How to know if you need a dedicated Research Ops hire, and how to pitch the role to your organisation

Kim Porter
Published in
7 min readDec 2, 2020


Maybe you’ve heard of Research Ops, or maybe you haven’t. Perhaps you’re a Research Manager looking to grow your team, or a Researcher juggling ops work with your day-to-day.

Read on to see if it’s time for a dedicated Research Ops hire, learn how that role may fit into your team, and get tips on making a strong case for the role.

Three people sat at a table are building something with Lego bricks
Photo by Bonneval Sebastien on Unsplash

How to know if you need a dedicated Research Operations hire

Check out the following scenarios. Do any sound familiar?

You can’t always interview the best people.
You make every effort to find the right participants for your projects. But in very short timeframes, when the infrastructure or budget isn’t there, less ideal candidates can be involved. You want to improve your recruitment systems but don’t have time to take it on.

You lose time on negotiation with suppliers
Right before your project starts, you see there aren’t enough licences for the tool you planned to use. Onboarding a new tool can take months, so you call up your existing supplier and start negotiations. You get it sorted, but wish this could have been foreseen.

Coaching requests overtake your research time
Your Research function has matured, and you can start to teach your squads how to do their own research. While this is an incredible achievement, you’re now regularly interrupted with questions and requests for help. You’d love someone to take this extra responsibility off your plate.

If these sound familiar, there’s a chance Research Ops can help you. In the following section, we guide you through what to consider when thinking about how a Research Ops hire could fit in your organisation.

How a dedicated Research Operations hire could fit into your organisation

The shape and scope of a Research Ops role will vary from place to place, though most roles will touch on some core areas. For an overview, check out the ReOps+ community’s Skills Framework. There’s flexibility in the broadness, so you can tailor the role to your specific needs.

Here are a couple of different models Research Ops tends to adopt: generalist and specialist. Hearing about the distinction between the two may help you think about the direction you could take your hire.

The generalist model
In this model, the first hire looks at the research lifecycle as a whole. They will tackle many areas by themselves, usually through a mix of tactical and strategic work.
Once the generalist completes the groundwork, new ways of working emerge that need to be maintained. For example, these hires may build foundations for a research library, that a future specialist team member would run and further optimise.

The specialist model
In this model, the first hire will go deep in one area, from governance and training, to third-party tools, or sharing research insights. One of the most common starting points is participant recruitment. The hire may improve the overall processes and tools in place, and run participant management to remove this responsibility from the researchers. As the whole team grows, they may need more people to help manage recruitment demand.

Research Operations people are innovators
Your hire should take full ownership of the problem when you create a Research Ops role. Ops people rethink solutions to issues rather than continue to manage the situation as is. With this in mind, you may be wondering what experience and skills an ideal Research Ops hire should have. Luckily, Kate Towsey’s article How to hire for ResearchOps has all the information you’ll need to get started.

How to make a case for your hire

If you’ve decided to make a dedicated Ops hire, now you have to make a strong case to convince others it’s needed. Here are tips on socialising your need, what to include in your case, and some pointers to guide your headcount negotiation.

Socialise your need for dedicated Research Operations
Look for opportunities to socialise your need for an Ops hire within your organisation. Repetition is an effective way to learn, so don’t be afraid to speak about it too much! Let your manager know every time you meet for 1:1s, or add this topic to a recurring meeting with headcount decision-makers.
Whenever you or your team demos Ops work you’ve completed without the help of a dedicated hire, pause to discuss the trade-offs you had to make to get it done.
As well as speaking about trade-offs, constant public thanks for what your team is delivering can be effective. Call out your current people in Research doing Ops projects every chance you get! Highlight your successes to get the funding you need.

Use the real problems you’re facing as the base for your pitch
If you plan to write a proposal, you’ll want to open with an attention-grabbing tagline for Research Ops like:

Whether you want to do new user research, or leverage existing research, Research Operations makes it simple, fast, and effective.

After you open your proposal with a brief headline, present your organisation’s current problems and how Research Ops may approach and solve them. Remember the scenarios we laid out in the first part of the article? Here’s how three different Ops teams have tackled those challenges:

  • You can’t always interview the best people
    In her article Scaling User Research Operations Infrastructure with Salesforce, Noel Lamb discusses how her team learned more about their participant panel to always send the right people to sessions. She also tackles the important subject of how to keep your panel up-to-date, which can be a challenge when it’s full of self-reported data: ‘If you manage a system, you need to keep data cleanliness in mind […] we adopted a concept called Automatic Profile Refresh […] No response triggers another email […] if that one’s ignored, the participant is unsubscribed.
  • You lose time on negotiation with suppliers
    In her post Reimagining Research During COVID-19, Traci Mehlman shows us how the Ops team at Facebook responded quickly to a remote-first format to make studies safer and inclusive. Thanks to the team’s hard work, they already had access to enough licences to keep working through lockdown. Her team also ensured that researchers were ready to use the tools by ‘compiling and sharing best practices, expanding our tooling support, and facilitating virtual training.’
  • Coaching requests overtake your research time
    In his recent article Scaling Research at Dropbox, Christopher Nash illustrates a three-pronged approach for responsible, democratised research. One solution was to create an internal consultant who works directly with new researchers, guiding them through the stages of their first projects: ‘I also do a lot of one-on-one consulting with partners who are conducting their own research. ‘Every project is a bit of a snowflake, with unique questions, personalities, levels of experience, timelines, and political pressures. A knowledge base of resources is great, but it can’t address every nuance and subtlety.’

Create urgency and say why the hire is important
Now that you’ve presented how Research Ops could transform some of the operational issues you’re facing, it’s time to create some urgency. Why does it matter to fix these problems now? Here are some examples that may apply:

  • Research Ops will help products ship on time
    Research Ops makes sure there are enough of the right tools available for all your people who do research. Ops hires are there to foresee situations where shortages could arise, and mitigate them before they become disruptive.
  • Ops will help you work safely
    Collecting Personally Identifiable Information (PII) without privacy policies may lead to making mistakes that could result in fines or reputational damage, and risk to the safety of the participants in your studies. Ops partners with Privacy and Legal teams to ensure there’ll be no breach of regulation.
  • Research Operations will save you money
    Investing in someone to build your research tech stack in a scalable way will save you thousands in outsourcing fees, as well as hours of Researcher time, thanks to the tools being easy to use.

How to negotiate your hire
You’ve shown the urgency of filling your Ops position right away. Now, you need to get the ball rolling in negotiations by highlighting the salary you want, and what returns you expect to gain on the expenditure.

  • What is a fair Ops salary?
    Salaries depend largely on your workplace. Considering much of the Research Ops skillset is based on Service Design, it’d be worth looking at what your organisation pays for similar roles. If you don’t have Service Design roles, look at Technical Program Managers, Business Analysts, and DesignOps. Ask for a Research Ops salary comparable to these more well-established disciplines.
  • What level should you bring your hire in on?
    Whether generalist or specialist, your first Ops hire will need to be mid-to-high senior, as they’ll need a lot of resilience, autonomy, and big picture thinking. You can work down the scale slightly if you think the role’s scope is a bit smaller. Typically, maintaining a service rather than innovating would be paid a little less.
  • The return on investment of your hire
    Think about the following questions, and add the answers to your case:
    1. If one of your Research team has been working on Ops, what is the per hour cost of their salary gone into this work?
    2. How many hours in a day, or week, is that person spending away from their core job on tasks an Ops person could be doing?
    3. Find out what the total monetary amount that time spent adds up to.
    4. What is the value-add that a Research Ops hire could offer your team? For example, would work on getting research in front of a broader audience bring more value to your team than you’re currently able to get without them?

Thanks for spending some time reading our article. Hopefully, you’ve now learned whether you need a dedicated Research Ops hire, how that role may fit into your team, and crucially, we hope you have the confidence and discussion points to start conversations around why a Research Ops hire is necessary.

If you want to chat more about any of what we’ve shared, feel free to connect with us on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Kasey, UX Research Operations
Guppy, Research Operations Manager
And Kim, Research Operations Manager



Kim Porter

Research Operations at Skyscanner, previously at Monzo & BT. They / them. @kimlouiseporter on Twitter.