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Building a research repository? Avoid these common pitfalls
Maximising existing research

Building a research repository? Avoid these common pitfalls

Congratulations, you're embarking on a journey to build and launch a research repository – a powerful asset capable of elevating your insights, your team, and your entire organisation to new heights. But hold tight, there are plenty of pitfalls that can lead to underwhelming impact and wasted efforts.

Dan Robins
November 9, 2023
With experience in supporting and building hundreds of repositories over the years (for teams such as Mozilla, Flo Health, and Zoopla to name but a few), we've honed our expertise. It's not a result of having a magical superpower, but rather a testament to the understanding we’ve developed from undertaking so many of these projects. 

Over time, we've witnessed many teams encountering similar pitfalls, and in this post, we'll delve into some of the most common challenges and offer practical strategies to help ensure your repository build and roll-out is a resounding success.

Think big, start small: A foundational principle

A fundamental rule that often eludes repository builders is the age-old adage: "Think big, start small." The misconception that plagues many is the belief that they must painstakingly transfer every last scrap of their existing research data into their repository before launching. However, we’ve found this is a counterproductive approach. 

We've learned that initially focusing the repository on a specific area of your knowledge base, where you hold a wealth of strategic insights, is a far more valuable use of time. This will ensure that you’re able to start targeting audiences in your organisation that will benefit most from the information you’ve already centralised - whether that’s fellow researchers, wider teammates, or a group of stakeholders. We’ve found that starting with individually onboarding these people and getting valuable feedback is a far more efficient and effective approach than a ‘big bang’ launch to your whole organisation. We encourage our customers to adopt a ‘product mindset’, aiming to ship early and often, improving with each iteration.

Champions: Your path to success

Now, let's talk about a key concept that will play a pivotal role in your repository launch strategy: "research champions." This concept is inspired by the principles outlined in Andrew Chen's book, "The Cold Start Problem." For those unfamiliar, Andrew Chen was instrumental in leading growth product teams at Uber during its early days. In his book, he discusses the concept of the "network effect." Chen argues that creating a small, stable, and engaged network of users can drive organic growth and adoption, ultimately delivering more value over time.

This concept aligns perfectly with our own experiences in building and launching repositories for our customers at Dualo. Remember, the goal is not to launch your repository immediately to the whole organisation. Instead, it's about building a small group of highly engaged research champions. These champions are pivotal because they will be the catalysts for your ongoing success:

1. Discover insights
Your research champions will use your dedicated repository to discover insights that drive crucial decision-making within your organisation.
2. Provide feedback
They will also be your feedback loop, helping you fine-tune and evolve your repository, as well as the onboarding experience – ahead of a wider roll-out.
3. Build momentum
Over time, your champions will help with building momentum, generating further interest, and evangelising your repository across your organisation.

Just remember — Facebook began its journey at a single university campus, and Uber was limited to a single city – building a highly engaged smaller network of active users is more likely to succeed than attempting a huge global launch.

While some of your initial champions will likely be researchers who are actively contributing new research, don't limit yourself to this user group alone. Aim to identify up to 6 ‘early adopters’ from diverse non-researcher roles that can immediately benefit from the insights thoughtfully organised in your repository. Remember, the "think big, start small" approach is key. 

Consider involving a variety of roles; from executive sponsors, product managers, product marketers, designers, and also other teams that heavily rely on insights for their decision-making e.g. your sales or customer success team.

The overarching goal is to foster knowledge sharing and expand the influence of your research and insights, so don't hesitate to approach influential individuals within your organisation. They've earned their influence for a reason and are likely particularly well-positioned to appreciate the value of joining you on this journey with increased exposure to valuable insights.

To identify these champions, a stakeholder mapping exercise can be helpful. This process will help to pinpoint potential champions, laying the foundation for your repository's success.

An example of the output of a stakeholder mapping exercise to identify 'non-researcher' champions for your repository

A winning ‘Go-to-market’ strategy

Once you've assembled your core group of champions and they’re actively using and providing valuable feedback to your repository, now it's time to think about the 'go-to-market' strategy for your repository. The mistake many teams make is sending out a one-size-fits-all email with a link, or making a generic company announcement. But, in our experience, this approach often falls flat.

Your repository needs a well considered 'go-to-market' strategy. Consider your repository no different than any other launch - there’s 100’s of different ways of approaching this, so have fun with it! We’ve dropped a few of our favourite strategies that we've seen work well over the years below:

Engage specific audiences
Rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, target a series of specific groups within your organisation. Tailoring your messaging and approach to their unique needs and the internal channels they’re using.
Create hype
Generating excitement and anticipation is crucial for any successful launch strategy - repositories are no different. Utilise company events and existing collaboration tools like Slack to communicate teasers, sneak peeks, or even a countdown to build a buzz around your repository.
Exclusivity and scarcity
Think about ways to make your repository feel exclusive such as limited-time early access for certain teams, or exclusive invites your champions can share with individuals to create a sense of exclusivity and drive further interest as you start to roll-out your repository beyond its initial group of users.
Encourage your champions to share their experiences and insights from using your repository with the wider organisation. Their endorsement can be a powerful tool for creating intrigue and fostering wider adoption and engagement.

In the realm of 'go-to-market' strategies, the possibilities are limitless - but it’s important to remember, each organisation is different. The key is to be creative and find the right strategies that resonate with your organisation's culture and values.

Self-service, the next frontier

Once you've successfully engaged your champions and created a buzz around your repository, the next step is to facilitate self-service access. This transition is often fraught with challenges. Manual processes that worked well with a small group of champions might become unwieldy and difficult to manage as your repository’s user base grows.

At this stage, it's essential to think about building a solution capable of frictionless self-service. Dualo's definition of 'self-service' encompasses not just the ability to access insights but also the capacity for individuals to onboard themselves - without the need for extensive training or assistance.

Ease of access, and ease of use

Two critical factors to consider when creating a repository that people will love are ease of access, and ease of use. Your repository should be effortlessly accessible while remaining secure.

Users should be able to navigate and utilise the repository with ease. Remember, a complex system with many use cases will deter non-researchers from actively engaging with the repository - this is a common reason why many repositories built using research analysis tools fail to live up to expectations when it comes to org-wide adoption - because non-researcher users, unfamiliar with research tools, become quickly overwhelmed by the raw data and give up on using this space to explore insights

In our experience, building a dedicated, purpose-built space for your synthesised research findings (aka your insights) dramatically increases your repository's chances of success (it’s ultimately why we decided to build Dualo). Dedicated repositories allow you to focus on one thing – increasing visibility of insights – making it easier for everyone in your organisation to leverage the repository effectively.

Consider following these principles:

Basic onboarding flows
Implement straightforward onboarding processes to help new users get started quickly.
A simple help centre
Provide resources that guide users through common tasks and issues (this can be as simple as a pinned Slack message, a wiki page, or a word document).
Access to support
Offer ways for users to seek assistance, whether it's through a Slack channel, or via a designated support email.

Remember, your repository should be easy to use for everyone, not just researchers. In essence, treat it as a digital product with the same usability principles that you would follow when designing any other product experience

Roles and permissions: Keeping control & reducing maintenance

As your repository grows, so does the need for role and permission management. In the context of a repository, roles and permissions determine who can do what. While it's possible to achieve self-service without these features, it may involve more maintenance and present challenges in keeping control of things like your taxonomy, and content quality.

Here are the three key roles that we’ve found offer enough flexibility, while maintaining control:

View/comment-only users
These users can access and comment on content but have no editing privileges.
Contributor users
These users can contribute new research and insights, and also contribute to the evolution of your taxonomy
Admin users
Administrators have full control over the repository, including user management.

Using a tool that allows you to implement these roles allows you to manage the repository efficiently, ensure data integrity, and maintain security.

Closing thoughts

Building and launching a successful research repository is not about grandeur or haste. It's a process that requires thoughtful planning and careful execution. By thinking big, starting small, engaging champions, and focusing on a seamless user experience, you'll be well on your way to creating a repository that is a valuable asset for your entire organisation. Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination, and with the right strategies in place, your repository can become one of your organisation’s most valuable assets. 

Regardless of the tool(s) you’re using to build your repository, if you’d like to speak to our repository building experts about getting support with any of the above, reach out via hello@dualo.io, or sign up for a free consultation via our website

Happy researching folks!

Dan Robins

I’m a design, UX & strategy lead with a passion for storytelling. Proud member of Dualo’s founding product trio. Always seeking new inspiration.

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