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How to build a research repository: a step-by-step guide to getting started
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How to build a research repository: a step-by-step guide to getting started

Research repositories have the potential to be incredibly powerful assets for any research-driven organisation. But when it comes to building one, it can be difficult to know where to start. In this post, we provide some practical tips to define a clear vision and strategy for your repository.

Nick Russell
June 16, 2023

Done right, research repositories have the potential to be incredibly powerful assets for any research-driven organisation. But when it comes to building one, it can be difficult to know where to start.

As a result, we see tons of teams jumping in without clearly defining upfront what they actually hope to achieve with the repository, and ending up disappointed when it doesn't deliver the results.

Aside from being frustrating and demoralising for everyone involved, building an unused repository is a waste of money, time, and opportunity.

So how can you avoid this?

In this post, we provide some practical tips to define a clear vision and strategy for your repository in order to help you maximise your chances of success.

🚀 This post is also available as a free, interactive Miro template that you can use to work through each exercise outlined below - available for download here.

Defining the end goal for your repository

To start, you need to define your vision.

Only by setting a clear vision, can you start to map out the road towards realising it.

Your vision provides something you can hold yourself accountable to - acting as a north star. As you move forward with the development and roll out of your repository, this will help guide you through important decisions like what tool to use, and who to engage with along the way.

The reality is that building a research repository should be approached like any other product - aiming for progress, over perfection with each iteration of the solution.

Starting with a very simple question like "what do we hope to accomplish with our research repository within the first 12 months?" is a great starting point.

You need to be clear on the problems that you’re looking to solve - and the desired outcomes from building your repository - before deciding on the best approach.

Building a repository is an investment, so it’s important to consider not just what you want to achieve in the next few weeks or months, but also in the longer term to ensure your repository is scalable.

Whatever the ultimate goal (or goals), capturing the answer to this question will help you to focus on outcomes over output.

🔎 How to do this in practice…

1. Complete some upfront discovery

In a previous post we discussed how to conduct some upfront discovery to help with understanding today’s biggest challenges when it comes to accessing and leveraging research insights.

⏰ You should aim to complete your upfront discovery within a couple of hours, spending 20-30 mins interviewing each stakeholder (we recommend talking with at least 5 people, both researchers and non-researchers).

2. Prioritise the problems you want to solve

Start by spending some time reviewing the current challenges your team and organisation are facing when it comes to leveraging research and insights.

You can run a simple affinity mapping exercise to highlight the common themes from your discovery and prioritise the top 1-3 problems that you’d like to solve using your repository.

An example of the output from an affinity mapping exercise.

💡 Example challenges might include:

Struggling to understand what research has already been conducted to-date, leading to teams repeating previous research
Looking for better ways to capture and analyse raw data e.g. user interviews
Spending lots of time packaging up research findings for wider stakeholders
Drowning in research reports and artefacts, and in need of a better way to access and leverage existing insights
Lacking engagement in research from key decision makers across the organisation

⏰ You should aim to confirm what you want to focus on solving with your repository within 45-60 mins (based on a group of up to 6 people).

3. Consider what future success looks like

Next you want to take some time to think about what success looks like one year from now, casting your mind to the future and capturing what you’d like to achieve with your repository in this time.

A helpful exercise is to imagine the headline quotes for an internal company-wide newsletter talking about the impact that your new research repository has had across the business.

The ‘Jobs to be done’ framework provides a helpful way to format the outputs for this activity, helping you to empathise with what the end users of your repository might expect to experience by way of outcomes.

Using ‘Jobs to be done’ as a framework to help you consider the end users for your repository and their needs.

💡 Example headlines might include:

“When starting a new research project, people are clear on the research that’s already been conducted, so that we’re not repeating previous research” Research Manager
“During a study, we’re able to quickly identify and share the key insights from our user interviews to help increase confidence around what our customers are currently struggling with” Researcher
“Our designers are able to leverage key insights when designing the solution for a new user journey or product feature, helping us to derisk our most critical design decisions” Product Design Director
“Our product roadmap is driven by customer insights, and building new features based on opinion is now a thing of the past” Head of Product
“We’ve been able to use the key research findings from our research team to help us better articulate the benefits of our product and increase the number of new deals” Sales Lead
“Our research is being referenced regularly by C-level leadership at our quarterly townhall meetings, which has helped to raise the profile of our team and the research we’re conducting” Head of Research

Ask yourself what these headlines might read and add these to the front page of a newspaper image.

An example future news bulletin from running this exercise.

You then want to discuss each of these headlines across the group and fold these into a concise vision statement for your research repository - something memorable and inspirational that you can work towards achieving.

💡Example vision statements:

‘Our research repository makes it easy for anyone at our company to access the key learnings from our research, so that key decisions across the organisation are driven by insight’
‘Our research repository acts as a single source of truth for all of our research findings, so that we’re able to query all of our existing insights from one central place’
‘Our research repository helps researchers to analyse and synthesise the data captured from user interviews, so that we’re able to accelerate the discovery of actionable insights’
‘Our research repository is used to drive collaborative research across researchers and teams, helping to eliminate data silos, foster innovation and advance knowledge across disciplines’
‘Our research repository empowers people to make a meaningful impact with their research by providing a platform that enables the translation of research findings into remarkable products for our customers’

⏰ You should aim to agree the vision for your repository within 45-60 mins (based on a group of up to 6 people).

Creating a plan to realise your vision

Having a vision alone isn't going to make your repository a success. You also need to establish a set of short-term objectives, which you can use to plan a series of activities to help you make progress towards this.

Focus your thinking around the more immediate future, and what you want to achieve within the first 3 months of building your repository.

Alongside the short-term objectives you’re going to work towards, it’s also important to consider how you’ll measure your progress, so that you can understand what’s working well, and what might require further attention. 

Agreeing a set of success metrics is key to holding yourself accountable to making a positive impact with each new iteration. This also helps you to demonstrate progress to others from as early on in the process as possible.

🔎 How to do this in practice…

1. Establish 1-3 short term objectives

Take your vision statement and consider the first 1-3 results that you want to achieve within the first 3 months of working towards this.

These objectives need to be realistic and achievable given the 3 month timeframe, so that you’re able to build some momentum and set yourself up for success from the very start of the process.

💡Example objectives:

Improve how insights are defined and captured by the research team
Revisit our existing research to identify what data we want to add to our new research repository
Improve how our research findings are organised, considering how our repository might be utilised by researchers and wider teams
Initial group of champions bought-in and actively using our research repository
Improve the level of engagement with our research from wider teams and stakeholders

Capture your 3 month objectives underneath your vision, leaving space to consider the activities that you need to complete in order to realise each of these.

An example vision statement with 3 month objectives.

2. Identify how to achieve each objective

Each activity that you commit to should be something that an individual or small group of people can comfortably achieve within the first 3 months of building your repository.

Come up with some ideas for each objective and then prioritise completing the activities that will result in the biggest impact, with the least effort first.

💡Example activities:

Agree a definition for strategic and tactical insights to help with identifying the previous data that we want to add to our new research repository
Revisit the past 6 months of research and capture the data we want to add to our repository as an initial body of knowledge
Create the first draft taxonomy for our research repository, testing this with a small group of wider stakeholders
Launch the repository with an initial body of knowledge to a group of wider repository champions
Start distributing a regular round up of key insights stored in the repository

You can add your activities to a simple kanban board, ordering your ‘To do’ column with the most impactful tasks up top, and using this to track your progress and make visible who’s working on which tasks throughout the initial build of your repository.

An example kanban board for the initial build and roll out of a research repository.

This is something you can come back to a revisit as you move throughout the wider roll out of your repository - adding any new activities into the board and moving these through to ‘Done’ as they’re completed.

⚠️ At this stage it’s also important to call out any risks or dependencies that could derail your progress towards completing each activity, such as capacity, or requiring support from other individuals or teams.

3. Agree how you’ll measure success

Lastly, you’ll need a way to measure success as you work on the activities you’ve associated with each of your short term objectives.

We recommend choosing 1-3 metrics that you can measure and track as you move forward with everything, considering ways to capture and review the data for each of these.

⚠️ Instead of thinking of these metrics as targets, we recommend using them to measure your progress - helping you to identify any activities that aren’t going so well and might require further attention.

💡Example success metrics:

Usage metrics - Number of insights captured, Active users of the repository, Number of searches performed, Number of insights viewed and shared
User feedback - Usability feedback for your repository, User satisfaction (CSAT), NPS aka how likely someone is to recommend using your repository
Research impact - Number of stakeholder requests for research, Time spent responding to requests, Level of confidence, Repeatable value of research, Amount of duplicated research, Time spent onboarding new joiners
Wider impact - Mentions of your research (and repository) internally, Links to your research findings from other initiatives e.g. discovery projects, product roadmaps, Customers praising solutions that were fuelled by your research

Think about how often you want to capture and communicate this information to the rest of the team, to help motivate everyone to keep making progress.

By establishing key metrics, you can track your progress and determine whether your repository is achieving its intended goals.

⏰ You should aim to create a measurable action plan for your repository within 60-90 mins (based on a group of up to 6 people).

🚀 Why not use our free, downloadable Miro template to start putting all of this into action today - available for download here.

To summarise

As with the development of any product, the cost of investing time upfront to ensure you’re building the right thing for your end users, is far lower than the cost of building the wrong thing - repositories are no different!

A well-executed research repository can be an extremely valuable asset for your organisation, but building one requires consideration and planning - and defining a clear vision and strategy upfront will help to maximise your chances of success.

It’s important to not feel pressured to nail every objective that you set in the first few weeks or months. Like any product, the further you progress, the more your strategy will evolve and shift. The most important thing is getting started with the right foundations in place, and starting to drive some real impact.

We hope this practical guide will help you to get started on building an effective research repository for your organisation. Thanks and happy researching!

Work with our team of experts

At Dualo we help teams to define a clear vision and strategy for their research repository as part of the ‘Discover, plan and set goals’ module facilitated by our Dualo Academy team. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how we work with teams, book a short call with us to discuss how we can support you with the development of your research repository and knowledge management process.

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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