Research Manager – A Sisyphean Job

The role of a (market) research manager is remarkably diverse. From deciphering market trends to unravelling customer insights, research managers must be versatile, whether using internal resources or working with external research agencies.

As research managers, our responsibilities include overseeing or directly managing tasks such as planning short- and long-term research projects and monitoring data collection and analysis. You must ensure comprehensive reporting for strategic recommendations, empowering internal stakeholders to make well-informed decisions.

Our role shares similarities to that of a senior market researcher, yet our responsibilities are broader and more challenging. We’re tasked not only with research excellence but also with the management of our team. On top of this, you must navigate the intricacies of vendor/supplier relationships. That’s already a significant amount of responsibility on your plate. And things can get even more complex when you’re asked to develop comprehensive market research solutions for stakeholders, all on a limited budget.

With such responsibilities, mistakes, and tensions are often not far away. If that occurs, the issues between stakeholders and research managers can have far-reaching implications.

Consider a real-life example: A newly formed research team conducting customer research to support product managers of newly formed verticals. With concise directives, the research team decided to work on comprehensive customer segmentation and monthly quantitative research. All this is to support the informational needs of the new product managers.

  1. A well-structured research calendar for the whole year can have many benefits:
  2. Improved strategic alignment
  3. Consistent, informed decision-making
  4. Early issue detection
  5. Improved stakeholder communication, among others

While the research manager and the team embarked on the ambitious large-scale customer segmentation and regular customer surveys, product managers were still figuring out their specific needs to bolster their market position. This misalignment led to the rapid exhaustion of the market research budget within the research team, numerous research projects lacking a clear goal, and product managers unsure of how to utilize the wealth of proactively generated insights.

Looking back at the work of the research team and the new verticals, it is clear that misalignment and suboptimal cooperation between the two was to be expected due to no explicit agreement on marketing and research goals or what kind of actionable research insights. Trust issues build up over time, and perceived research ineffectiveness and mounting frustration strained the relationship.

In many professional roles, transparent communication with stakeholders is the bedrock of effective cooperation. To demonstrate the actual value of research, consider initiating smaller pilot research projects closely tied to the immediate needs of the product managers. These projects can demonstrate the value of research and build confidence.

To ensure continuous involvement of stakeholders, and given the ever-evolving nature of verticals, emphasize the flexibility to adjust research plans in response to emerging needs or market shifts.

As trust builds, this time around, start collaboratively developing a research roadmap for the upcoming months. This roadmap should outline the types of research activities, the timing, and the expected outcomes. Be sure to highlight how each research initiative will contribute to the product managers’ decision-making process.

With both parties having a shared vision of the research’s purpose, prioritizing the allocation of research budgets should become a more manageable endeavor. In the end, the role of a research manager is often an uphill struggle but a struggle worth overcoming.

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