I was once asked by a manager to figure out how to bring the production and fielding of a large scale mail survey in-house. I have little recollection of the actual exercise other than the vague memory of stupefied suppliers
who wondered why on earth I would need to personally mail so many pieces, but I do remember the outcome. While I found that it was indeed possible, I also learned that the resources involved would crush productivity, kill
morale, and rob us of the energy required to be critical thinkers.
I understand the DIY siren call that drove my manager to request this exercise. In a climate of tightening budgets, heightened data security, quicker turn times, and complex business models, researchers are often asked to be
creative, resourceful, and even scrappy. Compound these requests with the plethora of DIY survey and analytics tools, and it seems ridiculous not to explore a DIY solution.
But is DIY always what it is cracked up to be? When should you use do-it-yourself approaches? And most importantly, what factors should you consider before going down this path?
Is this the best use of my resources?
Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should (see story above). As a client-side researcher, your most valuable asset is your ability to apply research insights to your specific category and company. The return
on investment should be carefully considered before committing to DIY Research in order to confirm that time spent on the DIY solution will not replace the time needed to interpret the findings. To me, this is the most important
question to ask, because of all the resources you employ, your time and intellect are the most valuable and finite.
How far along am I in the project process?
In early-stage research, less structured approaches can be fertile ground for hypotheses development and white-space discovery and are often a great time to employee DIY methods.
However, as the project evolves, the investment increases and the decisions carry more weight. In these later stages, the expertise of a supplier can help add credibility to findings and ensure stakeholders that all variables
have been addressed.
Who do I need to talk to?
All sample is not created equal, so a careful consideration of who you need to talk to and how you are going to reach them is a crucial component of DIY decisions. There is an art to sampling, and while panels may abound, all
are not created equal and not all platforms understand the science of sampling. The more complicated the sample plan, the more likely I am to recommend that clients look beyond DIY.
What tools/expertise does the project require?
With the explosion of survey and analytic tools, you can most likely find a tool for every methodology; however, having a tool and using it correctly are two different things. If you forget to add the lid to the blender, you
still get a smoothie but you will probably be doing a lot of clean up. A similar comparison can be made when doing a segmentation or discrete choice model. Without
extensive knowledge of the process and the science behind it, you may get results which misrepresent the true findings and require extensive rework.
Would my project benefit from an outside perspective?
Despite our best efforts, we can become biased by the very expertise that makes us good at our jobs. At times, having an outside consultant who is not living and breathing the project add context or insights can unearth new
opportunities and identify potential red flags that may not be as obvious to employees.
A careful review of short and long term research objectives can help you chart out a path that appropriately leverages both DIY and supplier solutions. We are always happy to chat with you about that plan and would love to
hear your DIY highlights and lowlights!