Research process outsourcing is something you may not have considered before. And let’s be honest - using in-house teams to devise and execute your innovation strategy is still very much the norm. So it’s natural that you’d have some questions about embracing external support, and it’s important to ask these questions to ensure you know what research process outsourcing for your company's innovations is really all about. Here are some common questions:
That’s something only you can decide! Start by looking at your existing team - including their processes, their motivation, and their ability to step out of their comfort zone. Determine whether they have what it takes to deviate from their established ways of working to not only adapt to new processes but actually create these processes, too. If you feel your team lacks knowledge or execution power, external support can help.
The type of support that’s available will vary between providers, so this is an important question to ask. Some providers will work with independent problem solvers from a variety of areas, and will be able to directly provide specialists from a range of sectors such as operations, IT & engineering, marketing & design, innovation & sustainability, HR, sales, finance, and so on. Others may rely on co-providers to fill in any gaps in niches.
Once again, this will depend on the provider you choose. Some providers, particularly larger organisations, will pride themselves on taking over the research process to free up your internal resources for day-to-day production. Others will encourage input from the business to ensure any innovations are aligning closely with the needs of the organisation. What’s best depends on how much you want to influence the focus.
The efficiency of the provider will play a big role in how long it takes to see results from research process outsourcing. Consultancies, for example, often have a lot of initial formalities and boxes to tick that can mean it takes a little while for the consultant to dive into the challenge. More informal providers allow people to jump straight in and hit the ground running. With these options, results should ideally be seen within 2 weeks.
There are usually two pricing models external providers will take, and this will impact how much it costs to generate results from the innovation process. The first is the most common: hourly billing. This means you pay for a consultant’s time by the hour, regardless of what’s produced. The second is more unusual: output-driven pricing. This means you pay a fixed price for a result, no matter how long it takes. This model can often work out more cost effective.
The cost and delivery power of the provider will determine how much you get out of your investment in business innovation. Ideally, you should be looking to balance a low cost service with high quality, guaranteed deliverables… something that’s not always easy. It’s often said that ‘you get what you pay for’, but with the growing accessibility of output-driven pricing models, it’s becoming easier to minimise costs without compromising on results across many different types of innovation project.
Traditionally, consultants will come on-site with a business to assist with the research process. More recently, there’s been a shift to ‘desk research’ that allows people to collaborate with and support organisations digitally, without the need to provide space for them to work. This method is growing in popularity as it enables organisations to expand the talent pool and base their decisions on skill rather than geography.
With large consultancies, security in the delivery usually comes from reputation; from how established the company is in the field. However, this usually reflects the organisation itself, rather than individual consultants, which makes it trickier to determine what sort of quality you’ll get. It’s easier with research process outsourcing ‘marketplaces’ which often allow for individual problem solvers to be rated.
Asking these questions - both to yourself and to your shortlist of external providers - will help you to determine what sort of solution is right for you and your business. However, the due diligence doesn’t end there. Once you’ve made your decision, it’s important to make sure you’re properly building your case, agreeing on a solid plan and desired outcome to maximise the chance of seeing the type of results you want to achieve.
It might seem like there are a lot of options out there, and a lot that goes into selecting the right solution. But it pays to get it right. Investing in the wrong solution can not only drain your innovation budget, but also slow down the innovation process, making it difficult to adapt to the changing landscape and keep up with your competitors. Putting the effort in to get it right the first time is one of the keys to innovation success.