UserZoom recently invited me to speak at one of their webinars, so I shared my ever-evolving talk about the war stories and triumphs I’ve experienced in building Research Operations at Atlassian—along with a specialised team to make it all happen and keep it all happening. To give away the talk’s punchline, the biggest triumph is this: as a team of six, we’re now sustainably and scalably supporting 400+ researchers and Atlassians who do research (Designers, Content Designers, Product Managers, Marketing Managers etc.) in doing more efficient and compliant research on their own.

It must be said, though, that with the…

Library by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Last week, I welcomed someone new onto my Research Ops team at Atlassian. As is often the case, this person knows nothing about user research, instead, what she brings to both Research Ops and the Research & Insights team is valuable knowledge about procurement and finances. We’re already pretty good fiscal citizens, but we’re keen to get even better at it — tracking money and numbers can bring interesting insight and opportunity when you’re working at scale.

It’s not unusual for my team members to arrive with little to no knowledge of research — I hire that way intentionally —…

COVID-19 has changed our lives in significant ways: many of us have been asked to work from home and limit social contact; countless people’s financial lives are in the balance; we’re living in uncertain and anxious times.

For the lucky of us, work continues and, if you’re a researcher, that means research continues too. But unless you work in a digital-by-default organisation, how you do research — how you recruit and communicate with participants, gain informed consent, encourage observers and teammates to get involved, synthesis and analyse, share your research and more — must change too.

Research Ops professionals around…

One of the most common questions I get from research leaders is this: I want to build Research Operations into my team, who should I hire?

The promise of a research practice that is efficient, scalable and impactful is strong, and it’s compelling leaders to invest in this burgeoning space. But there’s little formal ResearchOps training, even less literature, and only a handful of people with ResearchOps (leadership level) experience.

In this context, hiring for ResearchOps can be tricky — if you don’t know how to approach it and you’re not clear on what you’re looking for.

I’m seeing more…

A print I own and which I bought from The DO Lectures.

In March 2018, I started the ResearchOps Community on Slack. At the time, I thought I was just one of a handful of people in the world who cared about helping user researchers focus on research, and organisations make the most of their specialist skills. The Slack community grew lightening fast and it quickly became clear that a lot of researchers cared about this stuff too; we fostered a movement. That ‘blitz vinnig’ growth seems obvious now— of course researchers want to solve their biggest logistical pain points (and ideally give them away). Enter Research Ops.

A number of…

Workshops took place in 34 cities around the world, from Cape Town to Moscow and Tokyo.

Eight months ago a global community of user researchers came together with the intention of shaping the emerging practice of ResearchOps.

Since then, a team of 60 organisers have run 34 workshops around the world to understand researchers’ challenges and triumphs, and their thoughts about what research operations should include. We also ran a survey that received 300+ responses. We nicknamed the effort #WhatisResearchOps. It’s been an initiative that has seen researchers, researching researchers across the world to inform the advancement of research!

We’ve done hours of analysis — much more could be done — and had countless meetings that…

I asked the question and got a great conversation back. Here’s a quick run down of what people thought.

I’m working on developing a research repository for my work place so I’m pondering all the things about making research data findable and useful. One of the things I’m pondering is data ‘freshness’ — apart from data security/hygiene, how long is it useful to keep research data around? And of course, which type of data is useful to keep and which isn’t? I’m also thinking about good research versus not-good research.

I was curious as to whether my smart Twitter friends were thinking about this too. It turns out, they are! and, one question later, a nice Twitter conversation ensued…

Analysis by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Why #WhatisResearchOps?

Around 6 months ago, I started the ResearchOps Community Slack with the aim of validating and defining the nascent practice of ResearchOps. I’ve spent more than half a decade researching researchers, delivering research infrastructure, and hearing from researchers about how they’re battling with the weight of the logistics and operations that sit at the base of their job. As in-house teams grow bigger and research skills become more in demand, this story becomes even more true — growth is a great thing, but it comes at a cost, often to the detriment of researchers both personally and professionally.

(If you’re…

A few weeks ago, I wrote a Medium post about capping the ResearchOps Community Slack to 500 members. After making the announcement, the Community took part in a 👍👎 vote and shared thoughts. In the end, the vote was 44 for vs. 42 against with around 1/7 of the Community (many of its most active members) taking part. A rich conversation followed with comments often including phrases like, “I’m on the fence”. …

In March 2018, I started the ResearchOps Community Slack. After 5 years of specialising in ops for user research, I was under the impression that I was one of just a few geeks in the world who really cared about this stuff. When I started the Slack, I expected a dozen or so people to turn up.

Just 3 months later and the Community is now 785 strong: a fair percentage are inactive members; I get around 15 requests a day for invitations; many more are invited in other ways. This thing is growing fast.

More than just a…

Kate Towsey

Research Operations Manager at Atlassian. Curator for Rosenfeld Media. Cha Cha Club founder. Instigator of the ResearchOps Community and #WhatisResearchOps.

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