opportunity to attend IIEX North America. Over the course of two and half days and countless sessions, a clear theme began to emerge. Agile research – also referred to as iterative, always-on, or on-demand – is no longer a mere concept but instead a necessary reality for brands and their insight organizations.

Why is that? In many of the companies represented at the conference, insights teams are still smaller than they once were, and budgets continue to be on the decline. But rather than get hung up on having to do more with less, these organizations are framing it in terms of doing more differently. They are looking for ways to work within the constraints they have, while still delivering what their business stakeholders need. This can mean different types of studies, different types of vendor partners, and even different ways of looking at existing research.

The idea of agility in research also relates to another focus of the conference, which was helping insights teams gain or regain their seat at the table. In order to do this, these teams are putting more of their focus on providing tangible impact on the business, and this is achieved by delivering meaningful, actionable recommendations. To keep pace with business partners and deliver the data needed to inform the decisions they are being asked for every day, many are finding that good enough is better than perfect and that multiple small-scale studies that build upon each other are better than one or two longer ones. Said one insights manager during a presentation, “Good, bad or otherwise, I just need data in a week.”

On a similar note, one client panel, comprised of representatives from a technology company, media network, and two CPGs, was unanimous in the idea that ROI, which has been a hot topic at conferences in years past, is also now measured in terms of business outcomes. “It’s about accountability, not research dollars,” said one of the panelists. “Did the data we provided help retain customers? Drive activations? Support all the cross functional groups we work with and help them meet their goals?”

In light of these shifts, how can we as industry partners support our client brands in the quest for faster, more efficient research? Much as corporate insights teams have shifted their thinking, we need to do the same, looking for ways to streamline our own processes to meet the need for the right insights at the right time.

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