The Dragon Project Process:
Dragon Consulting strives to provide professional and reliable service; an experience that makes the process stress-free from start to finish. And I can see you making that “Oh, puhleeez?” face! So, ok. Yes: you’re going to be parting with a fair chunk of change, and that’s just stressful, since you’re not really so keen to do this research thing anyway. I know that you’re sitting there thinking: Is it really going to help? Is it really going to make a difference? Do I really need this?
Only you can decide…
What I can tell you from years of working in the research industry with big and small clients who felt exactly the way you do, is that they were usually a whole lot more comfortable and confident taking that business decision with a little bit of solid information behind them.
In some cases the information just confirmed what my clients already knew. Their feeling? “Whew! Relief that I know my industry!”
In other cases the information gave some surprising insights and guided them on a new or different path. Their feeling? “Whew! Relief that I didn’t go off and waste effort barking up the wrong tree!”
Either way, I’ve always found that it pays to do a little homework.
We begin with the end in sight. This means gaining a clear understanding of what you really need to know. Collaboration is the preferred mode of operation and, in many cases, a thorough up-front discussion can help you to come to grips with the real issues, so as to pin-point your business’ needs more clearly. This helps to make sure we ask the right questions of the right people so you get accurate and useful info.
Some of the questions we might work together to understand include:
- How does my brand compare with my competitors in terms of awareness and/or usage?
- What do my customers really want?
- How do consumers see my brand vs. my competition?
- How could we improve our offering?
- Is my product priced right?
- How will my new offering be received?
These are just some examples of what you might need to know. Through discussion of your business and your goals we’d establish exactly what you need to know to move your business forward.
Research design is essentially the development of an approach to addressing your business issues and key questions. We formulate research objectives that relate directly to the business questions in focus. Then we can assess options and decide on the most appropriate type of research, the methods for data collection, relevant analyses, and how best to present results so that you can move forward with confidence.
You’ll be thrilled to know that I will NOT be going into all the details about methodologies and data collection/ preparation, or data analysis here. All that detail is in the Nuts & Bolts section of this website so feel free to have a read (if you REALLY have a mile-wide masochistic streak!)
So, back to our process…
Once we’ve had our initial discussion and understand the business needs (and agree on the most important ones to focus on in the current project) I go off and do my mad scientist routine to come up with an appropriate study design that will get you what you need. During this process we’ll be liaising back and forth, because you’ll need to be in on some of the decisions (since they will impact on budget or on outcomes) and so we make sure that the setup is correct from the start to ensure you get what you need.
The research design might include any or all of the following:
- Discussions with management (and/or, where relevant, with industry experts).
- These can be very helpful in establishing the context for the research, as well as providing useful information in and of itself.
- Furthermore, your knowledge of your markets and contexts is valuable, and discussions can provide a wealth of information that can be combined with other data to yield a much more rounded view of a topic or issue.
- It is not always necessary to go out and conduct primary research (i.e. interviews with respondents). Analysis of secondary (existing) data can be very fruitful (and cost-effective!)
- These days there are many sources of existing information that can be usefully mined for value before a decision is taken to conduct primary research.
- For example, clients often have data/ information from previous research efforts that have not been fully explored.
- A qualitative approach works well when you need to gain a deep and rich understanding of a topic.
- It is a way of exploring the lay of the land, the deeper dynamics/ nuances of an area of interest before (or after) trying to nail things down with numbers.
- Quantitative studies are most appropriate when we already know the lay of the land in a particular context or category.
- This approach allows for the quantification of variables so we can extrapolate findings to a wider group/ target and this helps with prioritising decisions and actions.
From the start of a study we keep the business goals in mind. In gaining a clear view of what information is needed and for what purposes, we can formulate an appropriate analysis plan and ensure we ask the right questions, in the right way, from enough of the appropriate respondents. Considerations for analysis are always assessed in the context of what we are trying to achieve for your benefit.
MANAGING THE MIDDLE BITS
So now we have the roadmap of what to do and how to do it, it’s time to actually get out there. This is where I rope in colleagues that I’ve worked with over many years and whom I trust to deliver the goods. The benefit to you is that you get all of our combined (and considerable) experience to ensure smooth project flow and high quality research – without the associated cost of having permanent staff in-house.
Essentially, once the upfront decisions are made (with your input and final approval) the study design has to be put into action. This usually involves a number of teams. For quantitative studies, I have a couple of trusted fieldwork colleagues (the people who actually go out and find the right respondents, interview them, supervise the process, edit the interviews so we’re sure they’re genuine, and so on). If we’re going with a qualitative approach, there’s a network of trusted “quallie” colleagues who handle the recruiting, the venue, the catering, the moderators/ interviewers, the transcribers, and so on and so forth. Whether it’s quant or qual, we call this the data collection phase.
Whatever we’re doing, and whoever is working on your project, there’s a hawk eye keeping track of all the little bits and pieces that are happening, to make sure that they all flow smoothly and we stay on schedule.
Once the data collection is done the interviews get sent off for data processing – to the gurus who take the finished interviews and transform them into electronic format for analysis. Of course, this is assuming we’re doing a face-to-face pen-and-paper study or perhaps a telephonic pen-and-paper approach. If it’s online, or the telephonic interviewers have already captured the interview responses electronically then the process is a little quicker. There will still be data processing (or computing) since the raw data has to be transformed into the numbers for analysis (for quant). Qual works a little differently – there we usually work with verbatim transcriptions of the audio recordings of groups/ interviews and analyze the content that way.
Whichever approach is taken, the quality assurance procedures are built-in to work flow processes. That means you can relax and be assured that the information you get is genuine, accurate, and reliable.
A STRONG FINISH
Once the data’s in electronic format it comes back to Dragon for analysis and interpretation. Sometimes (if there’s a need to do something sophisticated or complex) we’ll also have a statistician on board. Again, only people I’ve worked with and know they do good work. I’m a control freak that way, but hey – a girl’s got to have some hang-ups!
Either before or during the analysis phase the report – or presentation (depending on what you prefer) – will be written and charted up in Word or in PowerPoint (again, whatever format suits your needs best). Once that’s completed and refined, you get either a report that you can read through in your own time, or if you prefer I can come to your offices and present the key points or highlights to your team.
Don’t worry; there are usually no fatalities from death by PowerPoint! The goal is to have everyone awake and participating so the research gets used. So we can do a workshop/ brainstorm session instead of a presentation – whatever is going to help you get the most from the research.
By now I’m sure you get the picture: there’s a lot to get done. That’s why research doesn’t come cheap! It’s also why it doesn’t happen overnight. The point is to get you the kind of information and insights you need in order to make better business decisions. In that way you are in a better position to go from strength to strength.
Dragon caters particularly for smaller businesses (or individuals) who either don’t want or can’t afford to go to the big, corporate research houses. No fancy bells or whistles just simple and straightforward research.