Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: The Torch Is Yours: Agile from the Hands of Engineers to the Researcher
Presenter: David W. Tuffy
credit:thanks to You X Ventures for sharing their work on Unsplash
Summary of Conference Session
David Tuffy started his presentation by sharing the history of agile. The concept of being agile initially started in the software industry. Developers learned that they could be much more effective if they built a basic version of the software program and then tested it with customers. This allowed them to make sure the program met the needs of customers before developing all the features. If successful, the programmers would then go back, make the necessary changes (based on customer feedback), and then release an updated version. This ongoing, iterative process is very popular as programmers do not waste time on something that has no appeal to customers.
Key Session Takeaways
As you apply agile in the qualitative research world, keep in mind:
- Agile does not mean doing more, faster. It’s about starting with a working product (minimal viable product) and testing it with consumers. Based on their feedback, you can add more features then go back to test it again.
- Agile is iterative. The idea is to build on your knowledge and improve the product each time.
- Qualitative researchers are naturally experts at being agile. We are able to probe and shift direction on the fly. This same principle, quick course correction, is the backbone of being Agile.
- Being agile will likely mean you cannot gather the depth of information you would normally. Due to the quick turnaround, you will likely need to test fewer things or use a narrower focus on the type of information gathered. Research used during the agile process is meant to be a check-in for course correction purposes.
- Consumers cannot tell organizations what they need. However, agile allows you to test an actual product with consumers. The information garnered will help to make changes before the next release. And of course, qualitative research is ideal for testing an idea with a small group of people before launching the next version into the world.
- Agile is collaborative. Being agile is all about collaboration. Daily check-ins and working closely with all stakeholders are critical. At the end of each cycle, the process must be reviewed critically for improvement, as this process will be repeated over and over again.
- Good, qualitative research is the foundation of successful innovations.
Using this in Practice
As an independent qualitative researcher, you may run into some obstacles implementing the agile process. Unless you are embedded in a company, being involved in daily updates may be challenging. Clients are not always good about sharing information and keeping you in the loop. You will need to insist on being included or the process will not be successful. You also need to think “scrappy.” Propose a study that includes a small group of participants. Design it to be an iterative check-in rather than an in-depth research study. Consider providing a bullet list of takeaways rather than a full report. It will save time and money—and because the client team is so highly involved, they will likely not feel the need to have a detailed report.
Agile is a process, not a technology. You do not need to be technologically savvy to implement agile in your research approach.
QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Nancy Hardwick, Hardwick Research