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How to approach upfront discovery for your insights hub
Maximising existing research

How to approach upfront discovery for your insights hub

In this second post of our ‘Maximising existing research: 0-1’ blog series we talk about what upfront discovery is, and why it’s so important when embarking on the build of a new insights hub. We also share the typical questions that you might want to ask yourself and others as part of your initial discovery phase.

Nick Russell
July 27, 2022


So you’ve decided to embark on building a research insights hub for your existing research. You no doubt will have already sold your team on the idea and talked them through the benefits of building one. Now it’s time to jump in and start building it.

Or is it...?

We’ve seen lots of teams make the costly mistake of diving into building out their new insights hub without doing any upfront discovery work to explore the best approach. More often than not this results in teams building an unscalable repository that never really ends up scaling to a wider roll-out.

This article talks about: 

  • What discovery is (and why it’s so important)
  • How to approach upfront discovery work; and 
  • The typical questions you might want to ask yourself and others.

It’s amazing how quickly best practice research processes go out of the window when it comes to researchers researching themselves!

It’s amazing how quickly best practice research processes go out the window when it comes to researchers researching themselves. It’s easy to forget the best practices that have been drilled into us as researchers, when we are in fact the end users. So even if you’re experienced in the discovery process, we encourage you to read on and consider how this applies to the design, build, and launch of an insights hub.

What is discovery?

When we talk about ‘discovery’ we’re referring to product discovery, as defined by Maze:

“Product discovery is a crucial stage of product design and development. The process allows designers and researchers to gain deep insight into their target audience and wholly understand their problems and perspectives—and in turn, design the best product to help.”

Whether you’re using a dedicated insights hub tool like Dualo, or another broader tool, this is a solution that will require some important decisions to be made about what to build, what insights you want to manage, and who to involve along the way.

Why is discovery so important?

The first step in building any insights hub should be to discover, plan and set goals. The three main objectives for this phase being:

  • Alignment - what do you want to achieve with your new insights hub?
  • Ownership - who’s going to work on making it a success?
  • Enablement - gaining the authority and protection required to succeed

We’ll come onto setting goals and planning in a future post, focusing today on how to discover the needs of the users for your new insights hub.

Building an insights hub is a team sport. So you’re going to want to identify some individuals within your organisation that can help you on your way.

Even if you’re the only researcher at your company, you’re going to want to understand the needs of the research stakeholders who will be engaging with the insights that you’re going to be consolidating, discovering, and distributing using your insights hub.

If this is you, then consider taking yourself through the upfront discovery process outlined in this article and then running your upfront discovery with others at your organisation who may be conducting research in more of a part time capacity - talking to the Product Designers, Data Scientists, and Product Managers you’re closest to is a good starting point for this.

The goal for your upfront discovery is to work out the biggest challenges surrounding the management of research insights at your company today. That way you can focus your efforts and maximise the impact of your insights hub from day one.

It’s important to start this process by considering who will be primarily ‘contributing’ insights to your new solution, as well as those who will act more as ‘consumers’. However, as a first step we recommend focusing your efforts on speaking with the people who might be involved in building out your initial body of knowledge, which are most likely to be those who are already gathering research insights at your company.

We’ll work through how to capture and fold the needs of people who are primarily consuming insight as we progress through the later design and build stages, and dive deeper into when and how to approach this most effectively in a later post.

Emily’s talk image (Photo credit: Casey Gollan)

“Start with understanding users and their needs before running off and building a repository that nobody uses,” Emily DiLeo, Sr. Design Research Specialist at SAP

Emily Dileo highlighted the importance of upfront discovery when building any research repository at her brilliant talk at the inaugural ReOps Conference in June. To quote Emily “start with understanding users and their needs before running off and building a repository that nobody uses.” Wise words indeed.

This can be done in the form of conducting interviews, a diary study, or a survey to explore the needs and aspirations of the initial group of people who will end up contributing to and consuming insights from your insights hub. Whatever the research method you choose… skip this step at your peril! 

How to approach your upfront discovery

Grab yourself a very large coffee, or a series of smaller ones, it’s time to get talking to the people who are most heavily involved in research today at your organisation.

If your company is on the larger side (with multiple product teams), you’re likely going to want to choose a specific team, product, or project to focus your early efforts on. We typically aim to choose roughly five people to involve at the very start of the process. This will help you focus on building a success story in the shortest amount of time possible, something that can then be communicated out to wider teams to help encourage further adoption.

If you have five User Researchers, great - there’s your starting team. If you have the luxury of a Research Operations specialist on your team, make sure to involve them too. And if you have less than five full time researchers at your organisation, you might consider involving some Product Designers, Data Scientists or Product Managers.

Ultimately, you’re aiming to start building a deeper understanding of 1) how insights are managed today, 2) who’s involved in this and how often, and 3) who you might want to involve as a champion for your insights hub (more on this in our next post in the series).

Questions to ask yourself and others

Here’s a short set of questions that you can use to drive your discovery. 

  1. “How do you currently approach the capturing and sharing of research insights in your role?”

Start with an open question. It will allow you to understand the process that this person follows and where this might be causing them pain. If you’re speaking with someone who might be regarded as more of a ‘consumer’ of insights e.g. a Product Manager, you might want to probe more into how they typically approach searching for insights and how they apply insights to their decision making process.

  1. “What are your biggest challenges today surrounding insights?”

This next question dives explicitly into the biggest pain points that someone is experiencing today. This allows you to clearly identify the challenges that need to be overcome in order for your insights hub to be a success.

  1. “How are you currently trying to overcome these challenges? Are you working on this with anyone else?”

Understanding how people are trying to solve today’s problems, and if they’re working with others to do this, will help you to start scoping the breadth of the issue at hand. It will also help you to identify who else you might want to involve in the design, build and launch of your insights hub.

  1. “What tools are you using for this today? What works well / what doesn’t?”

Ask about the tools people are using today to help them manage insights. Knowing what’s worked well for them and what hasn’t will allow you to start thinking about the requirements for your new insights hub. This way you can start considering the best solution for the build.

  1. “What are your ultimate goals in this area, and when do you plan to hit these? Is there anything stopping you from realising this?”

Another area you want to explore at this stage is their current goals. What does success look like for them, and is there anything that’s blocking them from realising this?

At this point you’re going to want to make a decision as to whether the person you’re speaking with is struggling with the right problems. That way you can understand which researchers will benefit the most from your insights hub. Some telltale symptoms include:

  • It takes a lot of time to package up and share the key findings from research
  • There’s a lack of consistency in how research findings are summarised
  • Researchers are overwhelmed by stakeholder requests for research findings
  • Research findings are scattered across tools and teams
  • Research is being repeated by different researchers and teams
  • Stakeholders aren't engaged with research findings

If the person you’re speaking with is experiencing any of these, this is the moment to briefly introduce your initiative, and ask if they’d like to be involved as the project moves forward.

Although someone may not be an ideal candidate for your insights hub today, they may very well become an ideal user of your insights hub later on - either as a ‘contributor’ or a ‘consumer’ of insight. Consider keeping a note of this person’s details in your records so that you can re-engage with them further down the road as you develop something that might be of more value to them.

The questions we encourage teams to ask upfront to understand the user needs for their new insights hub

The next step for the build of your insights hub will be to bring together your findings from this upfront discovery work, prioritise the challenges and goals, and use this to create an actionable roll out plan. You can learn how to do this by reading our guide to getting started on the build of a research repository.


Discovery is the first crucial step in designing, building and launching an insights hub to improve how existing research is managed across your organisation.

It allows you to better understand the process that people currently follow to manage insights, highlighting their biggest pain points and how they’re thinking about solving this today.

By developing a deeper understanding of the user needs for your new insights hub, you can also start to identify who might help you build one.

Speaking with the people who will be most involved in the adoption of your insights hub, from the very beginning of your journey, will help you to ensure that building one is worthwhile. It will also help you to establish buy-in for the solution throughout each step of the roll out process.

It’s well worth putting the time in to approach this properly upfront in order to maximise your chances of success. This will enable you to build a well designed repository that’s useful for your wider organisation, and launch a solution that stands the best chance of growing and evolving in line with your research efforts.

All the best with your upfront discovery and, as always - happy researching!

Further reading and watching

The benefits of building a dedicated insights hub

The product discovery process: A step-by-step guide

The tools being used today to build cross-team insight repositories

What is user research excellence and is it achievable by any team?


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Nick Russell

I'm one of the Co-Founders of Dualo, passionate about research, design, product, and AI. Always open to chatting with others about these topics.

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