Everyone from junior researchers to seasoned veterans can struggle a bit at first to figure out the best approach to manage their community panel. So you're not alone if you've got pain points! I've had many clients ask questions about process, managing requests from stakeholders, tips for answering information needs, and hours they should expect to spend when running a community panel.
The most successful clients are those that quickly establish processes for running their Community Panels. It's not about creating red tape, it's about creating the right systems that will allow you to efficiently manage your Community Panels and ensure your information needs are met - and still get through the mountain of other work on your desk!
If you recall from my last blog post, answering information needs is one of the balls we need to juggle to ensure success in our community panel.
Here are some of the pain points I've heard many times from clients.
PAIN POINT: I'm not sure what kind of process to establish for project management.
The key is establishing a process similar to what you're used to doing with a larger scale custom project. Although research work on a community panel is meant to be more bite sized and faster than what you're used to doing in custom projects, you still need to go through the same process. You still usually need to get briefed, design the project and get sign off, program and deploy, monitor or moderate in field, run analysis, write a topline or full report, and present your insights. All this just happens in a compressed amount of time - from a couple of days to a couple of weeks from start to finish.
PAIN POINT: I'm overwhelmed with requests from my stakeholders.
Being overwhelmed is better than underwhelmed because it means you've done a great job being an internal ambassador! If this is the case, then set up a process whereby you only run the project if you get a completed brief from your stakeholder. This may seem heavy handed at first, but it should only take them 5 minutes to get the gist of their needs down on paper. Plus, if your stakeholders give you a vague briefing on their information needs it's almost impossible to deliver an answer to them unless you're a mind reader. Having them fill in a briefing doc online, during a meeting, or sending it to you via email can make everyone's jobs so much easier. It reduces time and means you'll be able to deliver great insights back to them because you've got such a good handle on the decisions they need to make.
PAIN POINT: We don't have enough projects to keep members engaged.
This is a much worse situation than being overwhelmed with requests because it could mean your community panel is at risk. It's up to you to be an ambassador internally - you need to sell the idea of the community panel, showcase what your stakeholders can do with it, brainstorm information needs, build out a flexible calendar, prioritize new requests as they come in, and showcase insights regularly to your stakeholders. We recommend showcasing and planning at least semi-annually.
PAIN POINT: Requests are on the fly and it's hard to juggle with my other responsibilities.
Although some clients we talk to think having a plan and process is too much red tape, these things do help keep you sane in your day-to-day fast paced environment. Documenting a plan and a flexible research calendar will set you up for success. The calendar should be nimble enough for you to easily re-prioritize projects. If you know how many projects you can handle at once but are getting more requests than you can handle, you then have ammunition to hopefully get more resources assigned.
Setting up a process and plan to manage your information needs is critical to success.
Do you have more pain points? I've put together a Best Practice Brief on specific tips for answering your information needs with your Community Panel and establishing a process. It includes questions to help you figure out the best plan for you. Check it out here.