ResearchOps in Berlin
As a part of my continued strategy for working through my professional angst, about whether I’m a product person, a UX person, a developer, or whether it’s all about competencies rather than roles in cross functional teams, I’ve got into the ResearchOps/ReOps community in the last few weeks.
If you’re thinking “What is this ResearchOps thing?”, and you’re in Berlin, then this post is for you.
Over the last few years, I’ve been working remotely and onsite with a number of non-profit orgs, and startups.
While I’ve often written code, or deployed stuff, a large part of this has involved me trying to help them operationalise ways to reduce the risk of what they’re building by using research techniques to make sure the we are building the right thing, before we get around to talking about building the thing right.
This has typically taken the form of:
- building personas with the teams in ways that invite change and validation of their key characteristics
- buddying up with team members to carry out research together
- coming up with repeatable, streamlined processes for research to book interviewees, find research buddies, and capture observations in a way to make findings easier to locate, digest and act upon
This has typically been a mix of remote and onsite work, but because clients have other remote staff, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to do this when you don’t have shared wall everyone walks past.
Last month, I saw Kate’s Towsey tweeting about something that sounded like she had been trying to solve some of the same problems - in particular, making research easier to integrate into the process of bulding services or products:
Over the last few years, I’ve signed up to a number of slack communities (38 at the last count…), and set up a few myself. I dropped her a message, and and asked about helping her streamline the sign-up process so she wasn’t going through the same twitter > slack invite email loop umpteen times a day.
That was the beginning of my involvement:
I turned out I was going to be in London in March for my birthday and to see family, so I ended up meeting Kate one evening while in the Big Smoke.
We got on pretty well, and now I’m working with her and a few others strewn around the world on a global set of workshops about this ResearchOps wheeze.
Okay, what is this ResearchOps thing?
Right now, there’s no concrete definition, and it’s not clear that there will be canonical one, a la devops.
And like devops, I think the conversation about avoiding silos, scaling research practices so work isn't 'thrown over a wall', making research easier to use across an organisation, and working cross-functionally is more important than a single holy definition.
Similarly, I think there's value in having a name for stuff, as saying researchOps is just a part of Product Management, or UX Design, for me, is a bit like saying devops is just part of being a Full Stack Developer.
You might use some of the same techniques and tools, but working in the spirit of devops requires thinking about how your organisation is set up to deliver valuable work in the same way I think working in the spirit of researchOps does.
Saying it's just part of a something like Product Management or UX runs the risk of not having these discussions about how work is valued in an organisation.
Off my soapbox
Anyway, It’s probably more useful to think about the ideas being covered right now, and this realtimeboard Kate shared offers a pretty good list.
There’s a lot more more context in the ResearchOps slack workspace, but you can comment and ask questions by following the link below:
If you’re in mainland Europe, I’d like to propose something else though.
Thinking about ResearchOps together in Europe
As one of a number of people thinking about ResearchOps I’m working with Kathryn Hing, another Berliner to to help organise the European part of a global set of workshops to explore ResearchOps together.
Specifically this is what we’re wanting to do with these workshops:
- give the community the opportunity to collectively explore what we mean when we say ‘ResearchOps’;
- share knowledge and stories about how we’re doing ResearchOps today;
- give us all the opportunity to express what we need and want from the ResearchOps Community;
- and, last but not least, create spaces for us to get to know each other in-person too.
Why we need your help
I’m more of a tech generalist than a specialist user researcher leading a team of other researchers. Kathryn is also a service designer who does design research - so we can talk about some aspects of operationalising user research with confidence, but not others.
If we want this to be a rich conversation, we really need to have people who work primarily as user researchers coming along too.
If this all sounds like it’s interesting to you, please take a couple of minutes to fill out the type form below:
If this interesting and you're not in Berlin, there may be a workshop planned near you. Go check the ResearchOp Medium Publication for more.