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How to Outsource Research Projects

Companies are increasingly gathering research to make better and more data-driven decisions.

I’ve gathered some learnings from the projects they have done, so that hopefully you can best make use of their skills – or use in your own research project.

What is research, exactly?

(I’m not talking about the type performed at Universities. )

A client recently told me:

"A good researcher answers the question that was asked."

I think that summarizes what research fundamentally is: finding answers. In practice, it usually means to find new knowledge about something very specific.

The subset of research projects that is most easily outsourced, are the answers that can be found online – web research. When companies like investment banks, lawyers and consultancies send us research projects, they are often looking for data either to make or support a decision or advice. Others use research for the areas of their business that could benefit from additional information

Examples include:

  • Gather and analyze numbers, statements, facts on websites, reports, databases
  • Searching for and finding detailed personal and contact information across different websites
  • News, market, company, or industry research
  • Good researchers are experiences investigators

When I have asked our clients why they outsource research projects, answers include: not having the necessary expertise, shortage of manpower, cost saving and not having personal capacity to staff and manage research teams.

We’ve found that one of the best characteristics of researchers is intelligence and experience. Research is a skill in itself. To have experience in identifying sources, and then gathering, sorting and presenting data in a way that is useful, is a transferrable skill. Secondly, having someone with expertise in the specific field that is being researched is also helpful.

How to ask for what you want...

Since a good researcher answers the question that was asked. It follows that to succeed in outsourcing research, you must ask for what you want.

1. State your objectives clearly

“We need the price models of all TV-streaming services in the world to evaluate whether there is a need for a subscription product”

You want to make sure that the team performing the research project for you really understands the research objective, and perhaps also the significance of these aims for your business – what you need it for.

A well executed research projects requires on-the-ground decision making and intelligence on the part of the researcher. The best way to empower people to make those decisions in accordance with your aims, is that they know.

If for example the data is part of a legal due diligence,

2. Share your knowledge and opinion on methods if you have them

“I think a web search in local language, country by country would work”

Any knowledge you have about possible sources or methods that can be used to obtain the information will likely be time saving for the team and het you your research faster.

It is very different for gathering contact information from official, sourced sources and using web tools to gather them. Similarly it is different to gather secondary data from journal articles and web articles or published industry reports.

3. Show examples of your ideal format and presentation of results

“Send back in an excel showing name, URL, country, pricing model, pricing level. Add a presentation showing the distributions”

One of the most effective ways to avoid any misunderstandings in what you are looking for, and what kind of result you are expecting, is to give an example.

A common way to present is for example be a structured excel-document with specific columns marking the information you need on each observation, perhaps coupled with some simple visualizations of the headline data or findings.

4. Consider asking for a review after an initial phase

“Let’s have a call if you meet any complications in gathering this when you get started”

Often in research projects it is unclear to everyone beforehand how hard it will be to get the data. Usually shortly after the project has been initiated, the research team will know much more about which kinds of data are hard or most time-consuming to identify.

This might also be a good time to reconsider the research objective, and get a new cost estimate or timeline if necessary.

Use data to improve your bottom line. 

We experience a growing demand for research help from our customers. I think this is one of the ways companies are utilizing the growing access to data in order to get usable insights for specific business areas to increase their bottom line. 

As our tools are getting better and information can be accessed ever easier, the value of the human element, finding needles in the haystack, become larger. 

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