The company has to be doing well
They are in a growth phase, they are not struggling to keep and find clients. If the company is worried about finances, they will not want another thing to hit the budget. Even if that thing will be the thing that saves them at the end of the day.
Again, research doesn’t have to be expensive but it will require some amount of money. You also don’t have to hire an outside agency, you can certainly run these sessions in-house which is the cheapest option. Here is a breakdown of the tools/materials I prefer to use:
- Post-it Notes: Creating affinity diagrams ($20 for huge pack)
- Quicktime Player: Built in screen + audio recording application on Macbooks (Free)
- Calendly: Schedule sessions with participants ($8-$12/user per month)
- Confrere: Host remote testing ($14-$99/user per month)
- Gift Cards: Compensation for participants (at least $25 in their currency). Side note: Don’t make the mistake I made and avoid Amazon gift cards because they’re specific to each country. I bought gift cards from the US Marketplace and a participant in the UK was not able to redeem it.
In your pitch to your boss, it’s helpful to show the actual breakdown of costs as this will give them something tangible to grasp.
Someone should have experience with research
When I first joined my current company, we weren’t doing research. But my colleague and I worked together to pitch the idea and ever since then, we’ve been running a research program for close to a year now. But here’s the thing. We both came from the same program: Cognitive Science w/ specialization in Human Computer Interactions at UC San Diego (Don Norman runs the Design Lab there).
As unfair as that sounds, we both had the training and name recognition to do research. We have colleagues who worked at the company longer than us, that have tried to pitch the idea in the past but was unsuccessful. And it wasn’t until we pitched the idea that it got embraced. I don’t think the other colleagues are less competent in any way, but I think to the stakeholders, they felt more confident with the idea when it came from people who’ve demonstrated experience/training already.
In your pitch to your boss, you should educate them on the research process. It’s also nice to have a working example. We ran a quick and dirty usability session with a participant on an actual product feature of ours, and demonstrated how easy and simple the process was. “See? A few hours of prepping, conducting, and synthesizing gave us so much insight”. You can even tell your boss that it’s fine to take baby steps. You don’t have to dive right into hardcore research mode. Do a few sessions here and there before vamping up. You can even test on employees first before going to customers.
Leadership has to believe it
The executives have to preach “put the users first”. If they’re not in that mindset, there’s really not much you can do to convince them otherwise. They have to at least be in the mindset that USERS are the most important driver for the company. The importance of design is hard to start as a grass roots effort, it’s much better if it’s top down. Starts from the top and trickles down to the rest of the company.
If people at the top understand this, they are much more susceptible to your pitch of bringing research because it shows you’re aligned with their goals. If the executives don’t believe in that, is it really a company you want to work for? Probably not. It’s important to find companies who are committed to a user’s experience. And if after trying every card you can and nothing is changing, it might be a sign that the leadership’s goals are not aligned with yours.
In your pitch to your boss, you should drive home how research is aligned with the business goals. I think it’s safe to assume that every business wants to be the best product for that market. Tell them how research will help build a better product, and if you have to pull one last card, throw this at them: All of the big companies are doing it which is why they’re doing pretty well cause they invest in their users. How do I know this? Just watch the documentary Design Disruptors.