Outsourcing your research?

Jared M. Spool is oft attributed to saying:

Outsourcing your research is like outsourcing your vacation. Sure it gets done, but you don’t really get out of it what you hoped for. [paraphrased, probably poorly]

Myself and Giles Colbourne were speaking on the topic of the state of the agency and especially offering research as an agency. So obviously this quote came up.

I then said,

But sometimes when you go on vacation you do hire a tour guide.

The new agency model (by new I mean better, not really new as many agencies have been doing the following for a long time) of user research is the role of mentor and facilitator. We need to bring the client team into the field with us, guiding them through best practices of observation, interview, and guided facilitated design workshops.

So Jared is right. No one should be going out and doing research for anyone else, but there definitely is still a growing role for agencies to continue to sell research expertise.

[BTW, I don’t think that Jared ever said that no one should ever hire an agency for research.]