I Just Launched a Research Ops Practice - Here's What I Did First

How do you get a Research Ops practice up and running?

There are lots of good approaches, but here’s where I started. 

1. Understanding the State of UX Research

I love maps. As a kid, whenever my family embarked on long road trips, I often brought along a set of maps to keep track of our progress and mark down any interesting sights. I liked that I could always see where we were going and how far we’d traveled. 

I wanted to do the same for UXR at Zapier. I needed to understand where we were on this collective research journey and determine where we were heading next.

For much of my first couple of months in the role, I researched Research to get clarity about several subjects:

  • UXR philosophy — with a clear picture of how we do research now and in the future, I’m best positioned to create sustainable structures and processes. 

  • UXR practices — I had to learn how our UX researchers worked; what made their work successful and what didn’t.

  • UXR relationships — I needed to understand how people outside the UXR team approached research. Did designers, PMs, and marketers have a unified view of research strengths and weaknesses, or did this differ across the company?

On top of all these learnings, I wanted to meet people across the organization and start to socialize the concept of Research Ops, including the benefits of this practice to their work. 

After dozens of conversations and an audit of all-things-research, I created a State of Research Ops rundown. This document includes a rating for every function and process within UXR and a priority label based on research needs in the next two quarters.

This internal study provided the required context to approach Research Ops with a holistic lens. I now have a prioritized roadmap for the next quarter that lines up with the biggest needs and opportunities across the company.


2. Fanning the Research Flame

At Zapier, all employees are expected to spend two hours per week doing customer support. One month after joining the team, our Support Ops crew kicked off a new initiative to give everyone more options for interacting with customers.

In collaboration with Support Ops, I launched research ride-alongs. These are open research sessions where anyone across the company can observe a remote user interview and participate in a post-session debrief.

This initiative involved:

  • Creating introductory UXR training content

  • Running online UXR 101 training sessions

  • Creating a streamlined process for participant recruitment and observer involvement

I put together an 18-step workflow in Zapier to automate the recruitment and observer pieces. I don’t know how I’d have made ride-alongs a reality without Zapier (and yes, I’m biased).

In a little over a month, 39 teammates have attended the online training and we’ve run 15 ride-along sessions! We have a long way to go before this initiative is deeply ingrained into the weekly rhythms of the entire team, but we’ve made lots of progress from a standing start.

What’s Next?

  • Recruitment — like most companies that don’t have an established Research Ops practice, recruitment is a bit of a mess. I’m focused on a couple of efforts that will give our researchers access to critical participant groups.

  • Tooling — I’ve just brought in a new product to improve remote moderated research. I’m also getting the team better acquainted with an in-app research tool that’s been lying dormant for a couple of years.

Over to You

How does this compare to your ReOps efforts? Where did you get started, or where would you focus if you we’re launching a practice?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. 😀


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