This year I have had the pleasure of: chairing lots of sessions with research users and insight managers, facilitating client panels, and speaking to client-side organisations. One of the key messages I am hearing is that there is a speed mismatch between researchers and users. Too often, clients are telling me, senior managers make decisions without the benefit of market research because they believe the research will not be able to help them quickly enough. This is partly a problem of perception, but also one of reality.
We are all aware of the cost pressures in market research, we know that clients are looking for more insight, but researchers seem to be slower at hearing the message about speed. If a decision needs to be made on Thursday, then any evidence or advice before Thursday is potentially helpful, but anything that arrives on Friday runs the risk of being useless.
A researcher's mind-set is often focused on finding the best method for solving a specific problem. However, 'best' is often taken as meaning accuracy or validity. A perfect solution that is too expensive is not a solution. Similarly, a perfect solution that is too slow is not a solution.
One of the key threats to market research is emergence of non-research companies selling advice or information based on social media listening, business analytics, and crowdsourcing. These vendors typically focus on what can be done inside the budget by the specified date. By comparison, researchers often start by asking "Amongst the valid solutions, which comes closest to the budget or timeframe?"
All over the world, and throughout history, clients have wanted things better, cheaper, and faster. In today's market 'better' mostly means with more actionable recommendations, cheaper means cheaper, but faster is often ignored. I think that over the next 18 months we will see more and more attention paid to speed, which will, sometimes, mean compromising quality, 80% right, on time is often better than 'right but late'.