Leverage existing data
All companies regularly collect a lot of data. Usage analytics, support conversations, direct feedback, user interviews and more.
When starting a research on a new initiative, it would be a mistake to jump to generating more data straight away (e.g. by interviewing more users). You risk collecting the same data again without even knowing.
There's a very good chance that your company's existing data either a) contain answers to some of your questions, or b) provide you with a head start so that you can dig deeper in the rest of your research.
Secondary research is about reviewing the existing data and synthesising insights from them instead of gathering new data. And you don't have to stop with your company's data – there are many published studies that might be relevant to the problem you're solving.
Learn from other product teams
Depending on the size of your organisation, many teams might be doing some form of research at the same time. While each team is likely to focus on a different area, there's often some level of overlap.
This is why maintaining transparency and sharing each team's discovery work is important. Any other team can tap into what other teams are doing and learning at any given time.
Even if other teams aren't actively sharing, it's a good idea to quickly check in with them about what they've learned lately. Do this especially with teams working on an area/problem adjacent to yours.
Talk to your customer-facing colleagues
Sharing shouldn't happen just on the level of product teams, though. Folks from customer success, sales and support talk to customers daily and have a ton of knowledge about their problems.
In strong product organisations, customer-facing roles will regularly share what they hear with the rest of the company. For example, this can take the form of a "voice of the customer" segment during an all-hands meeting.
But when you start a new initiative, it's definitely a good idea to go to these teams and ask what they already know about the problem you're trying to solve. There's a good chance they carry a lot of knowledge about it already.
The beauty of this is that you can quickly get already synthesised insights based on many individual customer conversations. This can save you a ton of time and you can instead focus on digging deeper based on what you learn internally first.
Always start with goals and research questions
The key in making any of this work is knowing what to look for. Establishing clear research goals (i.e. what do we need to learn) in the beginning will give you clarity and point you to the right sources.
For example, if you're solving a problem for enterprise customers, talk to their customer success managers. Looking to improve an existing feature? Dig for feedback lying in support conversation and check the usage data.
In any case, it's best to come up with very specific research questions you're trying to answer. That will make it easier to find answers in existing data.
Making your research more efficient
The main theme in making user research more efficient is avoiding collecting duplicate data. This can be done by:
- Leveraging existing data
- Learning from other product teams
- Talking to customer-facing colleagues
- Starting with goals and research questions
What are some other ways that you have used to bring more efficiency in your research? Let me know.