Fusing separate research teams’ roadmaps to enhance collaboration, efficiencies, and insight quality — and get more done with insights

Integrating research > Expanding reach and connectivity > B. Turning up research communications > Article B3

Like two ships passing in the night… or was it ten? Deep in siloed teams, researchers of different stripes often work on similar and complementary questions — without any visibility or collaboration. Maybe their stakeholders will clue them in, or maybe they’ll never know.

To align on future work, researchers can lead recurring, structured discussions around their pooled roadmaps. They can identify any duplication as well as opportunities to work together, driving more predictable streams of impactful insights for product people to use.

When great researchers take on projects, they check with their colleagues about existing and upcoming work on particular topics of interest. But in many growing organizations, this alignment effort is ad hoc rather than a consistent operation — and it often leaves out staff in important insight-generating disciplines, who may remain unknown or perceived as ‘distant’ from research work.

Alignment on upcoming research questions is typically high-touch. While completed research work products may turn up in intranet searches or repositories, various teams’ plans for future studies often have lower internal visibility, especially over longer time horizons. Even in cases where research teams have created online intake queues, such lists may prove to be more signal than noise for potential collaborators.

While running repository programs, I’ve been asked repeatedly by product leaders about upcoming research and analyses, not just what’s already done and available. It feels like I’m offering a full course meal of genuinely useful insights to apply to their own product planning — which they happily consume, but then look at me expecting a dessert of new studies.

Getting a consistent, recurring handle on research roadmaps across teams is not easy. There’s usually a lot of unpredictable factors involved. However, those times when I did pull off cross-team research roadmapping workshops, I always wished that I had made it one of my first priorities in a new-to-me organizational landscape. It’s a great way to assess current collaborations, learn about how different disciplines are conducting research, and get a window into how different insight-seeking stakeholders are connecting with insight-generating partners.

When researchers and their teams operate like independent units, planning their work largely in isolation, they are leaving their common stakeholders on the hook for more sensemaking across different streams of studies. Unaligned researchers may be talking about their concurrent learnings in different ways — instead of delivering shared, evidence-rich insights that could more directly fuel improvements toward customers’ real needs.

When researchers take the time to connect on future work across a broader community of insight generators in their organization, they’re not just weaving together threads to create improved, multi-method outputs. Alignment on future work can also promote longer-term shifts: from building collective identity and purpose, to elevating the quality and impact of an emergent, cross-team research community. When otherwise disparate researchers make an effort to conceptualize and execute their work in common ways, they are laying cultural foundations for advancing their organization’s learning processes over the long haul.

Improving your insight operations

Get more done with your research community’s insights by:

  • Determining who to include in aligning of research roadmaps
    Find out which sources of insights your organizations’ product people are actually using to make their decisions, regardless of discipline (e.g. Research Science, Analytics, UX research, Market research, Customer Success, other People Who Do Research (PWDR), etc.). Connect with these insight generators about the opportunity to align upcoming streams of work. Find out who they want to be in greater collaboration with. In larger organizations, filter by similar customers, analogous domains, or other areas of overlap.
  • Reaching out for any initial roadmap inputs from selected research teams
    Connect with each insight-generating team to see if they can share any information about their upcoming studies. Work to understand reasons behind any gatekeeping of research plans, with the understanding that it’s often because teams don’t have clear visibility into what they’ll be working on past the current quarter.
  • Meeting to concisely share forward-looking research topics and questions
    Gather research teams in a shared (often virtual) space, with the goal of capturing and discussing each teams’ roadmap. Work to keep documentation minimal, in discrete units that can be categorized later across contributing teams’ plans. For each discrete unit, capture the intended and desired stakeholder audience. Avoid team-specific terminology, seeking plain language where possible and ironing out terms across contributors.
  • Synthesizing and communicating out a hybrid research roadmap
    Bring together a subset of researchers to find affinities in the collected topics and questions. Pay special attention to opportunities for growing the audience of important clusters of upcoming research (B1). Tag clusters with suggested collaborations between researchers. Flag any clusters that may be driving redundant data collection across teams. Find ways to share out the resulting cross-team roadmap in a way that primes suggested collaborations and piques stakeholders’ interest in participating (B2). Secure leadership endorsement to follow through on cross-team efforts, which product people will then receive in the form of richer insights with clearer implications.
  • Finding an owner to continue facilitating these connections
    Turn the success of your initial exercise into recurring operations. Identify someone who’s passionate about bringing together different researchers and disciplines, and convince them to own an intentional program that delivers ongoing alignment around future research work. This owner can schedule working sessions on a regular cadence in order to continuously build from previous cross-team roadmaps, updating research systems with the latest hybrid plans, celebrating collaborative wins, and cultivating new norms.
  • Your idea here…

On the path from insight to product impact

Connecting the dots across research teams’ roadmaps is part of research communities gathering sufficient evidence for crucial topics. It’s also related to usefully articulating insights as well as increasing awareness of possible planning targets.

Let’s connect

If you’ve read this far, please don’t be a stranger. I’m curious to hear about your challenges and successes connecting the dots across research teams’ roadmaps in your organization. Thank you!

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Jake Burghardt

Focused on integrating streams of customer-centered research and data analyses into product operations, plans, and designs. www.linkedin.com/in/jakeburghardt